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 Newsletter No.08 July 2005

 Dear friends,

 Thank you for your encouragements. The last few months has been an amazing time and we are all in awe of it. There has been a significant breakthrough since the official start of our solar cooking project, five years ago. Hard to describe all of it in this letter but we will give it a try…!

Hard work

It all started after the TV documentary. They showed it 4 times on national and local television, and the response was great. For many people it was totally new to know that they were able to cook with simple solar cookers. Solar cooking is still a new concept in Vietnam. Many people called the TV station and asked for information and help. We could see an increase of visitors in our information room. There were several requests from the south if we could help them. We were still waiting for a reply of the local authorities in Quang Ngai, but we felt that we should not wait for them. So we sent a team of three to the south for researching the places. After ten days they recommended that we should start with a solar project in Phan Rang. 
This was the first time that we moved to a place far (400km south) from our SLS center in Binh Son. Not easy if you have a family and be separated from them. Five staff members and one seventy year old volunteer moved at the beginning of May to a small house, provided by the local government. Parts of 100 solar cookers and a number of parabolic cookers, made during the rainy season, were transported by truck and later reassembled by our staff.

Phan Rang

There has been no rainfall since last year. Phan Rang is like a desert. Hot, dry and sandy. Most of the people are from the Cham and Raglai minorities. There is no clean water available but dirty river water has been pumped into an open drain system. Every day people are using this water for cooking, drinking and washing. Many people are very poor and illiterate. Our staff had to overcome many difficulties but were able to live with the basics. Some of them organized workshops and taught the minorities the skills of cooking with the sun. Most of them could not read or write so our staff had to be creative in their workshops. We decided to hold the yearly environment day in this place which you can read further on in this letter.

Newspapers

After the TV documentary some reporters came to our new information room and interviewed us. We didn’t realize that this was the beginning of a lot of attention. The first article was in a major newspaper. People from all over the country started to call the paper. It was so overwhelming that they published a second article and asked the people to contact us directly if they had further questions. 
From that day we received many telephone calls and a stream of visitors. It was hard who to answer first, the call or the visitor. Almost hundred people wanted to buy a parabolic cooker and others wanted us to set up a project with the box cookers. With all those request we are able to work almost everywhere in the country. Amazing! We felt so overwhelmed by those requests, knowing that we are a small team. Since our last request for more Vietnamese workers only one older lady (70 yrs) had responded. She had the most wonderful time of her life. With the challenge of a whole country we asked ourselves were are the younger ones?

Environment day ‘05

8-5  8-6  8-7

The environment day is a wonderful day to bring people together. This year we cooked with one hundred box cookers and ten parabolic cookers for two days with the Raglai en Cham minorities in Phan Rang. On the last day several authorities were invited and also a delegation of the Women’s Union. Even our supervisor dr. Hung from the Danang University made the long trip to the south to attend this special day. A reporter from Saigon had a good time in taking pictures of the colorful dressed Cham minority while cooking with the cookers. A lot of fish, beef, curry, vegetables and rice were solar cooked for more than one hundred people. The dishes were served on long tables and after a few speeches it was time to eat to-gether. No complains, but only the sound of happy people. This day was also the end of all workshops, so they were able to take all the cookers home on their motorbikes, bicycles and even on their heads. A great moment!

8-8  8-9  8-10

What next?

After receiving so many telephone calls, letters and e-mails, we decided to come together. What was our next step? After so many requests how could we respond? Till that time we were not able to sell the cookers and especially the more valuable parabolic cookers. We came to the conclusion that we should separate the production. We will open an official company where we could make the parabolic cookers, in order for people to buy them directly. It will not run for a profit but the aim is to support the SLS project in helping the poor. Although separated we will work close together with the same goal. In this way we could supply more people with solar cookers. Our dream is that the project will be self-supportive in the near future.

Results

We don’t want to pretend that solar cooking is ‘the’ answer for all cooking, health or environmental problems. Let’s face it, if there is no sunshine, you are not able to use the solar cookers. We are very happy when people give it a try. Solar cooking is a slow process and people need to change their habits, thinking and time. Some people do not see this process at all and shake their heads. We do not want to put anything ‘on’ people, but make this alternative way of cooking for everyone available. We have been encouraged by testimonies of poor people who are using the solar cookers. Mrs. Truong Thi Tranh told a TV reporter that she was able to save 13 USD / month on fuel cost since she started to use her solar cooker. Great to hear results like this and it is one of the reasons why we keep on serving the poor. We are called to serve.

Another TV documentairy

We’ve just heard that a TV station from Hanoi wants to make another documentary. They will arrive on July 11th and stay with us for several days. We are also invited to participate in the Danang Trade Exhibition from June 30 – July 5. Please think about our staff. We want to participate with joy and enthousasm, so that it will serve others.

Thank you

Well, this is all the latest solar news we have in a nuts shell. Thank you for taking your time. Please remember us during the coming months. We love to hear from you and are open for any suggestions
Greetings,
Solar Serve team

Called to Serve

For more information write to: solarserve@yahoo.com