George and Kari Grady Grossman

In 2001, George and Kari adopted Grady from Cambodia. Several years later they adopted Shanti from India. Most adoptive families with mixed heritages try to provide opportunities for their children to understand their roots, but Kari and George have gone much farther.

Beginning with Cambodia, they started with the simple idea to build a village school. Eight years later they lead a thriving nonprofit, “Sustainable Schools International” whose mission is to empower Cambodian communities to sustain schools through economic development. Kari’s book, Bones that Float, A Story of Adopting Cambodia has received numerous awards. Although they invest themselves whole heartedly to help others, their family is one that is vibrant, creative, and committed to each other and to learning.

The first school they built serves five rural villages in Cambodia. The school is the village’s only permanent structure. Starting with just 50 children in a dilapidated hut, today there are 500 students, 7 teachers and a solid cement structure with a water well, and a solar powered computer. Their teacher program adds critical incentives and sustenance for full-time teachers. The Abundant Forest Life Skills Program uses alternative energy fuels in order to protect the forests around the village from illegal logging and to provide entrepreneurial skills for economic growth among villagers. Economic growth is essential to allow Cambodian families the luxury of sending children to school rather sending them to work to support the family. The Grossmans introduced the first music program in Cambodian primary schools. Their dream is to expand their sustainable schools throughout Cambodia.

George and Kari have also played leadership roles in the development of the Colorado Cambodian Heritage Camp, designed for children adopted from Cambodia and their families. These camps play a crucial role in the formation of children’s identities as international adoptees in inter-racial families.

As loving, committed parents and teachers of their two children, seeing them take that dedication to help communities thousands of miles from their comfortable Colorado home is truly inspiring. We can think of no better parents to receive this award!

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