Solar Power. Besides the pumping of water from the well (run by a diesel generator soon to be replaced with a solar pump), the entire group of buildings that house circa 30 kids and 8 employees is run off of solar power. This originates from a set of twenty Siemens panels, each of 80 watts (total of 1,600 W, cost $14,000). The houses are outfitted with compact fluorescents and contain many typical household power users like stereos, computers, fans etc. Although no AC, dishwashers nor jacuzzis were noted. This TreeHugger got a big kick out of spending time "au solaire".
Rainwater Harvesting. The almost daily monsoon rains (in rainy season) are funneled off of their clean metal roofs into large gutters that are connected to either a set of large concrete cylinders linked together or simple concrete vessels. These are used to water the Thai palms and other fruit trees that have been planted or for cleaning, or for drinking. For circa $500, 8 cylinders containing a total of circa 20,000 liters can be put together. So simple!
Organic Pesticides/Fertilizers. It was heartening to see some good organic products in use at the orphanage. And ones that work! The Thai Palms had to be re-planted 3 different times, employing various anti-termite solutions prior to discovering an organic fertilizer that kept the termites away. And it wasn't even imported.
Bikes instead of Bus. In order to get maximum use of the orphanage, Alain has reached out to the local community and offered that kids from other towns come to some of the traditional dance, movement and craft classes. Initially there was to be a bus that would brave the hellacious roads to pick them up but due to cost, complication and environmental reasons, it was decided that bikes could be bought for the kids such that they could make their way themselves and also benefit from the use of them the rest of the time. TreeHugger approves.
It is very heartening to see pioneers like Alain working to not only support the less fortunate of us but also to do it in a self-sufficient, utopian manner. And it's these examples that prove that self-sufficiency doesn't have to be a hairshirt. It ain't the ritz, but it was quite comfortable staying there.
And the kids! So well mannered, thankful and full of happiness. They give the Kenyans some serious competition in the cutest kids in the world category. Despite stating that "it's too early for kids", this TreeHugger was tempted to stash a few into my luggage.
Please visit the catalan site for Infants del Mon or drop Alain a line at alain_montane [at] yahoo [dot] com. We're sure offers of volunteer work, supplies or some good old greenbacks would be not only very appreciated but put to good use.
And congratulations to the Andorran government and people for supporting the orphanage. And to Alain Montane! Well done. [by Graham Hill]