Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Clean water for a new community

A short update from the amazon rain forest of Ecuador.(This is the group I am working with - Emily, Nicole, Fatima, Kendra, Dorothy)

We've spent about 5 days now in La Encañada, a new community with just nine families. (The moon rises over La Encañada)

Turns out we'll be able to give them all water systems from the start. There are fewer families, the local government chipped in some money, we got a little extra from the MIT Public Service Center, and suddenly we have enough funds to make it happen!

Its a funny thing – we know were doing our job right when we are essentially superfluous. The team we have put together from Santa Ana is amazingly capable – with everything from leading planning meetings, to selecting the right trees to cut down for platform construction, to teaching basic hygiene to children in the school, to leading a water and health workshop in the whole community. (One of the platforms we've built for the rainwater tanks)

It is a pleasure to sit back and watch them work, mostly speaking to the members of Encañada in their native language Kichwa. They mix in enough spanish words and ive picked up enough Kichwa that I can mostly tell what they are saying. Every once in a while i'll make a suggestion , like why dont we install one tank today so we are sure we know how to do it, and Basilio, or Melida, or Esteban will jump on the idea, start speaking to the others in Kichwa, and they'll act on it.

That's not to say that I have been completely useless – the other day I unclogged a toilet that hadn't worked for two years. The family was pretty elated since they had been just going out in the woods for all this time. Its the little things that count…

I have to confess that the performance of both the Santa Ana team and the 9 families that make up the community of Encañada has exceeded my expectations.

Melida and Esteban did a fantastic job on the hygiene and health workshop, with only a little coaching from me. A bit more work on project management and documentation skills, and a bit of funding, and I think this team could really go into a new community and give clean water.

Tomorrow we have the day off and one of hosts in Encañada is taking us on a hike up to a hill from which we are supposed to be able to see santa ana : )

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