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 Newsletter No.09 Oct. 2005

 Dear friends,

 We would like to thank you again for remembering us. It meant so much. We need to stay with both feet on the ground. Sometimes difficult because the media covering is a little bit overwhelming. We have not asked for it but newspapers are interested in what we are doing. In one week we were in four major news-papers, with pictures and stories of our work. Vietnam TV made anotherd umentary and someone told us that we were on the radio too. What is next?. We do not boast in it. We try to keep a low profile. If you climb high, you will hurt yourself badly if you fall (Vietnamese proverb). And to keep us humble...we are in the rainy season. No solar cooking!

Documentary and testing

A TV crew from Hanoi came for three days to Danang. They were able to make good shots in hot weather conditions. We are very thankful for their time and effort. Mister Bich was responsible for the program. A few days before the film-ing he caught dengue fever, but for some reason they delayed their filming for a few days. It gave him enough time to recover and (although weak) he was able to help them. Filming was not always easy in high temperature, but we think they did very well. It was also a character training and learning process for our staff. We had to be clear in communication. Misunderstandings made things difficult. After the TV crew left we had to sit down. It was good to be open and talk together about the things we had to change in our lives, but also in the program. It helped us to be ready for a new challenge, which is the next story.

Factory in Tam Ky

We have asked our workers to be involved in finding a place for a new factory in Tam Ky city. We would like to open a workplace for the construction of new parabolic cookers, with the employment of local workers and handicapped people. Last month our staff searched the city and found a piece of land (5x50 meter) with a house for sale. After finding another house we came to the conclusion that we had to choose the first option. The owner of the land lowered the price after watching the Solar Serve documentary on TV. We were able to pay this deposit with our own funds, but the owner changed her mind and wanted us to pay a deposit which was five times higher we agreed with. This was impossible for us at that moment. So we had to go with the word 'wait and see'. This is really a challenge for us. Please keep in mind, we are not asking for money. Our newsletters and contact with you are not based on donations. We have seen your love, friendship and standing with us for many years and this is very special for us. So, please stand with us again.

Katu minority

There was an encouraging article in the Danang newspaper of a reporter visiting the Katu minority. She was very surprised when she found out that the Katu minority were cooking with the solar cookers. Last year we gave them 20 box cookers, and according to this article they were still using them. But lately another reporter told us that not all of the cookers were used successfully. The Katu people are working in the mountains. Sometimes they return to their village. Last year we were able to teach them only one morning. In our Solar Serve program we usually have workshops for three days and follow-ups for several weeks, in order to change their thinking and cooking habits. This was not possible with the Katu and is one of the reasons they are not using the cookers properly. We will return soon to help them again.

Hoang

Mr Hoang is a simple and sometimes funny man, and has been working for Solar Serve since 1998. Because of polio at a young age, he has never been able to walk well. He moves himself very fast with his hands. He loves his work and is very skilled in making the box cookers. A few months ago he was sitting at the back of a motorbike. One of our staff was taking him to Tam Ky city, but they were stopped by the police. Our staff had forgotten his license and was afraid to pay a fine. The police asked them to put down the motorbike, but when they saw Hoang claming down skillfully, they waved and told them to move on. When Hoang came back it became a big story, because he ‘saved’ our staff in paying a fine. Even his handicapped worked out for good and he became ‘the hero’ in Solar Serve. We all had a good laugh!

Exhibition

We had a great time at a trade exhibition in Danang. We were invited by a (solar) company to share their stand for five days. Although in the beginning it was tiring, but at the end it was great. We were standing near an exit, so we were able to demonstrate the cookers outside the hall. With lots of sunshine we could show many people the benefits of cooking with the sun.

Fuel cost

In our last newsletter we wrote that Mrs.Tranh was able to save 13 USD / month on fuel cost since she started to use her solar cooker. If you keep in mind that the average wages in the countryside is around 40 USD / month, the use of solar cookers can be very important for poor families.

Website

We are making a Solar Serve web site in English and Vietnamese. We are now gathering information and scanning pictures to fill in the pages. To have it in two languages will benefit you and also our Vietnamese friends. We are not able to tell you when the site will be available, but we hope in our next newsletter to give you all the details. Solarcooking International have also published an article in Vietnamese on their web site. It deals with ‘frequent asked questions’ about solar cooking.

Solar Serve gathering

This year we organized our yearly gathering in the high mountains of Dalat. We stayed in a very simple guest-house. Not all of the workers were able to come but some of the spouses and children came along. For a few days we were able to encourage each other, reflect on the past year and learn more how we could serve better. We are all special and have different talents. Desires, experiences and personality play an important part in this in order to serve effectively. We need to recognize these talents in each other. We had one day off and visited important and beautiful spots in and around the city. A lot of fun for everyone and even the sun kept on smiling. After four wonderful days of fellowship we left encouraged and refreshed, ready to serve again for the coming season.

International Four Days March

For many years we have been sponsored by one handicapped man in Holland. His name is Fred and he loves to help us in our work. He is doing that by a yearly sponsor walk of 200km in 4 days during the International Four Days March around the city of Nijmegen. This year he was only allow-ed to walk 160 km because of his age. The weather was great and he walk-ed with 43.200 participants for four days. This year almost 5000 people could not finish the march. He wrote to us by e-mail and told us that the weather was great and the 160 km walk was easy. Well, none of us has ever walked a distant like this, so we are very thankful for his courage and endurance. It helps us a lot in helping the poor.

Thank you

In the middle of Vietnam we are moving into the rainy season. It means more time to make solar cookers in our factory. Till now we have helped 1000 families with the box cookers and around 20 families with the parabolic cookers but for research. 200 new box cookers are waiting to be distributed next month and 30 parabolic cookers will be transferred to our new factory in Tam Ky. For the first time next month we are starting our project in the southern provinces at the beginning of the dry season. It all came out of this years media coverage. So many people have requested our assistance to set up a solar cooking project. Please think about us during the coming months. The requests are sometimes overwhelming but the workers are few. We need local people with a heart for solar cooking and a compassion in helping the poor.
Please keep in touch,
Solar Serve team

Called to Serve

For more information write to: solarserve@yahoo.com