Celebrating 10 Years

July 4th, 2018 marks the 10th Anniversary of the birth of Warm Heart Foundation. The Warm Heart Foundation was founded by Dr. D. Michael Shafer and Evelind Schecter to help the people of Phrao help themselves.

The initial main projects included a microenterprise program, education, and public health. The foundation provides a home for children from surrounding Hill Tribes and mountain communities that don’t have access to an education.

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“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Helping the Local Farmers

Early on Warm Heart knew they wanted to grow their own organic food to help feed the children living in their homes. From this seed their Environmental Program has blossomed.

Local farmers were struggling to survive, unable to generate enough income to support their families. Outdated farming practices were failing, soils were depleted, plus they now had the worry of an unstable environment and unreliable water supply.

Demonstration Farm

In collaboration with the village of T.Maepang and with the support of the Tessabon, experts from the Ampure, ECHO Asia, Chiang Mai University and universities overseas Warm Heart pulled together a core group working towards learning better farming practices.

The Demonstration Farm provides local farmers hands-on training with new, organic ways of farming, new farming techniques and new crops, and to learn useful subjects such as farm and family budgeting. The farm allows them to try many ideas and pick just the ones that work here on local farms.

Working with the farmers on new farming techniques was just the beginning.

The period right after harvesting became a whole new issue that needed to be addressed and changed.

Striving for a better environment

Harvest time creates a major pollution problem when farmers burn their crop residue in the fields. Not only is the local environment inundated with harmful air from all the smoke, it is a major contributor to Global Warming.

Warm Heart knew that banning fires was not a solution. Farmers needed a way to remove the crop residue. They began looking into biochar as a potential solution.

Biochar Research and Development

Warm Heart began a R&D program to find a solution to offer the farmers an alternative to open field crop burning. The result was a biochar oven that was cheap and easy to build, that farmers could use to dispose of their waste, eliminating all the smoke.

teaching seminar on biochar

Through a grant from the US Embassy in October 2015, Warm Heart was able to launch a demonstration platform for local officials and offer training programs to teach local farmers how to build and use biochar ovens. Videos and PDF’s were created to share the information as wide as possible.

Warm Heart has provided training locally to farmer groups, high school students (our next generation of farmers), individual businesses, women’s groups, and as far away as Malaysia and China.

Added Benefits of Biochar

Eliminating the smoke was a strong motive for the R&D. While that may have been the initial motivation, the biochar itself emerged as a true benefit for the farmers.

Putting the biochar back in their land gave their soil a tremendous boost, improving crops, reducing need for commercial fertilizers, better water retention.

Turning crop waste into biochar also creates a new source of income for farmers. Biochar’s many useful benefits puts a dollar value on the crop residue that in the past was simply burned away.

“Making biochar removes three tons CO2 from the atmosphere for every ton produced; when added to fields as a soil amendment, that carbon is permanently sequestered.”

Expansion of Biochar Project

In 2016 Warm Heart received a grant from the Canadian Government to launch a program in Mae Chaem working with a group of farmers to test the feasibility of large scale switch from open field burning to a biochar system.

Warm Heart provided the materials and the farmers made 250 barrel biochar ovens. Few people were available to make biochar until the end of December because every extended family group was out picking. As the picking season peaked, farmers flocked to the barrels. To the amazement of one and all, in the end, the farmers made 15,000 bags of biochar, providing Warm Heart the material to experiment with making products ranging from organic fertilizers to smokeless cooking briquettes. Farmers and urban buyers alike love these products!

Attaining Sustainability

The success of Warm Heart’s new biochar and biochar-based products led it to form “Rak Din,” a complete business model for a community-scale social enterprise to produce biochar and biochar-based products. Warm Heart is currently testing the model “on itself” as a way to increase its own self-sustainability but hopes to secure social impact investment funds to be able to grow the concept into additional countries in order to use replication to (1) provide broad-based income gains for small, poor farmers and (2) reduce open field crop waste burning and therefore cool the climate, clean the environment and improve public health.

Repurposing Styrofoam

Styrofoam R&D

Biochar is not the only area of research and development at Warm Heart. Styrofoam is one of the worst contributors to ecosystem destruction.

Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. According to Washington University, styrofoam takes 500 years to decompose; it cannot be recycled, so the styrofoam cups dumped in landfills are there to stay.

Warm Heart developed a way to grind up the styrofoam, and mix it with concrete to make bricks. Our video Styrofoam Bricks DIY has had over 285,000 views, so hopefully there is a lot of Styrofoam getting repurposed out there!

Here at Warm Heart we are in the middle of construction of a new office for Dr. Shafer. We are using plastic bottles filled with sand and a styrofoam/cement mixture.

Michael describes it as “Styrofoam concrete in action. It’s time to step up. Because I am telling everyone that this stuff is so great, I figured that it only made sense for me to build my new office with it. Different building techniques, poured styrofoam cement roof, etc. with biochar plaster on the interior walls to regulate humidity and odors.”

“Did you know on a daily basis manufacturers produce enough styrofoam cups that if you placed them end to end they would circle the globe? That is just the cups. That is a lot of pollution, and it ends up in our dumps, our oceans and rivers.”

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Warm Heart Worldwide, Inc. is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions to Warm Heart Worldwide are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Ever ask yourself what more you can do to help the environment? Here are some great answers to that question!

How to Get Started with Zero-Waste Living at Your Own Pace

Have you heard of people talking about zero waste living? Are you confused as to what it means or how you achieve it?

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But how do you start this lifestyle? How do you maintain such a lifestyle?

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Chiang Mai Citylife

The Heart Warming Story of Warm Heart Foundation

by Aydan Stuart

July 1, 2018

“What you must understand is, we’re not a normal family,” said Michael Shafer during a visit to the Warm Heart Foundation, found in the mountains of Phrao. Although featured before in Citylife, we have never spent time looking at the foundation as a whole, focusing mainly on their environmental efforts.

Many may know this foundation as the biochar guys, a key player in the fight against smoke, but if we step back, we see they do a lot more than biochar, which actually is just a side project. Last month marked their ten year anniversary, and we thought we’d pay Shafer and his wife Evelind Schecter a visit to find out what Warm Heart is all about. (Read full story)

Help us celebrate our 10th Anniversary

Our programs depend on support from people like you. Please help us to continue our Environmental Programs. Together we can make a difference!


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