Hola everyone! SO WE HAVE ARRIVED! After waking up at 3 in the morning (or not sleeping at all) and trekking through crazy airport security with water-testing equipment, the EWB-Rutgers Guatemala team is finally comfily snuggled into our hostel in Antigua, the second biggest city in Guatemala. The hostel is really nice, and even has a cute Golden Retriever dog running around named Leopoldo! HE IS SO SO SO CUTE. We all fell in love with him.
After battling the confusing jargon of local ATMs and purchasing some local bagel sandwiches, we headed to the biggest event of our day, a meeting at EcoFiltro, located just outside of Antigua’s city center. EcoFiltro is a maker of innovative filters with a huge base here in Guatemala, that they are slowly expanding to the rest of the world. Their goal? To reach one million rural Guatemalan homes with their product (keyword: rural!). We were greeted by the CEO of the company, Phillip Wilson, in what turned out to be a beautiful open area, lined with clay sculptures from local artisans, that was EcoFiltro’s “factory”.
|EcoFiltro's Factory in Antigua, Guatemala|
EcoFiltro’s business has become so successful for several brilliant reasons. First off, the product they sell has been developed to suit the culture of the communities for which it is targeted. Cultures in this area traditionally use clay pots for water storage as it keeps the water cool and tasting fresh. By using local clay to build their filters, EcoFiltro has been successful at implementing these filters into households due the fact that the communities already accept clay pots as a means of water storage.
|Cross-sectional view of the clay filters, showing the carbon lining in the middle.|
Secondly, the company doesn’t fundraise to donate filters. Instead, they split the company in two. One side of the company is for-profit. It builds beautiful painted ceramic filters and sells them to richer urban homes as a functional and decorative piece.
|Beautifully decorated ceramic filters made for urban communities.|
The second side uses this profit to build the filters for the rural communities in Guatemala. These filters are implanted into a plastic bucket to collect the water, as opposed to the ceramic containers used for the urban filters mentioned above. The company actually loses money on these filters - something that we were all very surprised to find out. They don't give the filters out for free however, just sell them at a very affordable price for the rural households.
|Plastic filter being used in a local hostel in Antigua, Guatemala.|
The third reason this company is so successful: selflessness. Philip told us that his goal for this year is to simply break even between the money made by the urban filters and the money lost by the rural filters. And did I mention that the factory was gorgeous?
|Clay used to make the filters.|
|Workers compressing the clay into a pot shape.|
|Racks of filters drying before the firing process.|
We ended the day with an extremely indecisive dinner choice. After trying and deciding against several restaurants, we ended up at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Saberico. The ambiance at the restaurant was of a paradise, with dim lighting, comfortable eclectic seating underneath the trees, a table made out of a rustic door, and the sounds of calming music and birds chirping. After we got back to the hostel, everyone was exhausted and fell asleep fairly quickly. I'd say that day one was a success. It was definitely an exciting and inspiring start to this trip! Next time we post, it'll likely be after spending a few days in NSCI. We'll let you know how that goes!