Work Begins for the Team

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January 15 &16

We finally got an internet connection!

The team spent Friday scoping out projects for the rest of the trip. All 14 of us, plus a driver and helper, crammed into a mini-bus and became much closer friends during out trips. Our first visit was to a mountain village, La Montanita, about 45 minutes from Quimistan. This village is high on a mountain range and has about 300 residents. Their houses are very rustic and in poor condition. They get their water from a mountain stream about 3 km away. The main “industry” in the area is coffee bean growing.

Below is a summary of the potential projects for this village.

The latrines at the local school are “outhouses” which are dangerous for the small kids because of the open holes underneath them. These latrines are also near the end their useful lives. The teachers’ latrines are still “outhouses” but with porcelain “commodes” that empty into a cesspool.One of these was not functioning, but we corrected the problem quickly. The village leaders had expressed a desire for us to assess options to provide several homes with latrines that did not have them.

We also scoped out issues related to water pressure and water capacity in the village. Several water samples were collected for analysis by Allen Blancett while we are here.

Part of the team conducted a dental hygiene clinic for about 50 village kids. This included the proper way to use a tooth brush and dental floss. Poor dental hygiene and the resulting medical problems are major issues in this area.

Dr. Elsa, a local physician who works with HAF, conducted some initial mid-wife training for 2 women so that they could become community health workers.

We met with village leaders to help determine the priorities for future health, housing, and water improvements.

We visited several homes and chose 2 homes where Justa stoves will be built next week.

After we returned to Quimistan,we helped serve a meal to 50-60 kids as part of the “highway ministry”. These kids live in roadside shacks without running water or electricity.
This was a VERY LONG and tiring day!

On Saturday, our scoping and planning phases were moved into the execution phase.

We began our day with a 45-minute close-packed friendship-building ride to Santa Clara. There are about 90 houses in this mountain-side village. Most of the homes have running water, but it is not pure and this causes major diarrhea and urinary tract problems. With HAF, private, and church funding, all of these homes were provided a bio-sandfilter over the last few months. The filters were fabricated in Santa Clara for about $30 each. We were told that there had been NO diarrhea problems since all of the families started using the bio-sandfilters. Wow! What a great success story for bio-sandfilters!!

We collected input and output water samples from several bio-sandfilters to build a database on the performance of the filters.

We met with several families who were the proud owners of Justa stoves. With a private donation, about half of the homes now have new Justa stoves. These stoves use 30-40% less wood, provide much more cooking surface, and provide proper venting of the smoke and soot from the kitchen. A traditional cooking stove is not vented to the outside, which causes severe lung problems.

We conducted a dental clinic for 50-60 kids. It was fun to watch kids learn to use dental floss for the first time.

The construction team returned to La Montanita to teach the local villagers how to assemble new desks and benches for their local school. First Presbyterian provided funding to buy the materials for 20 desk/bench sets. We wanted to try to fulfill the HAF’s new philosophy of building self-sustainability instead of us doing all of the work. When we arrived, about 20 adult workers and an equal number of villager children, some of whom worked along side the adults. We worked closely to help them assemble the first desk or bench, and then partially stepped back on the second ones. Then, we sat down and watched them assemble 7 complete sets of desks and benches on their own. It was fun and very fulfilling to see them really take ownership of this job, and to see them really having fun while they were working. I seriously doubt if we could find a better example of a group of people who could fulfill the HAF’s new self-sufficiency philosophy. We were proud the three of ourselves because we only drove 2 nails, and those were driven by me!!