Your Mark On The World http://yourmarkontheworld.com Fri, 06 May 2016 16:06:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 More than Sandy Beaches: A Path to Education Reform on the U.S. Virgin Islands http://yourmarkontheworld.com/sandy-beaches-path-education-reform-u-s-virgin-islands/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/sandy-beaches-path-education-reform-u-s-virgin-islands/#respond Thu, 05 May 2016 15:49:28 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6956 This is a guest post from Nicholas Midler. Stories about struggling school districts in America frequently crop up in news cycles, but the U.S. Virgin Islands paints a picture of what these schools are actually in danger of sliding into. Located two and a half hours by plane from Miami, the Virgin Islands are a U.S. […]

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This is a guest post from Nicholas Midler.

Stories about struggling school districts in America frequently crop up in news cycles, but the U.S. Virgin Islands paints a picture of what these schools are actually in danger of sliding into. Located two and a half hours by plane from Miami, the Virgin Islands are a U.S. territory. The Islands’ warm climate and tropical beaches make them a popular tourist destination, but venture inland from the tourist attractions and you’ll find a far less rosy picture in the Islands’ schools. To help reverse the educational trends on the island, I started The Family Connection Kindercamp, a six-week nonprofit summer camp for students entering or repeating kindergarten on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

When I first started The Family Connection Kindercamp one statistic stuck squarely in my mind as a motivator. When Virgin Island students were assessed upon entering Kindergarten, 53% tested as below proficient in language skills. It is easy to hold such statistics in abstract, but their devastating effects are reflected in the Islands’ crumbling economic outlook. The unemployment rate clocks in at 11.7%, and 68% of children below the age of four receive Federal food aid. Even more troubling, the results from a recent series of standardized tests correlated to the new Common Core standards revealed that 83% of VI schoolchildren from the third to eleventh grade failed to meet expectations for English and 93% failed math.

It was the goal of the six-week camp to turn these statistics around and set its students on a path of higher academic achievement. I wanted the roughly 80 kids enrolled annually in the camp to avoid being a part of the dismal education statistics on the island, such as 47% of VI youths aged 18 to 19 who don’t have a high-school diploma. The camp intervenes before kids enter kindergarten to give them a strong foundation for future academic success.

The issue of how best to prepare incoming students for kindergarten is a topic that has proved itself worthy of lengthy debates. The topic is especially pressing for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. According to a study from the University of Kansas, kids from lower income areas have heard 30 million fewer words by the age of four. Intervening early in a student’s academic life offers a way to head off this vicious cycle of declining performance, but turning around test results is a delicate game. State and Federal budgets are strained enough without having to pay for pre-K, and my experience at The Family Connection Kindercamp has taught me that it often takes a group effort from the community to ensure success.

Parents are a particularly vital part of this community. From birth to age five, the human brain undergoes 90% of its development. In these crucial first years parents define the bulk of their child’s experiences. Even after school enrollment, parents continue to exert great influence over their child’s development. It is not without reason that researchers call parents a child’s first and most important teacher. The Family Connection Kindercamp drew on this influence by continually keeping its door open for parents who wanted to volunteer at the camp. Not only is the volunteer parent a boon to the camp, which benefits from the extra supervision, but the camp is a veritable idea factory for the helpful parent. The activities, games, and teacher-student interaction all demonstrate ways for the involved parent to engage with their child at home. There is no better way to learn than by doing, and volunteering at the camp provides parents with a first-hand look at the teaching techniques and expectations of school.

The learning that does take place in a classroom is rapidly shifting in manner. Play is being reevaluated from an odious necessity used to placate puerile attention spans to the teacher’s best friend. Fun activities and games that engage a young student’s attention are now thought to be an effective teaching method. Instead of tracing the letter “A” fifty times in a textbook, the alphabet is now being taught with glue, construction paper, and glitter. Coupled with Socratic style questions that encourage the child to consider or think deeply about the activity, this play through learning technique outpaces more traditional teaching methods by far.

The Family Connection Kindercamp adapted this new technique by breaking the classroom down into several activity stations. Students can rotate between different activities, each of which exercises different skill sets. The different stations not only increases engagement by making learning fun, but the jostling and communication between groups encourages good behavior and serves as an informal introduction to the classroom setting.

To keep the independence thrust upon the kids by the child-led curriculum from descending into chaos, behavioral routines had to be established. Expectations were set, and kids soon learned how to work constructively in the classroom. An independent review authored by Elizabeth Jaegar, an early childcare Ph.D., catalogued the curriculum’s role in the success of the program. The report notes that “during the last week of the program, the classrooms appeared to be ‘well-oiled machines’ where children moved smoothly from a large group activity to choice time at various learning stations throughout the room.” The report even describes “one child [who] even cried and pleaded with his mother to stay longer,” demonstrating that the children find the open-ended syllabus to be fun and engaging.

All of these techniques would have been useless if adequate funding for the camp couldn’t be raised. Hosting a pre-kindergarten summer program is no small effort, and the federally mandated teacher to student ratio of around 10-1 ensures that these programs lack neither cost nor quality. The federal Headstart program, which provides high quality pre-K to economically disadvantaged children, is a case in point. In 2014, Headstart spent just under 8.6 billion dollars for just under one million kids.

The Family Connection Kindercamp, though nowhere near the same size, is able to provide a week of high quality early-childhood education for $95 per child through a public-private partnership model. The program benefits from funds and in-kind gifts furnished by both the government and private donors. Classes take place in rent-free public school classrooms that were already stocked with useful resources. Accredited public school teachers who have years of experience and a college degree under their belt, teach the program.

The public-private partnership is in many ways a metaphor for the cooperation needed for early-childhood education to succeed. The benefits of initiating high quality pre-K are fairly straightforward. It remedies learning gaps before they blossom into dismal test scores and drop out statistics, and it has the potential to establish a level playing field for all American children. Winning this meritocracy is no simple matter but it can start with you. If just a fraction of the money spent by tourists on the U.S. Virgin Islands went towards supporting the public-private model, the dismal statistics that inspired me to make a change in early childhood education could be reversed.

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Filling Green Space Across the Nation: Kyle Michaud http://yourmarkontheworld.com/filling-green-space-across-nation-kyle-michaud/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/filling-green-space-across-nation-kyle-michaud/#respond Thu, 05 May 2016 15:37:58 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6954 This is a guest post from The Pontes Group. Born and raised in New York, Kyle Michaud appreciated adventure and entrepreneurism at a young age. Having been influenced by the city that never sleeps, Kyle’s approach to business has made him successful across multiple industries. While studying Economics at SUNY University of Albany, Kyle was […]

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This is a guest post from The Pontes Group.

Born and raised in New York, Kyle Michaud appreciated adventure and entrepreneurism at a young age. Having been influenced by the city that never sleeps, Kyle’s approach to business has made him successful across multiple industries.

While studying Economics at SUNY University of Albany, Kyle was determined to jump start his first business by launching an event production business, which was later sold in November of 2013. Shortly after, he embarked on his latest adventures and launched the Green Planet Festival and The Yoga Expo in 2015. Backed by a powerful skill set and passion for the cause, these quickly become two of the fastest growing green and eco-friendly festivals in the nation.

The Green Planet Festival, which recently took place on February 27th in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, is on a mission to inspire change by connecting eco-conscious consumers with environmentally sustainable companies. Kyle’s vision was to create an over-the-top spin on the farmers market which educates South Floridians on sustainable choices and organic foods. The festival, open to the public, saw over 6,000 attendees, 23 journalists, and over 150 exhibitors that all health conscious community members could enjoy. The festival was also sponsored by a variety of well known companies such as Publix, The Fresh Market, Zico, Daiya, Vitamix, and Orange Theory Fitness.

The Yoga Expo invites all individuals to experience mindful living in a judgement-free atmosphere in eight different cities including Fort Lauderdale, Santa Clara, Washington D.C., Denver, Houston, Vancouver B.C., Los Angeles, and Portland. The expo features over 150 classes and workshops welcoming all styles, practices, ages and experience levels. The Yoga Expo offers yogis an experience to explore unlimited yoga, taste local foods, listen to live music, and shop the unique yoga marketplace. It is currently sponsored by national brands including Gardein, Daiya, Spirituality & Health, Athleta, GoMacro, and Jade Yoga.

Between both the Green Planet Festival and the Yoga Expo, Kyle has successfully promoted sustainability to over 17,000 people, and that number is only just beginning to grow. His venture into the green community has served as an inspiration for people to make green choices everyday, improving the overall quality of life on our planet.

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CNN Hero Chad Bernstein Offers Keys For Mentoring Youth http://yourmarkontheworld.com/cnn-hero-chad-bernstein-offers-keys-mentoring-youth/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/cnn-hero-chad-bernstein-offers-keys-mentoring-youth/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 22:00:14 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6942 You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes. CNN Hero Chad Bernstein is a career musician, professor and founder of Guitars Over Guns, a nonprofit that helps at-risk youth connect to adult mentors through the arts. Drawing on his decades of work with kids, offers these three key insights for being an […]

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You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.
CNN Hero Chad Bernstein is a career musician, professor and founder of Guitars Over Guns, a nonprofit that helps at-risk youth connect to adult mentors through the arts.

Drawing on his decades of work with kids, offers these three key insights for being an effective mentor to a child.

  1. Be the adult in a child’s life. The single most important factor in a child’s success is a relationship with a caring adult. Finding an avenue through which we can connect with youth. The arts are a great potential avenue, but meeting a student at their point of interest and respecting that is the key.
  2. Show up and listen. There are two keys to building trust between a mentor and a student: First, show up and be present. There is no replacement for time and consistency is key. If you continue to come back, even after a kid has done something to push you away, you are building trust. The second is the to understand the importance of creating a safe place, free of judgement. Vulnerability is paramount to creating trust and it goes both ways.
  3. Be committed. When you commit to being a mentor, you are committing to be there for the hard times as well as the triumphs, and they are equally important. Be a shoulder when it’s needed, but also don’t underestimate the value of being their champion. “You can’t un-see success,” and that feeling of “being successful” builds on itself. Sometimes, a kid just needs to have someone in their corner supporting them and letting them know that they are being seen when they make the right choices. There are certainly plenty of people in their lives that are there to let them know when they are not.

On Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 7:00 PM Eastern, Chad will join me here for a live discussion about his work and his insights into being a good mentor and friend to a child. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Guitars Over Guns:

Twitter: @guitarsoverguns

Instagram: @guitarsoverguns

We believe that all young people should have the opportunity to reach their full potential through the transformative nature of music and the arts and the power of mentorship. GOGO uses popular music to connect professional musicians with at-risk youth in after-school programs as an alternative to the negative and harmful influences that typically dominate their environments. These mentors take students through the artistic learning process where they form meaningful relationships. It is through these relationships that our mentors help students navigate the challenges they face and equip them with the tools they need to become successful in and out of school.

Chad Bernstein, courtesy of Guitars Over Guns

Chad Bernstein created a program to help at-risk youth, courtesy of Guitars Over Guns

Chad’s bio:

Twitter: @chadbernstein

Chad is the co-founder and CEO of Guitars Over Guns Organization (“GOGO”), a music-mentoring program for at-risk youth. He has a doctorate from the University of Miami, teaches at FIU, and is an active member of the South Florida music scene as a multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, sideman, and writer. Chad is a Governor on the board of the Recording Academy (Grammys) and serves as the Chairman of the Education Committee. He has worked with Pharrell, Pitbull, Shakira, will.i.am, Natalie Cole, Chaka Kahn, John Legend, Phil Ramone, and many more. He is currently a member of Miami groups The Spam Allstars and Suénalo, the Musical Director for Jencarlos Canela, and working on a global funk project with Pee Wee Ellis. In April of 2015, Chad was honored as a CNN Hero for his work with Guitars Over Guns.

Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

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Day 7 of the Fathom Cruise: Travelers React http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-7-fathom-cruise-travelers-react/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-7-fathom-cruise-travelers-react/#respond Tue, 26 Apr 2016 04:47:12 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6937 As the weeklong Fathom impact cruise to the Dominican Republic wrapped up, I grabbed my phone and sat down with some of the passengers to get their reactions to the experience. Everyone was thrilled to have participated and most agreed that they had been changed by the experience. Ten-year-old Sofia Kaufman joyfully explains with remarkable […]

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As the weeklong Fathom impact cruise to the Dominican Republic wrapped up, I grabbed my phone and sat down with some of the passengers to get their reactions to the experience.

Everyone was thrilled to have participated and most agreed that they had been changed by the experience.

Ten-year-old Sofia Kaufman joyfully explains with remarkable accuracy the process for recycling paper. Watching her would make almost anyone want to try it.

Peggy Cooley said the “Concrete floor [project], that was awesome.”

Michaelyn Pouncey vividly described her experience slogging through the muck and mud of the marsh to plant mangrove trees as the highlight of her trip.

Romaine Purdy tearfully described how the experience of tutoring students in English completely changed her thinking. Having come to on the cruise to see what she’d be selling as a travel agent, she found herself moved by the “looks in their eyes” and “knowing you were making a difference in their lives.”

Christopher Donaldson explained how helping the women of rePapel to produce more paper in a few hours than they customarily make alone in a week gave him a sense of the impact of the program on their lives.

Ray Ann Havasy noted that the Dominicans were surprised that “we were so willing to help.”

Ten-year-old Lola Hurst said, “I just feel like I make a huge impact on their work and really helped someone.”

The travelers also recognized that the trip had impacted them. Peggy and Ray Ann both reacted to the Dominicans being happy with relatively modest resources.

Michael Matti noted that the experience caused him to think more deeply about serving others.

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Day 6 of the Fathom Cruise: Wanna Buy Some Artisanal Crafts Made By a Middle-Aged White Guy? http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-6-fathom-cruise-wanna-buy-artisanal-crafts-made-middle-aged-white-guy/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-6-fathom-cruise-wanna-buy-artisanal-crafts-made-middle-aged-white-guy/#respond Sun, 24 Apr 2016 20:42:46 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6928 Friday, the final day in port here in the Dominican Republic on the Fathom cruise, I volunteered with an organization known as rePapel, which makes recycled artisanal paper and other crafts. This was in many ways more fun and interesting than my past activities. We arrived to the most enthusiastic greeting of the week as the […]

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Friday, the final day in port here in the Dominican Republic on the Fathom cruise, I volunteered with an organization known as rePapel, which makes recycled artisanal paper and other crafts. This was in many ways more fun and interesting than my past activities.

We arrived to the most enthusiastic greeting of the week as the women who own and operate the rePapel cooperative sang and danced as we arrived at the site. Speaking of the site, it is a modest home with about 1,000 square feet of space. The cooperative could not afford such a lavish site but with the help of Fathom, they were able to secure the home.

The Women of rePapel greeting volunteers from the Fathom

The Women of rePapel greeting volunteers from Fathom

The group of about 35 volunteers was split into two groups, one of which was assigned to begin work supporting the production of recycled paper while the others of us, the group I was in, went to start work on crafts.

The women make crafts to sell. Ship’s passengers aid in the production of the crafts. That is, under their direction we make stuff that they sell—in no small measure—to us. It is quite a system really. No longer are these artisans required to actually do the labor involved in making their goods that they sell to us, instead they coach us to do it. We then are invited to buy the goods we “helped” to produce.

We worked through several crafting stations, including one where we made hot pads and napkin rings, another where we made jewelry and another where we made candles. I made some real progress on a napkin ring in my ten-minute shift at that workstation. I also nearly glue-gunned my fingers together. At one point afterward as I picked flaking white material from my fingertips, I wondered aloud if that was glue or dead skin from the burns.

The women of rePapel with "their" crafts

The women of rePapel with “their” crafts

At the jewelry station, I strung coffee beans and framboyan seeds in a five to one pattern that had been started by a prior volunteer at the station. Progress on the necklace was slow and I left it unfinished for the next volunteer to continue. The exercise was reminiscent of elementary school and I was relieved not to have been graded on my work.

In the candle room, I really excelled. The paraffin was hot and ready to pour. We simply took turns pouring the liquid, colored and scented wax into small glass bottles of the sort used for baby food. We then dropped a wick on a metal stem into the jars and propped it against a stick laid across the top of the jar to keep it approximately straight up.

After a short snack break, the two teams swapped places and our team was assigned to the recycled paper production. This is where the real magic happened.

My shift began at the end of the process where I used a pipe to press the nearly finished sheet between two sheets of heavy fabric to both smooth the heavy paper and dry it. Once inspected by one of the women in the cooperative, the paper was approved as complete and placed in finished goods inventory. I was a pretty good paper presser, but I was working alongside a fellow who was literally twice my size and he could press the paper at twice my pace. I felt rather inadequate.

Then, I rotated to the front end of the process tearing paper into small pieces about eight inches square. The first part of the assignment was to tear off pieces of the white paper I was assigned that had no ink on it. Once the paper that was left was all covered with print, we tore that into pieces. The clean and printed pieces were dropped into separate bins to serve as the primary ingredients in paper. As to my performance at this task, let’s just say I tore it up.

The final stage of the recycled paper process

The final stage of the recycled paper process

From there, I was invited to operate the blender. At the instruction of my coach, I scooped some liquid containing paper that had been torn into tinier pieces and run through a washing process and poured it into the blender. Then, we ran the blender for two minutes and poured the resulting puree of paper into a tray. I repeated this step a second time, but performed less well, overfilling the blender, require the coach to guide me through some remediation to remove some of the liquid. Once back on track, I operated the blender successfully and poured the puree into the tray.

Next, I got to make the paper! This part is pretty cool. Using a pair of frames, one a flat board about two inches larger than the piece of paper and another that is a frame of exactly the same size with a screen mounted inside. Holding the two tightly together, the frames are dipped in the tray of paper puree and sloshed around a bit like trying to get some of the good stuff in the soup up off the bottom and into the ladle.

Then we drain the water slowly out of the frame and the puree settles into the screen. Once the water is completely drained, the frame with the screen is lifted, leaving the form of a piece of paper. That is carefully transferred to a board on which it will dry. After drying for a time (I have no idea how long) each sheet is pressed, as I’d done at the beginning of my shift.

The women reported that we completed about 250 sheets of people during our combined group’s shift.

Before volunteering, my only idea about recycled paper was from the many commercial applications I’d seen, from napkins to the paper I use in my printer. As I visited with other volunteers, I learned that, due to its unique textures and colors, artisanal recycled paper sells at quite a premium, sometimes up to $2 per sheet for use in arts and crafts.

Clearly, with the help of volunteer labor and a captive group of customers (the same group of people), rePapel is on its way to scaling up a trifecta of impact: social, environmental and economic.

 

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Day 5 of the Fathom Cruise: More English, More Impact http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-5-fathom-cruise-english-impact/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-5-fathom-cruise-english-impact/#respond Fri, 22 Apr 2016 02:40:08 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6918 It is hard to believe that we’ve crossed off five days of a week on the Fathom impact cruise to the Dominican Republic. Today was the third day of impact activities in country and tomorrow will be the last, with this ship leaving port—with or without the passengers at 2:00 tomorrow. Today, Gail, my wife, […]

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It is hard to believe that we’ve crossed off five days of a week on the Fathom impact cruise to the Dominican Republic. Today was the third day of impact activities in country and tomorrow will be the last, with this ship leaving port—with or without the passengers at 2:00 tomorrow.

Today, Gail, my wife, and I joined a group doing English mentoring in the community rather than in a school as we did yesterday. This turned out to be even more fun—and, I hope, more impactful.

A bus took us out to a community called Monterico, a village on the outskirts of Puerto Plata, the primary city here in the Northern part of the country. The ride was relatively short as compared with yesterday’s trip, giving us more opportunity to actually spend with people in the community.

Our time there was split into three sections. First, at a local community center we were led through a 20-minute introductory session, meeting with representatives from the homes we were to visit. We divided into small groups, each with one or two locals. From there, we walked a few blocks to the homes of the people we were to visit.

Mayelin was our host and she led us to her home where there were about eight people ready to learn English. Most had participated in a session the day before. Continuity was established with notebooks in which we could write notes not only to the student but more importantly to the next English mentor.

Gail, who speaks only a few words of Spanish, taught Mayelin herself and Miguelina, a neighbor. For Gail, this brought back pleasant memories of her 25-year teaching career. She enjoyed creating interactions between the girls, allowing them to teach each other—something she views as being more effective than teaching them herself. She felt that both girls learned something during our hour with them.

Mayelin, Gail Thorpe and Miguelina

Mayelin, Gail Thorpe and Miguelina

Miguelina did not have a notebook, suggesting that she had not been part of the program from the beginning—yesterday. Given the basic level of English we were doing, that represented no problem. It wasn’t clear to us, however, if she would be added formally to the program.

While Gail was teaching Mayelin and Miguelina, I worked with Miguelina’s grandmother Vicenta. She was an impressive student. While she didn’t pick up the language as quickly as the kids, she had a wonderful attention span—she made me jealous. Without having trained her adult attention span to expect new stimulation every few seconds by having a life dominated by competing screens, she was able to focus intently for the entire hour we spent together.

Vicenta

Vicenta

Today, we all focused on teaching the alphabet. Vicenta was able to master about half of the letters during our time together. She won’t likely progress at the same rate as the teenagers because of the difficulty of language learning at her—well, our—age. The system with the notebooks seems to anticipate and allow for those disparities, meaning that she should get the patient help she needs.
As I reflect on this program after a single exposure to it, it does some to have great potential. My biggest remaining concern is that meaningful English skills, that is those that will lead to meaningfully improved educational opportunities will require much more than the basic program contained in the 10-lesson program book. A few basic phrases, no matter how fully mastered, will not allow someone to qualify for employment in a public-facing role in the tourist industry—the best sorts of jobs in the community, especially now that Carnival has developed Amber Cove as a destination for its ships across all of its cruise lines.

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Lighting Up African Communities With Impact Investment For Clean Energy http://yourmarkontheworld.com/lighting-african-communities-impact-investment-clean-energy/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/lighting-african-communities-impact-investment-clean-energy/#respond Thu, 21 Apr 2016 20:41:52 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6912 This is a guest post from Dr Murray Simpson, CEO, INTASAVE Energy Access to power is still a major challenge for remote rural off-grid communities in Africa and elsewhere. In Kenya, for example, more than 30 million people are without electricity, approximately 75% of the population. The provision of a reliable, sustainable, clean energy source has […]

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This is a guest post from Dr Murray Simpson, CEO, INTASAVE Energy

Access to power is still a major challenge for remote rural off-grid communities in Africa and elsewhere. In Kenya, for example, more than 30 million people are without electricity, approximately 75% of the population.

The provision of a reliable, sustainable, clean energy source has wide-ranging benefits, helping to improve health, increase children’s educational attainment, empower women, boost the economy and therefore improve quality of life for entire communities.

One of the simplest and cost-most effective ways of providing this is through solar power, especially in countries with the right prevailing conditions. Kenya, for example, is well suited to solar, with an average of 5 kWh/m²/day (1,850 kWh/m²/year) available throughout the country.

In the past, the standard solution for off-grid solar power has been through standalone solar home systems (SHS) that supply a fixed amount of energy to single households. Although these systems have achieved some success, they have significant limitations including their high cost, limited functionality and lack of community benefits.

A better model is required for delivering sustainable clean energy that is affordable, easy to maintain and scalable. To address this need INTASAVE Energy has created a unique model through its Solar Nano-Grid (SONG) renewable energy systems.

INTA_SolarHubBuildingKenya

SONGs differ from other solar installations as they combine a visionary model for sustainable affordable energy with a cutting-edge new form of energy storage using up-cycled batteries, never used in development projects before. This unique combination not only provides a “quick fix” for immediate electricity needs (both domestic and communal), but also a long-term scalable solution that allows communities to grow their electricity usage at their own pace.

Each SONG consists of a small grid network and central solar hub that produces a DC power output of 3-5 kWp. The hub contains traditional lead-acid cells that store the power collected from the solar panels. Household energy is then supplied via portable battery packs charged at the central hub, collected for use in homes and returned for re-charging as required. A SONG can supply an entire community of around 50 households from one central hub.

Ground-breaking IonQube technology allows industry standard 18650 lithium-ion batteries, as used in laptops and power drills, to be ‘upcycled’ into a rechargeable and long-lasting power source for low carbon energy storage. By monitoring and analysing how power is being used with microcontrollers in the battery packs in initial installations, INTASAVE is able to expand and increase supply to meet individual and community requirements for existing and future roll-outs.

One of the key benefits of the SONG model is that excess power generated at the central location is available to meet the community’s commercial, social or agro-industrial needs, which is not possible with an SHS. It can power water pumps, flour mills and egg incubators, and even support commercial micro-enterprises such as hair clipping and mobile phone charging businesses. INTASAVE Energy is working with the SONG communities to help grow new businesses, creating much-needed jobs and income for long-term development.

The first INTASAVE Energy SONG deployments are currently taking place in Kenya. INTASAVE Energy has also launched a major $30 million equity funding campaign to enable the wider implementation of the SONG programme. Details can be found here or contact admin@intasave-caribsave.org.

About Dr Murray Simpson:

Dr Murray Simpson is senior visiting fellow, University of Oxford, Department of Engineering Science and CEO of the INTASAVE-CARIBSAVE Group, a global not-for-profit and environmental enterprise organisation with offices in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, China and the UK, specialising in sustainable development and climate change adaptation and mitigation in developed and developing countries, and in emerging economies.

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Day 4 of the Fathom Cruise: Impact Increases http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-4-fathom-cruise-impact-increases/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-4-fathom-cruise-impact-increases/#respond Thu, 21 Apr 2016 04:46:54 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6908 Today, day 4 of the Fathom impact cruise to the Dominican Republic, brings us to the crescendo of service and the peak of excitement for the trip. Today was the first full day in port, giving everyone on board an opportunity to tackle one service project or another. (See yesterday’s post for a summary of […]

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Today, day 4 of the Fathom impact cruise to the Dominican Republic, brings us to the crescendo of service and the peak of excitement for the trip. Today was the first full day in port, giving everyone on board an opportunity to tackle one service project or another. (See yesterday’s post for a summary of the options.)

Gail, my wife, and I volunteered to teach English to school children. We loaded buses at 8:00 AM for a surprisingly long ride—nearly 90 minutes—up into the mountains to an area called Cupay. There we arrived at a small school called “Centro Educativo Isabel Meyreles” with about 280 students. We visited the fourth grade class.

Centro Educativo Isabel Meyreles

Centro Educativo Isabel Meyreles

To begin, they welcomed us with a song and dance. Of course, we felt honored by that.

Then, we were issued English training books that we’d been trained to use on Monday and began mentoring.

In a quick and random match up, I was paired with Nathalie, a delightful little girl who already knew some English and proudly told me that her father spoke five languages, including English.
We had fun reviewing basic phrases like “Hello. My name is Nathalie.” She helped me design a simple matching game with flash cards to help her learn a dozen different responses to “How are you?”

As we worked, however, I noticed that was frequently being distracted by the two blonde 10-year-old boys who were part of the mentoring team. They were teaching students about their own age at the same table. For some mysterious reason, Nathalie was more interested in the boys next door.

Over the course of nearly an hour, we did make some real progress. She learned some new words, master pronunciation of others that were already familiar and practiced greetings and polite responses. It was fun for me and seemed to be a break from the routine for her to have a funny-looking, middle-aged American drop into her classroom to provide an hour of mentoring.
As I reflect on the impact of the day and the potential impact of the program across the months and years that it is intended to run, I see tremendous impact.

The students will have regular opportunities to practice language skills at an age when their minds have a natural facility with language and as such will be likely to actually learn English.
In addition, the activity gives ship’s passengers the opportunity to use a skill—their English—in a way that not only serves the community but does so in a way that the community can’t on its own.

The passengers are native English speakers and the teachers are not. Our volunteering doesn’t supplant the role of a teacher, but it does enhance the teacher’s ability to help the students learn English. No losers, only winners!

This model for service off the ship strikes me as a great one for expansion and application to other regions of the world where native English speakers like to cruise.

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Day 3 of the Fathom Cruise: Impact Begins http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-3-fathom-cruise-impact-begins/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-3-fathom-cruise-impact-begins/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 18:26:39 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6901 Today we arrived in the Dominican Republic and began our work as volunteers. Less than 48 hours after sailing from Miami, we arrived in Amber Cove, a recently redeveloped port not used by cruise ships in three decades. The port is simple, intentionally quaint and sufficiently modern. Before arriving, we had another opportunity for training […]

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Today we arrived in the Dominican Republic and began our work as volunteers.

Less than 48 hours after sailing from Miami, we arrived in Amber Cove, a recently redeveloped port not used by cruise ships in three decades. The port is simple, intentionally quaint and sufficiently modern.

Before arriving, we had another opportunity for training this morning. We reviewed Dominican history, culture and key traveler tips. The session was fun, with much of the session set up as games. The interactive format ensured that we all earned something. Don’t get me wrong, we won’t get college credit for this training, but we came away with a basic understanding of the country.

Upon docking, we were invited to a welcoming party celebrating the opening of the new port and the arrival of the first ship. Tara Russell, Fathom’s president, and Arnold Donald, Carnival’s President and CEO, welcomed the first passengers and thanked the local community for its support. A number of local dignitaries were present and the mayor of Puerto Plata, the nearby city.

The Adonia docked in Amber Cove

The Adonia docked in Amber Cove

Following the ceremony, we were off to impact activities. There were several to choose from:

  • Reforestation and Nursery
  • Cacao and Women’s Chocolate Cooperative
  • Community English Conversation and Learning
  • Student English Conversation and Learning
  • Water Filter Production
  • Concrete Floors in Community Homes
  • Creative Arts, Music and Sports
  • Recycled Paper and Crafts Entrepreneurship

Each person was invited to sign up for three activities during the four days here in port. I cheated and signed up for four, one each day. The various projects and activities are all supported by two major, local nonprofits. Entrena was founded by a young American and his Dominican wife, John and Sobeya Seibel, after his stint in the Peace Corps in 1982. Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral, Inc. (almost always referred to as IDDI, pronounced like Edie) is a large nonprofit with six social and environmental missions.

Note that the cruise also offers traditional cruise excursions like zip lines and tours, but they are not included in the price of the cruise, whereas the impact activities are.

For today, I had signed up for the Reforestation and Nursery project. While not as deforested as Haiti, which is almost entirely deforested, the Dominican Republic is largely deforested and the country is working to reverse that. There are a variety of differences between Haiti and the Dominican Republic that make reforestation possible here and more difficult on the other side of the island, principally the use of wood and charcoal as cooking fuel in Haiti, which is less common on this side.

Fathom-IDDI Reforestation Project

Fathom-IDDI Reforestation Project

As we were the first regular participants (training and investigative groups have been doing preliminary work for some months) there were no trees ready for us to plant so our task was to plant seeds and seedlings in small bags that would serve as temporary pots for the nursery. In two to five months the trees will be ready to plant in their permanent homes. By cultivating the seedlings in the nursery, the plants are given a 50/50 chance of surviving, they facilitators explained.

As a group of about 60 people, we were allocated four hours for the project. We left the port at 2:00 and returned at 6:04, almost perfectly on schedule.

We did virtually all of our project work in about one hour. In that time, we planted seeds or seedlings for 1,373 trees:

  • 299 Palm trees
  • 274 Flamboyan
  • 425 Saman
  • 277 Sea Grapes
  • 128 Canafistula

Following the one hour of work, we took a break, had some light snacks and water. We followed that with a guided hike through the rainforest to help us gain some perspective on the reforestation work that we were initiating.

The pace of the work and the hike were similar, set to the capability of the weakest and slowest among us. For most, that made the afternoon rather light work and generally enjoyable.

For some of us who are passionate about driving impact, we found ourselves wondering—sometimes out loud—about the impact we’d had.

Ultimately, it is clear that if we’d each given $50 to IDDI, the organization could have hired a team to do more planting than we’d done. That said, the IDDI staff staunchly defended the model, emphasizing the value to them of having us come.

If we simply consider the alternative of cruising to Amber Cove to lay on the beach and compare that to the project we completed, it becomes clear that this does have a social benefit that has the potential to be meaningful. We put two groups of people together from significantly different cultures and worked closely together—not especially hard nor for very long—but we got to know each other in a personal way that would have been unlikely—if not impossible—on the beach. And of course, laying on the beach, no reforestation would have happened at all.

Perhaps the cruise isn’t so much about the help we give or the difference we make in the lives of the Dominicans but about the connections we make and the differences we make in our own lives.

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Day 2 of the Fathom Cruise: Training for Good http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-2-fathom-cruise-training-good/ http://yourmarkontheworld.com/day-2-fathom-cruise-training-good/#respond Tue, 19 Apr 2016 05:07:16 +0000 http://yourmarkontheworld.com/?p=6898 Today was the second day of the Fathom impact cruise to the Dominican Republic. It was an “at sea” day that on a traditional cruise would be spent entirely at rest. Not on a Fathom cruise. An at sea day is just time to prepare for the service we’ll be doing later in the week. […]

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Today was the second day of the Fathom impact cruise to the Dominican Republic. It was an “at sea” day that on a traditional cruise would be spent entirely at rest. Not on a Fathom cruise. An at sea day is just time to prepare for the service we’ll be doing later in the week.

First, each passenger was provided with a cohort and invited to attend an orientation with the cohort. This isn’t a “how to find your life preserver” sort of training, rather it is a session on developing empathy—not sympathy—for the people we serve, helping us to see them as human beings with the same passions we have.

Following the orientation, we got training in providing instruction in English as a second language. While my wife has a teaching degree with a certificate in teaching English as a second language, the rest of us did not and were quite pleased to get some preparation. We were, among other things, assured that we speak English well enough to be of help to students who speak virtually none. That was encouraging!

In the afternoon, we had optional advanced training based on Ashoka’s training built around the “Humans of New York” blog, again teaching us how to feel empathy for other people. The exercise involved getting us to listen deeply and thoughtfully to strangers—other passengers—so that we could really get to know them quickly.

These trainings were great reminders of things I’ve been taught effectively by the guests on my show over the past three years. We all fall into the trap of seeing a person not so much as a human being but as a caricature of the person they are. We look at outside manifestations of people, their hair color and style, the clothes they wear, their age, and we make decisions and judgments. We stop seeing individuals and drop people neatly into the categories we have in our minds for them: old, young, uneducated, elitist, religious, intellectual, etc. All nonsense.

Today, members of the media on the cruise were invited to a briefing with Fathom President Tara Russell and Carnival CEO and President Arnold Donald (Carnival owns Fathom). They are an impressive pair of leaders. They handled the press well, fielding questions from across the spectrum of interests from seasoned travel writers to impact folks like me.

This evening, we had dinner in the elite sea food specialty restaurant on board. Again, we got to spend time with Tara and Arnold. It is great to see them come together on this project. Tara doesn’t have a long history with cruising; her career has been in the impact space. Arnold, on the other hand, is the CEO of the world’s largest cruise line and he’s handed over a ship to someone in whom he has obvious confidence and with whom he shares a sense of purpose and passion.

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At dinner, one of the other journalists on the trip commented that the day had been “stressful.” I asked why and he reminded me of the workshops we’d attended (separately). His point was that the sessions had taken him outside of his comfort zone. It was great evidence that this cruise is not like any other cruise you or I have ever been on. While no one mistakes this cruise with a day at the office, the mood aboard the ship is one of preparation, not relaxation.

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