What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
In March 2001, Kari and George Grossman adopted their son, Grady, from Cambodia. Grady lit a fire in Kari’s heart and a yearning to give back to the country he came from. The Grossmans donated money to build a permanent school in rural Cambodia. Kari soon became aware that without continued financial support the Chrauk Tiek Village primary school would suffer the same fate as many others in poor, rural Cambodia: a modern building with few teachers and students. This is because the Cambodian government pays teachers only $30 a month, which is not a living wage. After supporting the school with donation and money raised from sales of book and crafts, Kari realized that the donor-driven model had limitations. She felt it was critical to create a mechanism for the villagers and parents to financially support the school and oversee the money. She created the ides of the SSC. Her faith in this system is proven by the comment from one of our supporters who visited the school in 2007 and again in 2009. She describes the powerful change she saw this way: “They used to ask me what I can do for them, and now they tell me what they are planning to do for themselves.” - Jill Hunter, Lander, Wyoming.
Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.
Kari Grady Grossman is the founder of the Grady Grossman School in the village of Chrauk Tiek in Kampong Speu Province, on the southern edge of the Aural Wildlife Sanctuary in the Cardamom Mountains. Before the school was built, 50 students studied on the dirt floor of a dilapidated, thatched-roof hut. The school now has a 5 room concrete building with a library, good sanitation facilities, a water pump, 500 students, and 6 teachers who are present and teaching every day. The one school has now grown into a Cambodian LNGO, Sustainable Schools International, whose mission is to work with poor, rural and marginalized communities to sustain their schools in ways that serve their children and support community needs. Kari is a former writer for Discovery Channel Online. She is the author of Bones That Float, A Story of Adopting Cambodia, winner of the 2008 “Peacemaker of the Year” Award from the Independent Publisher’s Association and a Gold Nautilus Book Award for World Changing Books. Since traveling to Cambodia in 2001 to adopt her son, Kari has traveled to Cambodia nine times for on-going support of the school. Because of Kari, the Grady Grossman School had the first primary school music program in Cambodia, a teacher's residence and library. She started a silk import business and an environmentally sustainable cooking fuel business to support schools. She holds a BA in writing for Television, Radio and Film from Syracuse University.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
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