Monday, February 4, 2013

Our Initial Meeting with the Water Committee

Sunday, January 13 was our first night in NSCI and the night when we held the week's kick-off meeting with the Water Committee.

The agenda for the meeting.

A highlight of the meeting was an exercise we completed with the Water Committee to shape the perspective the Water Committee had on the current status of the project and to identify obstacles which the project currently faces and would face in the future.

A Water Committee member's sketch of the Puwalk'ox system.
A sketch which Sandy drew to illustrate the high-pressures of the system.
Nicole wrote about the meeting in a draft of the team's log below:
Later that evening, a meeting was held with EWB-USA Rutgers and the Water Committee of NSCI. After brief introductions from both EWB-USA Rutgers and the Water Committee, the meeting began. Manuel, the head of the Water Committee, began by saying there has been miscommunication among the people involved with the project. David Tanzi, the group's professional mentor, began by giving a background on the project, beginning with the signing of the MOU in March 2011.
Our sketch of the system.
A map of the responsibilities outlined in the project's Memorandum of Understang.
The repairs and replacements of the PVC pipeline with galvanized iron, and the hiring of a contractor to make said repairs and replacement. Upon review of the plans done by the contractor after he completed a topographic analysis of the terrain, EWB-USA Rutgers sent a list of some recommendations to be included in the plans for implementation. It was also mentioned that EWB-USA Rutgers has been in constant contact with the Water Committee and the contractor about the progress of the repairs. It was hoped that the repairs would have been completed by December of 2012, but there was obvious difficulties that prolonged start-up. 
Manuel then continued by explaining that the Municipality is paying approximately Q260,000 for the repairs. The Water Committee has been providing manual labor, for which they have spent between Q2,000-Q3,000 for transportation and various other expenses. One of the concerns expressed by the Water Committee was whether the engineer was using those funds for materials - he had been using old materials for part of the repairs. 
They also explained that they received the list of recommendations from EWB-USA but are unsure as to whether the contractor used any of them in construction. The Water Committee had also been told that repairs would be done by January 14, 2013. 
After this, the travel team decided to do an exercise with the Water Committee. It was asked that they write down or draw their thoughts on the current status of the repairs. The results were very telling, as everyone had very different answers - further confirming Manuel's initial statement of miscommunication within the group. Some of the feedback included "very slow work", "there is only 1 pipeline when before there was 2", "concerns on the air passage", and one mentioned that the "work was 99% complete". Another prompt given by EWB-USA Rutgers to the Water Committee was to write or draw their thoughts on what is affecting the project now. The answers included, "communication", "community manual labor", and "transformer near the lower pump station is ready to fall". Another prompt was about future problems they may face. The answers included, "defective air pass cable", "installation of elbows", and "payment of electricity". 
The travel team also asked for some initial thoughts on the potential of disinfection system for the community. The Water Committee answered honestly, saying that people within the community are accustomed to boiling and would probably not want to change. 
Some meetings and presentations were scheduled for the remainder of the week, and a dinner was served to both EWB-USA and the Water Committee by Martina.
If you have a question, come to the comments!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Recap of my time in Guatemala so far

Hola mis amigos! Que Paso?

I haven't blogged yet, so I'm going to tell you a little bit about what's been happening between Antigua and NSCI and Xela. 
First off, landing at the airport in Guatemala was so incredible and breathtaking! The 360 degree view of the mountains from up above was so peaceful.
We arrived in Antigua in the afternoon ate a little snack and then were on our way to the supermarket for groceries and figuring out phone situations. We later at a beautiful restaurant. The food was so delicious! The next morning it was finally time to go to NSCI!!!

NSCI is absolutely beautiful and the people are so welcoming. Our first day there, we visited the Head Tank and had our first meeting with The Water Committee. The meeting went really well for the most part. We did an activity with them which was really worth while. They put many important concerns of theirs down on the posters.
The next morning it was time to visit the site. The hike up and down the site was so difficult at times for me but It was great to see the it finally. I can't believe the volunteers and others go up and down the path every day to work on the pipeline. It was hard to digest the fact that 80+ year-old men go up and down the path to get wood and sell it. It was a very humbling experience. We hiked the Upper Pump Station all the way down to the Springs and back up the the Upper Pump Station. We also met with the Engineer-Intern, Gustavo. Dave, Nicole, Divya, and I walked with him and some of Water Committee members from the Lower Pump Station to the Upper Pump Station discussing every and all concerns we had of the built pipeline. There were many parts of the pipeline that worried us and we made a point to address them. All the concerns were compiled into a letter and given to the Municipality.

So it's Tuesday already, time was flying by! We had our first presentation with the teachers of the community. I honestly didn't know what to expect, didn't know it would go, but Nicole did a GREAT job presenting and talking to the teachers. We also did 2 activities with them. They seemed to be really engaged and happy we were doing an educational presentation. I was so relieved that everything went okay, all thanks to Nicole. The teachers even gave us some ideas on how we can get the kids more involved and show them the importance of healthy living and clean water. We also asked the teachers to do the survey. After the presentation we were on our way to Xela to meet Carlos! We met him for dinner at an Italian Restaurant. It was a great dinner. We really hope we developed a great relationship with him. He's going to be our local eyes and ears for the project.

We came back to NSCI early Wednesday morning for a busy day! We split up into two groups: Site visit group and Surveys group. I was paired up with Divya and we started at the market place making our way to a part of the community that we never thought we would be in. While in the market place, a lady approached us and asked us if she can help us with the surveys. We were both so excited because we didn't know how to speak in Quiche. She offered to take us to her neighborhood where she would get all her friends to take survey. She was so incredibly nice and helpful. It was really sad to say goodbye to her at the end of the week. She was a huge player in getting the surveys done. She really has strong feelings about the water supply system and expressed that it was very important for the community. She even wants some type of disinfection method put in to action. She took some empty surveys with her so she can get more done and bring them to us at the Town Hall Meeting. 
Meet Ester (center, red sweater) 
I must say, I absolutely fell in love with her. She is such a strong woman, raising two kids by herself because her husband is working in Boston, MA. Love, love love her. <3

After doing surveys, Nicole and I went to the Middle School to do a small presentation and some activities with them. Hoping that it would go as well as the first one did, I was kind of scared because we were going to be dealing with teenagers. The presentation didn't really go as planned. They were not very attentive nor were they excited about us being there to talk to them. The students kept laughing at us and we kind of felt helpless. :/ Nonetheless, they seemed to enjoy the EnviroEscape a little bit.

Later in the night we had our second meeting with The Water Committee. This meeting was focused on presenting all the Disinfection Alternatives. They were very grateful we presented to them all the information. Nicole and Herbert did a great job with the presentation! At the end of the presentation, they wanted to vote on the methods, which was surprising. What wasn't surprising was the results of the votes. Of course Boiling was the most popular followed by Slow Sand Filtration. Chlorination was the least popular.

Thursday was definitely the busiest day of our stay in NSCI. There was so much to get done in a small amount of time. First thing on the list was doing a fun and exciting presentation for the little kids in elementary school. I must say that might have been the highlight of the week. The kids made Nicole and me so happy! They loved having us there, doing activities, drawing, and answering questions. Most of them did not know about The Water Cycle but when Nicole explained it to them, they understood right away! We tied the EnviroEscape into the water cycle and the kids really got it! Back at Angel's house, there was translating and editing going on in almost every room. We were really cutting it close to the Municipality Meeting. Between printing surveys and the letter, it was time for us to go meet with the Municipality. To speak honestly of the meeting, I didn't feel like they were engaged at all. It was sort of disappointing. The members just agreed upon everything we were saying. There was little to no discussion between all the parties attending (EWB-USA Rutgers, Municipality members, and The Water Committee.) After that meeting was over, it was time to get ready for the Town Hall meeting. We were looking to finish the rest of our surveys there, present to the community about: the status of the project, why the trip was important, and disinfection methods (as per request of the water committee.) Unfortunately, due to the extreme wind and cold many people did not attend the meeting. We counted about 53 people in attendance not counting us. Nevertheless, it was important that we present to the community. They did not really want alternative disinfection put in place. They would much rather boil their water because that's what they are used to. Slow Sand Filtration did catch some people's eyes and they asked many questions about it. Guess who was in attendance by the way, ESTER! At the end of the presentation/discussion we as a group gave Ester a Blue "Water is Life" EWB-USA Rutgers shirt. She really appreciated that! She was excited to wear it!

At the end of the day, we gave Lucas, and the rest of Angel's family the gifts we brought for them. Lucas loved his new boots, alphabet matching game, and basketball! Angel really appreciated the book-bags and hoodies. 

So far the trip has been really great! I can't wait to explore San Pedro. Meanwhile, Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes, o Buenas Noches!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Thursday 1/18 Recap


Yesterday was another very eventful day. Manika and Nicole did an educational presentation for younger students (around age 7 and 8 I think). It went extremely well. The kids loved it and they also drew us some adorable pictures.

In the meantime Herbert and Divya worked on translating the letter with recommendations for the pipeline and the captions for the appended pictures, respectively. I went along with the ever-tech-savvy Julian to print both more surveys and the letter and pictures.

At 2 p.m., we presented to the Municipality. People who have traveled previously said that the new Muni was lees interested than they had been in the past. But it was still important that we presented and gave them the letter and photos. Many members of the Water Committee also attended the meeting, and we talked with them afterwards about the possibility of using some of the grant money to contribute to maintenance of the pump stations after startup.

Herbert and I returned to the internet cafe because I had left our stapler there earlier. Herbert introduced the two guys working behind the desk to ¨Gangnam Style.¨ So if all the kids in NSCI are doing the dance next time we come, he´s responsible.

At 6 p.m., we had our town hall presentation. We were disappointed in the turnout; we counted 53 people in attendance (not including ourselves). We think this might´ve been because of the weather - it was probably not even 40, damp and with strong wind. So maybe a lot of people didn´t want to leave their house and walk to the meeting.

The presentation itself went really well though. Again, it seemed like most people preferred boiling but were very interested in learning more about SSF. After the presentation we went back to the SSF slides and explained in more detail. It seemed like a minority of the people in attendance would be interested in owning a filter. After the meeting, Manika and Divya had the great idea to give Esther one of our blue ¨Water is Life¨ t-shirts for all her help with the survey.

Finally, we walked back to Angel´s and ate dinner. We had a long discussion about this trip and the future of the project. A lot is up in the air and needs to be decided, so Julian and Divya would like your input. We will probably have a meeting near the beginning of the semester to discuss the future of the project. Regarding the technical committee, Sandy thinks we could work on SSF design with materials that would likely be most available and affordable in rural Guatemala. Personally I thought that sounded like a lot of fun. I´m sure she and Dave and the project leads will want to talk with Joe to decide how to move forward technically. Leave a comment if you have any ideas!

Also last night, we gave Angel´s family gifts to show our appreciation for giving us a place to stay, cooking meals for us, and letting us tuk (kind of their version of showering). Everyone here has been so warm and gracious and welcoming. I´m really sad to be leaving this afternoon. The time went by so quickly!

Today we will be doing surveys (currently have 115 completed, aiming for 200 if possible), finishing up the last of the water quality testing, and packing. See you all back at school soon!!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wednesday 1/17 Recap

Hi everyone,

Hope you´ve been enjoying your winter breaks! I´m sitting in the internet cafe right now (Thursday morning) with Julian. Yesterday was extremely eventful. Here´s a summary of what happpened.

We took a shuttle from Xela back to NSCI early in the morning. Then at 10am we split up into groups.

Herbert, Sandy, Dave, and I went to Puwalkox to look at the pipeline from the upper pump station to the distribution tank. Gustavo, who is a student intern for the contractor Alberto, was there and he hiked the entire time with us and answered many of our questions. The pipeline from the upper pump station is existing galvanized iron for about 200m, not new galvanized iron like we recommended. Then, it is new galvanized iron for 85m (14 pieces of pipeline). After this, it is new PVC to the head tank. Sandy and Dave made several recommendations to Gustavo, including installing an air release valve at one high point, adding more anchors, and supporting the existing anchors. Dave prepared a letter with photos, which we also worked on and will be translating, to the Muni and the Water Committee, summarizing our recommendations for the entire pipeline.

While we were at Puwalkox, the rest of the team split into two groups: Nicole and Julian, and Divya and Manika. They went into the town to conduct surveys. Divya has taken a lot of Spanish and speaks very well, so she didn´t need a translator to conduct the surveys. They were all very productive. Divya and Manika ran into Esther, a member of the water committee who read Spanish, and she walked around with them verbally translating the survey into K´iche´. This was an enormous help as it allowed them to reach many more NSCI residents.

At 3pm, Nicole and Manika went to do educational presentations. The students were middle-school aged, so initially they thought they were ¨too cool¨ for the presentation and it was a little difficult. By the end, however, many students answered questions and they all got excited about the activities. During this time, Herbert and I, and Divya and Julian, went out to do more surveys. We also distributed surveys later at the Water Committee meeting. By the end of the day we had about 90 completed surveys!

The Water Committee meeting was at 6pm. Here, we presented the disinfection alternatives that the Technical Team has been working on. The Water Committee was very interested in what we had to say, and gave us a lot of feedback. As we kind of expected, many of them did not like chlorination because they dont like the taste and it is not in their culture (in fact, we even heard earlier from both Carlos and Gustavo that Xela has chlorinated water and most people still boil it anyway!!). However, several of them seemed excited about slow sand filtration, and there was a long discussion about that, with a few very vocal supporters of it. At the end of the meeting, each of them told us which alternative they personally preferred. The results were:

Gas Chlorination: 0
Tablet Chlorination: 0
Drip Chlorination: 1
Slow Sand Filtration: 3
Boiling: 14
Bleaching: 0

They also told us they would like us to present the disinfection alternatives at the town hall meeting tonight. Although the strong preference for boiling is somewhat disappointing from our perspective, it is more or less what we expected. Also, we thought it was important to consider that those who personally prefer boiling would probably still be totally okay with it if their neighbor had a slow sand filter. Sandy said she thought SSF would be something that might gradually catch on, e.g. if a small minority of people are very enthusiastic about SSF, and we work with them and they get filters, others may see them and eventually want their own filters. So that could still be an option. We are looking forward to getting more feedback at the town hall meeting.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2nd Day in NSCI

Hey all,

After our third day in Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan, we're at Xela tonight to meet Carlos. We'll work on keeping everyone updated over the next three days that we're in NSCI by having as many of us blog as possible!

A SHORT summary of events that have happened and what our plans are for tomorrow. We'll continue to update you all and will elaborate on the events below with photos and more words to elaborate on the important details.


  • We arrived in Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan to our host Angel's house and visited the Head Tank
  • We met with the Water Committee at night. The highlight was a mapping activity (similar to Village Earth) to find out the current status of the project and to determine the problems they're facing and what problems would hold them back in the future
  • We visited the site and walked the pipeline from the lower pump station to the upper pump station with the site supervisor, a representative from the contractor, and workers from the community
  • We collected water samples from the Puwalkox Springs 1, 2 & 3, the tap, and the piletas to test some parameters such as but not limited to bacteria, pH, phosphate, nitrate/nitrite, turbidity, total dissolved solids, biological oxygen demand, and chlorine demand.
  • We presented to the teachers to provide supporting resources for their students and received surveys and a lot of candid discussion from them
  • We met with Carlos, who will provide in-country support for us
  • Herbert arrived tonight!
  • We'll visit the site again and walk the pipeline further up to the distribution tank
  • We'll begin administering surveys
  • We'll present our disinfection alternatives

Friday, January 11, 2013

Carlos' Second Visit

Carlos, from AIDG, is providing in-country services for us when we're not there. He was able to visit NSCI for the second time last week and he recently reported back to us with media and documentation of the progress of the repairs. Work is still being done on supports and the suspended pipeline, as you can see below.

Unfortunately, the repairs won't be entirely complete when we're there, but we hope to resolve the logistical and social issues and potentially do a partial start-up of the system when we're down there, in addition to our monitoring, education, and assessment goals.

Is there a question that you think can be answered while we're in NSCI?


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Alberto, the pipeline contractor

We recently received an update from Alberto who's completing the pipeline repair contract. They're continuing by working on placement of the PVC pipe to change what is in poor condition and construction of galvanized pipe anchors.

the beginning of the pipeline

a complete suspended passage

a section of galvanized pipe with anchors

1 week and 2 days before takeoff!