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Amity Foundation's 25th Anniversary

November 8, 2010

In this week leading up to the celebration of the Amity Foundation’s 25th anniversary I am sharing some of the exciting projects that they have worked on to help make China’s development more equitable.

As I’m sure we’re all familiar, China’s environmental record isn’t exactly sparkling. This, however, is not as depressing as it may seem. The government just released new coal burning limits and they have started to take a leading role in green technology. China is starting to realize it may take a while to undo 50 years of rapid industrialization. At the front of this attempt to modernize thousands of villages and millions of homes, without destroying the environment, is the Amity Foundation.

Last year I had the chance to visit Zhoukou in Henan province. As a result of the high AIDS infection rate, the county is one of the poorest in the country. I also had the chance to visit homes in rural Gansu province, where deforestation has led to devastating landslides in this last year. In both of these places, and many others, Amity has helped to install bio-gas pools.

Without getting into too many details, a bio-gas pool is kind of like a septic tank for human and animal waste. As the waste breaks down it turns into gas, which can be burned clean for cooking and heating.

These bio-gas pools have huge effects on people’s lives, and I think are one of Amity’s most exciting projects.

1.     Chopping down trees not only leads to more erosion and landslides, but it also takes a lot of time. Imagine if every time you went to the grocery store you had to walk instead of drive, the amount of time and effort spent doing this still doesn’t compare to the labor involved in chopping wood. This time saved from chopping down trees, which does not generate profit, leaves more time for men and women to do something that can increase their family’s income. Bio-gas pools make it possible for families to earn more money.

2.     If they aren’t burning wood, they are burning coal. For most people, chopping down trees is difficult because of environmental protection laws. So in their homes they are burning coal. As I have seen in countless restaurants and homes throughout China, a coal stove is something like a cement bucket. There is no ventilation for the smoke and within a few minutes I find myself coughing uncontrollably, my eyes watering, and trying to find a way to get out of there. My students laugh because at this point, they are used to it. Bio-gas pools also only work with the installation of a proper toilet, greatly improving sanitation. Bio-gas pools are an invaluable tool for protecting the health of the family.

I hope you can see from these two simple explanations of just a few of their benefits how great this project is. The Amity Foundation is now working with churches in Micronesia to help improve their current projects.

Tom Morse

Tom Morse serves with the Amity Foundation of China as an English teacher.

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