The People of Kolleru Lake

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Kolleru Lake, Andrha Pradesh, India [Google Map]

© Copyright Jeremy Chu -

© Copyright Jeremy Chu -

There is a lake in India, which at one time was the largest and cleanest lake in all of Asia. It is surrounded by over 120 villages and 40 years ago the people of these villages had an easy life. They would drink the lakes pristine water straight from their hands. The men would paddle small wooden boats, out into the lake and catch fresh fish. Families would also grow rice and vegetables and together they would eat 3 healthy meals a day. It was a livelihood handed down through the generations.

In the 1970’s, the Kolleru Lake lifestyle began to change. The Indian government determined that because of it’s massive size and the wealth of life within it, Kolleru Lake would support an industry large enough to feed fish and rice to the entire planet. And so over the next few decades, that is exactly what happened.

© Copyright Jeremy Chu -

© Copyright Jeremy Chu -

Kolleru Lake was divided up into cross-sections of raised land, creating rectangular ponds of stagnant water in which the rice and fish farming flourished. The people of the villages surrounding Kolleru Lake had a change in livelihood from one of self-sustenance to one of dependency on international industry. Kolleru Lake the sweat labor of it’s inhabitants provided inexpensive fish and rice to people around the world.

Life was different then, but it was still good. The villagers were making wages and with it, they were able to buy food and other things.

© Copyright Jeremy Chu -

© Copyright Jeremy Chu -

However, by the turn of the millennium, things were not looking good. The industry was taking it’s toll on Kolleru Lake. The chemical filled, stagnant water used in farming was repeatedly drained into the main body of the lake, which literally poisoned all of the life within it. Before the 1970’s there were over 100 species of fish in the lake and today that number has been reduced to a small handful.

India had an environmental disaster on it’s hands and the world had taken notice. Finally, under international pressure, the Indian government agreed to reverse the decision they had made in the 1970’s.

In 2005, in a swift, ill-forewarned and seemingly random way, an attempt was begun to return the lake to it’s natural state by demolishing many of the rice and fish farming ponds.

But it was too late.

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#33 – Build a Kids Library in Cambodia

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It took me a couple of years of travelling in countries with massive poverty and dealing with the infinite moral conondrum faced when staring beggars in the eyes before I found a way of helping that I was genuinely comfortable with. At a loss for not knowing where cash handouts would end up and realizing the quick expiry of impact resulting from most types of ongoing support or aid, I found empowerment through education to make the most sense to me.

I was also incrdeibly moved by the tragic stories of genocide and systematic destruction of educated role models I heard while I was in Phnom Phen.

That’s why I choose to fund the construction of a library for kids in Cambodia.

The experience and success was, for obvious reasons, incredibly rewarding. In addition to the undeniable satisfaction from helping people, I also cherish the learning and self development that came from adopting what was then such a lofty goal – raising US$14,000 for something simply because I believed in it.

I learned people you thought would join you and help, wouldn’t. And people who you wouldn’t have expected to care, to care and help a whole lot.

I learned inspiration is the most powerful way to affect change. Some teachers were inspired to inspire thier students to inspire their friends and family to help. The change there was a lot bigger than just the donations. It was the space between the dollars that I was also very excited about. The learning, curiosity and emotions experienced by those who took the time to listen and consider…and maybe even inspire others.

Learning first hand how to move people to move others, even without the unmatched rewarding feeling, easily makes raising funds to build a kids library in Cambodia one of the top 100 things I’ve done.

A New Children’s Library in Cambodia

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Children's Library in Cambodia

Construction of the children’s library I decided to raise money to build in Cambodia has finally been completed. It is located on the grounds of Hor Nam Hong Preay Nhear Primary and Lower Secondary School in Batheay District, Kampong Cham, Cambodia.

Room_to_Read_logo_color_medium_270x173In the story that drove the fundraising I explained why I believed there was a drastic need for such a library in Cambodia specifically. (You can hear this story via the YouTube video at the bottom of this post.) Thanks to Room to Read and a long list of people and organizations, over 1300 kids in Cambodia now have access to books in both English and Khmer. Read the rest of this entry »

Summit for Someone (Guest Post by Luis Omar Lopez)

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This is a guest post by my good friend and adventure travel partner Luis Omar Lopez.  Please read and  consider supporting him!

Omar on the CliffHowdy!

My name is Luis Lopez, on June 6, 2009, I will climb to the summit of Long’s Peak (14,255 ft.) in the Colorado Rockies to raise money that will benefit at-risk teens nationwide. I am participating in a Summit for Someone climb as part of a benefit climbing series supporting Big City Mountaineers, a 501(c)(3) non-profit recreational mentoring program for at-risk teens. Big City Mountaineers provides urban teenage youth in need of positive adult mentoring with a challenging and safe wilderness experience led by qualified adult volunteer guides.

I am summiting for youth that I feel a genuine understanding for. My experiences with the wilderness during my youth were few and far between, I realize now that they were among the most important factors of making me who I am. The truth is, all it really takes is a few genuine experiences for a profound positive impact to grow out of. My own experiences were so powerful just the few of them were enough to ignite the desire inside of me to constantly challenge myself, the physical challenge of climbing a real mountain makes you want to take on all the rest of life’s mental, emotional and financial challenges. For the at-risk teens who will participate in Big City Mountaineer’s programs, the feeling they will have at the top of a mountain is what will empower them to strive for the excellence they otherwise won’t aim for. These kids can grow up to do great things, but they need a taste of greatness to inspire them first.
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A Story For You, A Favor For Me

Adventures, Give Well, Plans & Itineraries, Thoughts & Reflections, Travel Stories, World Travels No Comments »

For those of you who have been following my travels on and off for the past few years, enjoying my writing and photography, sending me flattering comments and emails… Thank you! I am glad to have been able to inspire and entertain many of you.

I have another story for you… and this time I am asking for a favor in return.

Please continue to travel with me by supporting my project. It will be VERY much appreciated.

Even a little bit will help…


As for upcoming travel adventures…a friend and I are seriously considering a month-long rowing journey down the Guadalquivir River in Spain this spring…

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