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Renewable Energy for Rural Cambodia

A dollar a day to attend school… That’s the situation for two-dozen children in war torn Cambodia who would otherwise be forced into begging or prostitution. The idea is the brainchild of The Global Child (TGC), a non-profit organization that provides street children with a safe house and pays them a dollar a day to live in the house and attend school.

Stephen Samouhos, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, and an IDEAS Competition award winner in ’07, first learned of The Global Child Organization (TGC) in January, at an IDEAS Competition dinner. “These kids are in the worst shape of poverty possible,” says Stephen. With a grant from the Public Service Center, Stephen traveled to Cambodia in the summer of 2007 to see first hand the work of TGC. Over the course of his stay, Stephen assessed the needs of TGC, watching the children thrive in their supportive environment. He was amazed by their intelligence and playful dispositions. By the end of his stay, Stephen had the information necessary to begin his plans.

What resulted is Project H.O.P.E., standing for Humanitarianism, Occupational Philanthropy and Environmentalism. Project H.O.P.E. plans to teach sustainability principals to local farmers and to develop those ideas with the students who live in the safe house. In 2008, TGC will move to a four-acre plot in the rural area of the Siem Reap province. Before these goals can be realized, however, Stephen has had to develop a plan to bring electricity, water and a sewage infrastructure to the land. In order to power the water purification and waste treatment, Stephen created a combustion engine out of parts frequently found littered in even the most remote of locations. The generators run on agricultural waste, produce zero net CO2 emissions, and are an elegant, environmentally sound solution to the shortage of useable fuel.

In January 2008, three students were in Cambodia. Vidya Ganapati (Course 6, ’10), used a Public Service Center grant to help the school with the agricultural project, while Phi Ho (Course 15, ’08) and Nivedhitha Subramanian (Course 21, ’10) had Public Service Fellowships to develop an entrepreneurship curriculum and course materials. With plans complete, and construction begun, the students are slated to move in May 2008.

Read more about students and their public service projects...