So I skimmed over my pitiful excuse for a blog and realized I have barely touched on my work with my NGO and as a Peace Corps volunteer. In order to not bore you with all the details, I will just describe several of my current projects. I returned to Camasca, Intibuca yesterday afternoon after a 3-day business trip (no joke Peace Corps this one actually did involve business) in a small city, population approximately 5,000 Marcala, La Paz. If you have ever drank imported coffee from Honduras it most likely was produced in the mountain coffee farms surrounding Marcala. According to Hondurans, Marcala coffee always wins the best coffee contests in Honduras and Central America, and per capita exports the most coffee to foreign markets from Honduras. However, all data must be viewed with a hometown bias. For example, how credible is a Honduran treating factual my beliefs that Cleveland hands down is the best sports town in the United States, the 95 Indians obsession with weightlifting, not injecting things in their buttocks, explains their outrageous numbers and success, and Lebron’s dad has not shown up to claim his millions because he is busy running the underworld. Okay sorry for my divergence from the topic at hand, all I really wanted to say was that Marcala is a coffee producing town.
When I arrived, I met up with two other Peace Corps volunteers, David and Kristi Lee, who coincidentally are some of my closest friends and also involved in the same project. We are all working with an NGO called ADEC (development agencies might actually over-use acronyms more than government agencies like PC) which stands for Water and Development in the Community. Through the Peace Corps communication lines we found out that this NGO was interested in implementing several of their projects in our respective regions. ADEC has a close collaboration with the American Rural Water Association, who does several projects in Honduras along with supporting organizations like ADEC. Their representative in Honduras, that everyone knows as Fred rents a house in Marcala, and was our main contact in meeting the bosses of ADEC. Fred is the ultimate contact in all things water, stateside and honduranside, and has been an invaluable contact. Through his fundraising, contacts, and technical knowledge the project I will touch on further has come to fruition.
The project involves giving simple and immediate solutions to provide clean drinking water to Honduran communities. ADEC works mainly with three technologies, ceramic water filters, a Combined Treatment System, and tablet chlorinators. I have already been involved in projects involving tablet chlorinators, which are utilized in small water tanks to disinfect the drinking water. Picture a pool chlorination tank on a smaller and less technical scale in which a percentage of water passes through a PVC pipe containing chlorine tablets in order to provide clean drinking water straight out of the tap. This technology is provided to communities that already have a current water system but , as in the majority of all water systems in Honduras, do nothing to treat their water.
Kristi and David Lee in Santa Barbara and myself in Intibuca are working with communities that do not have a water system for which the ceramic water filter and Combined Treatment System are perfect fits. One of the main jobs that I do for my NGO, COCEPRADII( acronyms galore) is topographic studies and designs for new or improved water systems. My main job is to use topographic equipment either a theodolite or abney level to take measurements and then use the data to create a water system design. Although I do enjoy this type of work (usually wondering what part of my four year history major qualified me to design water systems) I am only involved in the start of a project that best case scenario in two years finds funding and in five years construction will have finished. Being the selfish, results now American I truly am, I have been looking for projects with immediate results and benefits.
Luckily the ceramic filters and Combined Treatment System are technologies that immediately grant valuable benefits to a community. In two small remote communities called Volcancillo 24 houses and La Pintal 8 houses, that for whom I had recently done a water study and design, I am going to implement a ceramic filter project. The filters consist of a 5 gallon plastic bucket in which you place a ceramic filter coated with colloidal silver which filters 3 liters of water every hour. The colloidal silver kills the bacteria in the water that is the main cause of stomach and diarrhea issues that lead to income loss through lost days at work, medicine costs, transportation, and worst case scenario death for the vulnerable under 5 age group. Thanks to the support of ADEC and the American Rural Water Association we are able to provide filters to the community that usually cost 350 lempiras for 50. In addition community members must agree to attend 3 workshops given by yours truly on hygiene, health, clean drinking water, and the proper maintenance of the filters. One of the best aspects of the project is my ability to return to the community a multitude of times to ensure the proper usage and sustainability of the filters.
The third technology, called the Combined Treatment System, will be implemented in a local school grades 1-6 in the community of San Juan de Dios. I recently did a mini-water system design for the school through the municipality of Camasca to provide water from a nearby river. The water was originally going to arrive to the elementary school without treatment. The Combined Treatment System uses two plastic 450 gallon tanks to treat water, in the first tank aluminum sulfate is added in order to eliminate turbidity in the water, after 24 hours the water is transferred to the second tank where chlorine is added to provide clean drinking water. The aluminum sulfate is an important aspect because chlorine does not effectively treat turbid water. The 120 students will have access to clean water and any community members that desire to fill bottles or buckets. I am really excited about this technology because it teaches Honduran students at a young age the importance of clean drinking water. There is a huge cultural barrier to the use of chlorine and dangers of dirty drinking water which can be eradicated through education at a young age. This project also includes workshops on clean drinking water, proper maintenance of the system (5th and 6th grade students will be expected to maintain the system), and health.
After the completion of these three projects ADEC and myself hope to extend these technologies into other communities around Camasca. I cannot emphasize enough the work of ADEC and American Rural Water Association, especially their representative Fred who have been involved in similar projects for many years. Without their support these projects would not be possible.