Who we are


tommy and friends

Co-founder Tom Miller with school children in Vietnam’s Ha-Giang Province

Green Cities Fund, Inc. was established in 2005 as a California public benefit corporation, and is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Its founders have been involved in public service work for many years, starting in the 1950’s with Canada’s “Frontier College”, the predecessor of the Peace Corps, where college students spent their summers working on railway gangs and in mining camps teaching the workers at night, and handling a myriad of problems that develop in these tough and remote environments.

Frontier College led to teaching in Ghana, West Africa and the establishment of the Yale Men Abroad Program, with the help of Chaplain William Sloane Coffin, where Yale students and graduates served overseas in “Third World” countries. This led to assisting with the establishment of the Peace Corps, and the training and placement of the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers, in Ghana, West Africa.


Kim Phuc, badly burned by napalm, was treated at the hospital established by Green Cities Fund co-founder, Tom Miller. Photo: Nick Ut

During the Vietnam War, in 1966, the founders established, in Vietnam, the Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to treat children injured in the war.  Led by world-renowned surgeon, Dr. Arthur Barsky, who had been Chief Surgeon of the Hiroshima Maidens Project, the Center treated thousands of war victims, including a little girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, whose photograph fleeing terror-stricken with her brother down a road after being burned by napalm shocked the conscience of the world. With funding from Japan and Australia, the Center continues today.


kim phuc 2

Kim Phuc in 1988 reunion with Barsky Unit chief nurse, Lien Huong, who cared for her when she was injured in 1971, and continued on at the hospital until her retirement in 2005

As the American War in Vietnam ended, the founders assisted UNICEF expand its programs throughout Indochina, and when thousands of Vietnamese children were rushed to the United States in the U.S. Government sponsored “Orphan Airlift” (PDF), they intervened in an attempt to return the many children who were not orphans to their families.  The story of one such child was told in Gail Dolgin’s documentary “Daughter from Danang“, which received the grand prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and was an Oscar nominee. In 2015, on the 40th anniversary of the Orphan Airlift (video), the founders participated in an exhibition and ongoing discussion of international adoption at The Presidio, in San Francisco, where the Orphan Airlift children arrived and it was discovered that many were not orphans. They have also participated in the production of films on Vietnam, Cuba and South America by Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Pierre Dominique Gaisseau, Sarah Harbin (“Sonata for Left Hand“), NBC (“Sins of the Fathers” about American fathered children in Vietnam); the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Al Jazeera and Britain’s Channel 4.

In recent years they have served on the board of Global Exchange, a San Francisco human rights organization; provided free legal assistance to scores of U.S. citizens fined for exercising their Constitutional right to travel to Cuba as well as assisting “Send A Piana to Havana” donate pianos to Cuban schools and churches. In cooperation with Alice Waters, Chez Panisse chefs, and Cuba’s leading environmental organization, the Antonio Nunez Jimenez Foundation, Green Cities is sponsoring the “Planting Seeds” project in Cuba to work toward local, organic food sustainability, and a healthier diet for all Cubans, and is also the sponsor of EcoCuba environmental projects.

Cuban organic farmer Isis Salcines and Alice Waters

Cuban organic farmer Isis Salcines and Alice Waters

They have also joined with University of California at Berkeley researchers in a project to restore Cuba’s longest river, the Cauto, which runs through Berkeley, California’s “Sister City”, Palma Soriano. A short film on Palma and the project can be viewed here . Working with Cuban economists, Green Cities Fund has also sponsored a number of international conferences discussing changes to Cuba’s economic system. In 2007 they secured the nomination of Cuban Medical Workers, who have contributed so much to the quality of health care in Third World Countries, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Through Green Cities Fund efforts the nomination was made by Dr. Paul Farmer of Harvard and founder of Partners-in-Health, and California’s progressive congresswoman, Barbara Lee.

Reception area at the expanded Barsky Unit. taken in december 2013

Reception area of expanded Barsky Unit today. Now the National Center for Odonto-Stomatology

They have continued their work in Vietnam by assisting the work of Atlantic Philanthropies, the Vietnam Green Building Council and Chi-Em, a microfinance organization serving ethnic minority villages established by the founders’ daughter, Nathalie Miller, in the remote mountains surrounding historic Dien Bien Phu, where the French were defeated by the Vietnamese in 1954. They are also supporting research in Vietnam and NASA scientist Jonathan Trent’s “OMEGA Project” to produce sea-grown algae as a source for biofuel, a better alternative than harvesting land crops for biofuel, which causes food prices to increase, pitting the food needs of the poorest against the economic power of rich fuel consuming nations. This project has recently included enthusiastic participation by North Korea’s leading algae and climate change specialists.

In 2002, they assisted in the establishment of Parwaz, the first Afghan-run microfinance institution and in 2009 they embarked on an effort to save Prey Lang – “Our Forest”, the largest remaining lowland semi-dry evergreen forest in Southeast Asia and home of the  Kuy ethnic minority.  A trailer from a documentary on Prey Lang can be seen here.

Green Cities Fund founders are also active in Haiti, where they have traveled extensively, and where they assist FONDAM, a foundation established by the Monnin Family, founders of Galerie Monnin and who have been involved in Haiti’s cultural life since 1947. Recently the organization has established an assistance program for the Karenni ethnic minority in Oakland, California, where they have been resettled as political refugees from Burma, after having fought the oppressive regime there for generations.

Donations to Green Cities Fund are tax deductible and 100% of your donation is used for the specific project you designate. The Founders receive no compensation and pay all overhead costs.





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Cocina Abierta

Urgent Message From Varun Mehra*I am writing to ask for your help to raise some money and skills for a very special project in Cuba, where I first traveled in early 2012 on an invitation from Tom & Nhu Miller of Green Cities Fund (greencitiesfund.org). In December 2012, we traveled to Havana organized a delegation of  40 U.S. chefs and friends for two weeks of programming to highlight the beautiful organic ingredients available within Havana city limits and from farms within a short driving distance. With Imogene Tondre and several other coordinators, we organized four major events: a dinner for 50 major Cuban paladar owners, a workshop for students and prominent Cuban food activists at a small culinary school in Havana, a Cuban state dinner for ministers and diplomats, and an impromptu street party where U.S. chefs cooked for neighborhood residents in Vedado, Havana.

Since December of 2012, Imogene has continued the work in Havana with Cuban chefs through various workshops, events, and culinary collaborations—including a recent visit from chef Narsai David of Berkeley, CA. We hope to soon find a permanent space in Havana, run by a collective of Cubans with collaboration from U.S. chefs–a diplomatic exchange of ideas centered around food. In addition to being open to the public, our team will workshop traditional recipes for Cuban citizens, implement outreach to Cuban schools and communities, and provide internships to young Cuban chefs.

In August 2014, through major assistance from Congresswoman Barbara Lee, we received an unprecedented license from OFAC (the Office of Foreign Assets Control) within the U.S. Treasury Department. We are able to spend up to U.S. $2 million toward the continuation of the project—one of the largest approvals ever given by OFAC since the embargo began.

We need to raise some money! For two things — to fund research into traditional Cuban recipes, culinary traditions and agricultural practices from around the island. And to establish a permanent space. In order to get this off the ground, we need to raise $50k in the next two months and about $400k total to secure a space in Havana.


1. Donate to http://greencitiesfund.org/donations/. If you are thinking of making a tax deductible donation of larger than $100 or so, please consider mailing a check. If that would deter you, then just use PayPal. Checks should be payable to “Green Cities Fund” and designated “Cocina Albierta”.  They can be mailed to: Green Cities Fund,  725 Washington Street, #300, Oakland, CA 94607.

2. If you are interested in offering your specialized skills, let’s see if we can creatively make a plan to utilize them! We could certainly use donated time from website designers, video editors, chefs, restaurateurs, accountants and wizard generalists. If you would like to devote time to fundraising and formally become part of this cultural exchange, I am interested in setting up a development board for the project.

3. TRIPS TO CUBA! As a special offer, I will lead up to three (fully licensed) five-night customized trips to Havana for up to six people at a mutually agreeable date in the next two years (but no hard deadline!). Meet excellent friends in Havana, see farms, drink mojitos, and dance it out. Donation of $5k/person + flight/hotel expenses. Please e-mail me to inquire. (If you don’t want me to come, and would prefer to ask me upwards of 100 questions about your potential trip to Cuba, please consider making a donation of $1k/person.)

4. Finally, if you are interested in making a larger, more “investment”-like donation to the project, there is a lot more to know about real estate, new laws, and more; and it’s an extremely interesting opportunity for the right person. Please set up a time to talk to me!


Thank you so much, amigos! For more detailed information about the project, please click the following MailChimp link to download a PDF.


Sincerely yours,

Email: newvam84@gmail.com
Cell: 510.566.7604

*Personal assistant to Alice Waters 2008 to 2015.

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