Ian´s Work Update
Now that we´ve hit a more or less steady pace on our projects, I thought I´d post some info on what it is I´m working on.
One of the key concepts of Peace Corps work is capacity building. That basically means that we don´t do projects on our own – we train and motivate community members to design, organize, and fund their own projects. The idea is that, if we do a decent job of it, these groups of community members will be able to continue working on the projects on their own after we split. That´s the idea, anyway. So, in an effort to do it this way, I split my program´s projects into two main groups, and worked with interested residents of Luya to form committees to manage the projects that fall into each group.
The first committee, which has named itself El Comité Central de Vigilancia del Agua – Luya (CCVA-L, or the Central Committee for the Vigilance of Water – Luya), has the ultimate goal of seeing Luya obtain potable water. Right now, the water comes straight out of an unprotected spring that is open to contamination from agricultural chemicals and animal droppings, and isn´t treated in any way other that the occasional addition of chlorine. The CCVA plans to achieve this goal through various activities:
1) Personal inspection of Luya´s water infrastructure, and coordination with the local authorities to promote improvements. The group wants to know the situation and the system first-hand, so they can speak from personal knowledge.
2) Informational sessions with the population of Luya, to increase awareness of water-related issues. These sessions are hosted neighborhood by neighborhood to inform the public about the state of their water supply.
3) Organize participatory community events (parades, for example) to demonstrate the importance of protecting the community´s water resources. I don´t have any photos of this yet, because the first activities are scheduled for early next year.
4) Administrative training of the water communities in the surrounding pueblos. The JASS (Juntas Administrativas de Servicios de Saneamiento, or Administrative Committees for Sanitation Services) of each of the small pueblos that pertain to Luya´s District each manage their own water system. Part of CCVA-L´s mission is to assist these committees in improving their management practices, including budgeting, accounting, annual planning, and material and human resource management. There are six pueblos in total; we´re working with 3 this year, and 3 next year.
The second group is the Asociación de Proyectos Sostenibles con Tecnologías Ecológicas – Luya (the Association of Sustainable Projects with Ecological Technologies – Luya). This group´s mission is to promote the adoption of appropriate, sustainable technologies by Luya´s population to improve sanitation and agricultural practices. The group is focused in three primary projects (for now):
1) Improved cook stoves. As compared to cooking over open fires, they reduce the use of wood (thereby reducing deforestation and saving money) and the chimney conducts smoke out of the kitchen (thereby reducing respiratory infections related to the inhalation of smoke). This is a photo of the first prototype we´ve constructed in Luya. We´re working on a project right now to build institutional stoves in 10 schools in Luya and the surrounding annexes (small pueblos who fall within Luya´s municipal jurisdiction). Extension to individual families on a larger scale will likely follow next year.
2) Improved sanitary facilities. Simply put, we´re trying to provide options for families who don´t have access to the sewer system, and who may be currently going into the fields every time the need to do their business. We´ve almost completed a pilot project of a dry-chamber composting latrine (a baño seco ecológico, or eco-baño) in the local agricultural extension agency to serve as a model for families interested in constructing one at their homes. It´s in the ag agency because, once dried out, the contents of the chambers can serve as plant fertilizer. This will be one of several options that families can choose from to improve their in-home sanitation practices.
3) Biodigesters. This is a popular project amongst PCVs in agricultural zones (which is to say, most of us). It involves constructing a large membrane-enclosed tube that, using solar and biological energy, digests animal waste and some other organic materials into fertilizer.
I´m also doing some work directly with the health promotion staff at the local health center (in collaboration with Mrs. Amanda) on leading hand washing sessions in the local elementary school. We do these classes once a month with each grade, and include some follow-up to make sure they´re adopting new habits.
So, basically, my days consist of working with these community groups to plan, organize, and implement their respective activities. They call the meetings and schedule the sessions; my primary role is that of a technical consultant. It´s a roller coaster – some weeks get pretty hectic, and I frequently work nights and weekends, but some days can be slow. But overall, I feel pretty good about the kind of stuff I´m working on. It´s not hard engineering design or anything, but I´ll have plenty of time in my career to do that kind of stuff. The work is rewarding, and with a bit of patience (these are people with full-time jobs and farms, remember), I think we´ll be able to get a lot done.
Update: Forgot the very important JASS trainings in the CCVA-L section.