Tag Archives: sanitation

The Final Days

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Saying Goodbye is always hard

I am sitting in the airport in Panama City, waiting to be called to board.

This last week and a half has been busy. Simon drilled another well and installed two hand pumps. I closed off a large sanitation project at Asilo (a home for the elderly/disabled on the main island).

I am excited to see my family and friends back in the States, but saying goodbye to my Panama-family and friends is still sad.

As usual (for me), I have a quick turn-around in the States. I arrive home this evening (Wednesday) and will be loading gear back in my dad’s car at 2am on Sunday morning. I am heading back to Haiti with the goat team.

I will be sure to update more on the project later this week, but for now – if anyone lives near me (Vineland), I am looking for twin sheets for the orphanages we partner with in Haiti.

Adios for now 🙂

 

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Simon working on a well in Shark Hole


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Simon with a family near their well in Isla Tigre


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Maria Isabelle is one of the residents of Asilo. Maria is an elderly schizophrenia patient. On this particular day, she was in a good mood and gave me some drawings. I really like when she is in a good mood, but I also don’t mind when she is in a bad mood either because my Spanish isn’t good enough to figure out what she is yelling at me about 😉  

 

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My Next 4 (0r 5) Countries

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South Sudan, 2011

In two weeks, I leave for an intense schedule of projects in Eastern Africa.

Am I ready?

Nope  😉    …but I will [have to] be in two weeks.

Uganda will be my first stop. I will be working with Washington, an awesome Ugandan national, who I trained with our drilling equipment in 2012. Washington has been drilling and managing latrine construction projects on behalf of Hydromissions for the past 4 years. We will be drilling two borehole wells – one in Butega village and one in Nyakadot village. At this moment I have funds for one latrine construction project for a school in Kiroza village, but if I raise more support, a primary school has been identified for another latrine project. The latrine projects require more material which makes them more expensive then the borehole wells.

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Walking to town, Uganda 2012. Washington is on my left, wearing the green shirt. I am guessing he is around 6’7″ – a massive man with a quiet disposition.

In addition to working with Washington, I will have two volunteers from the States for part of the time. This will be so nice! Besides the Gift a Goat project team (where we need 4-6 people), I spend most of my time traveling alone for the projects.

My first week will be with Jessica, a civil engineer grad from Rowan who has worked with me in Panama and El Salvador. Jess will assist in training national volunteers and checking on the well drilled in 2012.

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Patrick, Me & Jessica on our way home from our 2014 Panama project

When I drop Jess off at the airport, I will be meeting with John. John and I have worked together in Haiti on the “Gift a Goat” projects and he has worked on multiple bridge projects in Panama over the past couple of years. John will be working on borehole well drilling for two weeks.

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John, left, en route to Haiti with the Gift a Goat team in 2015

Another part of my travels will be visiting missionary friends serving in different regions of Uganda. The Rosser and Craig families serve for different ministries in appropriate technologies, education, well-drilling and farming. Jennifer, an amazing nurse, treats illnesses, responds to emergencies and, most recently, assists in many many births. I learn as much as I can from these visits and apply it to the training I provide in other communities worldwide. I am really excited to visit some of the Water for All drilling clubs started by the Rossers. The manual drilling method they use is different from Hydromissions, but I think it will be quite useful to incorporate in some communities – especially areas with harder subsurfaces.

Traveling to all the locations I have planned in Uganda will not be easy. The long bumpy buses will take up many days during my 5-weeks in country, but ultimately,  I will enjoy being back in “The Pearl of Africa.”

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Waiting for my bus/van to leave in 2012. Hawkers will sell you anything through the bus window – even a live chicken!

After Uganda (with a possible quick stop in Rwanda), I will be traveling to Ethiopia to train a team in drilling, pumps and hygiene education, Kenya to visit former projects and teach pumps and Malawi to train borehole well drilling, pumps and hygiene education. Total time will be about 2 months for all of these projects.

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My 4 scheduled stops so far (with Rwanda as my possible 5th)

I will update you all as much as possible throughout the course of these projects!

Check back or sign up for email notifications on the left sidebar!

 

 

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I should be in Haiti right now, but I’m in chilly NJ!

I bet if I looked back at all my blog posts, a high percentage would start out with some variation of “sorry it has taken me so long to write…” 🙂

I did not intend to be Stateside so long after the holidays, but our project to Haiti, originally slated for January, was postponed to February and finally cancelled last week.

It feels odd to be home right now because my schedule (which I had been working on for months) was to be in Haiti with a team of animal science and agriculture trainers. Our team of 6 women was supposed to arrive in Port Au Prince on Saturday, but due to political unrest and riots, we had to cancel our trip. The goats have already been purchased and will be distributed to the students in Marbial by our local contacts in Haiti this week.

Last year, I wrote a blog post about how much research and planning goes into my projects before I leave the States. It can take up to a year from when we get the project application until we have a team in the community. One of the hardest events to follow/predict are elections. I generally try to avoid countries during elections, but sometimes it is inevitable. In the case of Haiti, a new president should have been selected months ago, but votes were cancelled indefinitely after allegations of fraud and distrust led to protests and riots.

I wrote a 2-page letter that donors to the Goat project received last week. It details what is going on in Haiti and how our program will continue even though we are not there physically. If interested, read it here: Letter about the Gift a Goat program.

Special thanks to Oregon Girl Scout Troop 10143 and Saint Mary’s CCD students. Troop 10143 sent me an awesome care package with supplies for the students in Haiti. The package included important hygiene items like toothpaste, toothbrushes and soaps. Saint Mary’s CCD students raised enough money for a little over 3 goats and each student made a card for me to bring to the kids in Haiti. I am keeping all those items packed and ready to go as soon as we reschedule our flights to Haiti 🙂

In addition to raising funds for Haiti, the “Gift a Goat & More!” campaign also raised enough money to build a water tower and latrines in San Antonio, Guatemala and latrines in La Cumbre, El Salvador. I am heading to Guatemala on February 23rd to work in San Antonio. I am excited to be working with the same community I worked with back in 2009 (see post “Then and Now” to read about San Antonio).

Lastly, I will take a couple weeks to study Spanish while I am in Guatemala to improve my communication skills (wahoo!.. maybe I will learn how to say “wahoo!” in Spanish 😉 )

Thank you for your support of these projects!

p.s. There are some pros to being home in February – the last time I was home for my birthday was back in 2012. Now I can take advantage of all those coupons that come in only for your “birthday month” 😉

Building a snowman for Schmitty is another plus to being home for some extra time this winter :)

Building a snowman for Schmitty is another plus to being home for some extra time this winter 🙂

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Filed under El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti

Gift a Goat and More!

 

Back in the Ngobe village on Isla Bastimentos in Panama

 
At 2:30am on Tuesday morning, before my flight out to Panama, I launched my most ambitious crowd-funding campaign to date. I crowd-fund once a year to help me reach goals for certain projects that I cannot financially support with my own funding. I was really nervous about setting a goal of $20,000 for this campaign, however, I have three projects I would like to complete from Januaray to March in 2016 that will cost roughly $18,000. That’s just my first three months next year – I’ll have many more after that! If this works out, I’ll be able to give latrines to families in San Antonio, Guatemala and La Cumbre, El Salvador; goats to students in Marbial, Haiti and a new water system to San Antonio, Guatemala. 

I was so nervous when I launched the campaign online that I checked it as many times as I could on Tuesday during my down-time while traveling. A watched pot doesn’t boil, right? My campaign didn’t boil on the first day. 

On Wednesday, I was working in the Ngobe village all day so I didn’t check the campaign until I came “home” for dinner. I checked my email and was so surprised by the donations I received already that I had to re-read them a few times to make sure I read them correctly – $5,800 towards my goal! This is incredible! The campaign is heating up now 😉 

Thank you all so much for your donations! 

If you haven’t seen the funding site yet, here is the link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gift-a-goat-more/x/8917480#/

Please check it out and share it with friends so we can spread the gift of goats and more!

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Then and Now

February 7th 2009, I boarded a plane for Guatemala and a two-month project that changed the direction of my career from that point forward. I had found my place as an engineer. My first blog – yippeekiyay – documented those months and my first water/sanitation project abroad in San Antonio.

I had returned, briefly, to San Antonio back in 2013, but since it was for about an hour, I did not get to see many of the men I had worked with, the women I had met with or the kids I had played with back in 2009.

Me and the guys on one of our work days (2009)

During this stay in Guatemala, I got to return on multiple occasions and really explore all the changes to San Antonio since I had first visited there in 2008 (about 6 months before I started my project there). The community is so lush and beautiful now. Trees that were planted and cared for many years ago have filled the community with shade and fruit. It was rather barren when I was there and to see all the “fruit” from the labors of Carol Gleeson, the late fonder of Operation Jabez, and the rest of the staff and the churches and the schools that she involved in helping San Antonio was just incredible. Families made a point to tell us stories of Carol’s ministry and how she would pray over trees she planted and those trees are full of fruit and healthy years after Carol has passed. There is even a new little school building and new little church building.

And the kids! So grown up! Here are two (“then and now”) photos.

Marcelo – such a fun little guy who was my favorite teammate for games. You can also see the difference in landscape now, 6 years later.

Chusita is all grown up. I was so happy to see how she developed. I knew her as a toddler and she wasn’t verbal and had bowed legs. Now, she greeted me and laughed and looks very healthy 🙂

I spent a couple different days in San Antonio. The first day, I met up with the former president of the community, Modesto. It was really great catching up with him and seeing the improvements made to the community. I also wandered around with Jen and found some of the other guys that were on my team. All in all, about 20 men worked on the water/sanitation project in 2009. I had been close to a core of about 6 of them.

Modesto with his wife (2015)

I had wanted to meet with the current community president to discuss future projects, but part of me was a bit nervous. I was very comfortable with the guys I had worked with, but who was the new president? Would he want to work with me on new ways to improve San Antonio? Would he be willing to put together teams of community workers like Modesto did? I didn’t find the new president the first couple of times I was in San Antonio, but on the third visit, Jen and I were wandering around and ran into Guadalupe. I was psyched! He was one of the masons for my project and while talking with him, Cruz went by on his motorcycle (Cruz was another mason and another former teammate that I wanted to see). I ran down and shouted to get Cruz’s attention and he came over and we all caught up briefly. I explained to them that I wanted to return to San Antonio to meet with the new president to discuss future projects and hoped that they could take part in the meeting with me.  It was at that point that I met the new president – Guadalupe!  I was so relieved. Here was an old teammate, a friend, and he was the current president. What a sweet blessing 🙂

Guadalupe (left) is the current president and Cruz (right)

A week later, we had our meeting and I was pleased to see that I knew most of the people currently leading San Antonio.  I was interested to know what they thought the community needed. We talked about water and sanitation for the most part. During my project in 2009, we built the first composting toilets (2 of them) in the community. I had worked with the local government and other aid agencies to build an appropriate toilet for that area. Since then, 17 families have built a composting toilet at their own houses! It is really exciting to come into an area 6 years later and see that certain designs have been accepted and replicated.  My desire is to help each family (60 total) to each have a toilet of their own. It will cost about $150 per toilet for materials and each family will help with the construction and labor. We also discussed a new water tower that they would like to construct. This water tower will provide water to each house. It still won’t exactly be indoor plumbing like we are used to here in the States, but the water will be piped to a little basin in the cooking area (typically outside of the house) for use. Many of the houses have hand-dug wells. They understand that the water in those wells in not very healthy for drinking (according to the local government health dept) but it is easier to get water from their well then to walk to the center of town where there is a basin with safe drinking water that is pumped from a deep well.  The water aspect of my project in 2009 was a small elevated water tank for drinking water and it was used for many years, but the community is stretching and growing and the central source isn’t as easy for people to access. Not as easy as water piped to the houses would be 🙂 I did give them recommendations for improvements to make right now and explained that I do not know if I can, in fact, raise the funds for two major projects (toilets and a water tower). The community leaders are very understanding and glad that I am going to advocate on their behalf to try to return and help them improve their infrastructure. San Antonio is looking wonderful from the efforts of Operation Jabez and many others who have helped, however there is some major infrastructure work to be done to increase their health, by improving their sanitation and water facilities.

 

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Who? What? Warnings? When? How?

I am frequently asked the question, “How do you decide where to go?”

Because I go to so many different countries over the course of a year, it might seem like I just hop around and show up in communities unannounced like a drill-rig-carrying-salesman. Although it would certainly make for a comedic documentary, I do not cold-call villages 😉

Deciding “where to go” can actually take up to a year in research, communication with the community and prayer for guidance.  My process follows a “who, what, warnings, when, how” check-list.

WHO: 

Who wants help? I am always invited into a community. The invitation is coordinated either by national NGOs, local missionaries or partnering US aid agencies. These communities are requesting help/training with regard to safe water, sanitation and hygiene education.

WHAT:

What are they requesting? What can I do to help? Once I get a request to help in a community, I have to research the surface and geological conditions to see if our drilling equipment will be suitable or if we will need to find alternative solutions for accessing water (such as rain or spring catchment and storage). The geological research also helps me determine what type of latrines would be appropriate. After that, I research the culture to see if they have accepted (or would be accepting) of the type of latrine. You might be surprised to know that the types of latrines I can work with depend on the traditions/habits/patterns/beliefs of the culture.

WARNINGS:

I diligently follow the conditions of the proposed project country with regard to safety.  In addition to our State Department Travel Warnings, I follow the world news as best as I can for each of the countries. In the case of Burundi, we canceled the project before the State warnings were even posted because I had been following the political tensions and rising violence since the beginning of this year and knew that the country would be too violent to work in during the period scheduled by our partner agency.

WHEN:

When should I go? The time of the year that the project is scheduled is based on their “dry season” because it is the best time to drill while the ground water is at the lowest point (so water will remain in the well year-round). I also have to work around the schedules of my host communities. They have seasons where they are planting or harvesting, so in order to have community involvement, I have to be aware of their schedules.

HOW:

How can I meet their requests? Donations support everything I do. Most of the time, I don’t need to raise funds for a specific project because I use monthly donations for the materials, but sometimes a project is just too big (El Salvador Spring Catchment) and I have to find additional funding. I have used social media crowd-funding (“A Place to Poo” for a large latrine project in Panama and “Gift a Goat” for the livestock program in Haiti), sold original photos at small galleries, bookstores, coffee shops and online and I have even had bake-sales to help support projects.

You can start to see now, how it can take about a year from when I get the request, to when I actually get to the community.

No Sir, I do not know how to use such a scary looking gun.

When I’m not drilling… (Guatemala, 2009)

In addition to the above project research, I am also praying for guidance and discernment. Ultimately, no matter how sandy or rocky subsurface research shows or how safe or violent the news may report or how dry or rainy the conditions are supposed to be, God knows where He wants me to serve and help and that is exactly where I want to be working.

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I didn’t want to write about Nepal…

Instead, I wanted to just share quirky, silly bits about my projects here in Panama. Maybe share how I have been emotionally defeated by a table saw (I’ve tried to work with it- multiple times- but it scares me so I use other tools to avoid it!) or how it is so hot that my cold shower at night before bed isn’t nearly cold enough and I daydream about adding ice cubes to the rain-catchment tanks.  Or perhaps how I glued the last fitting on a 180′ pipeline before realizing I had a piece of the pipe (right in the center of the 180′ line) going through a hacksaw.  *note: a hacksaw blade can be removed so I was saved from having to cut the pipe (whew!).

One of those days...

One of those days…

I didn’t want to write a post about Nepal.

But I have to write about Nepal.

Continue reading

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