In late November 2017, CAPD in conjunction with CAWST and FRPG, held a Learning Exchange – a forum where implementers past, present and future, came together to share experiences in all phases of a filter project. These 3 organizations have become a well-oiled machine in the area of Household Water Treatment and Storage in Colombia.
We were blessed to have people from all aspects of project implementation, including leaders, Rotarians, quality assurance types, community organizers, installers and community promoters. We learned from each other – what worked and what should be avoided. Eva Manzano of CAWST always had some interesting interactive learning activities in her virtual tool kit. Ivan and Rocio took on a significant workload leading various sessions. Bob lead some sessions, but his favourite job was timekeeper – how else to cram 3 days of material into 2 days.
This was an ideal time to introduce some new ideas, such as the plastic filter that now seems ready to trial in field conditions. Many were very enthusiastic about a lighter weight version, but Bob helped them understand it was not a solution to embrace without some skepticism.
Another interesting technology was the large Slow Sand Filter for schools that uses BioSand Filter design characteristics on a much larger scale and is appropriate for schools and institutions. Samaritan’s Purse has proven this design in more than 600 school installations.
Bob and Ivan rolled out the “made in Colombia” plastic diffuser. This will help clubs do projects without the administration and logistics of importing something from USA.
Bob demonstrated KOBO ToolBox, an “app” which, in conjunction with a laptop and using cloud based technology, can be used to collect data in the field and view it shortly afterward on a laptop in an excel format. This will eliminate carrying massive amounts of paper forms and sometimes transcribing the data to a spreadsheet. Rotary Club of Nuevo Ibague expressed willingness to test it in the field.
Everyone was glad to have attended. Just another way to strengthen the knowledge and the power of the network.
To see a child smile like this, especially a child who doesn’t speak, delights and motivates us. It also provides proof of acceptance of the custom-made stroller we provided for him. These strollers are for children living in rural areas; children who can not sit in a conventional chair. BUT they know what makes them feel good – about that there is no doubt.
His name is Luis Fabian. He has just received this custom-fitted stroller in which he feels comfortable and safe. We have been providing one form or other of custom seating for children with disability since 2009. Our partners in this project are ASODISPIE, who do the design and construction, and the Rotary Clubs Ronda del Sinú from Montería and Cerrejon in Albania, La Guajira.
We encountered Tatiana while visiting Luis Fabian. There she sat, on the sandy ground, eating her breakfast. A closer look revealed bilateral club foot, a condition that requires a surgery that should have been done ages ago. Tatiana presents a new challenge to us – to construct a wheelchair fit for a rural setting but along conventional lines; a chair low enough for her to get in and out of independently, and narrow enough for her to push herself.
Our travels to isolated “rancherias” in La Guajira are arduous, especially during rainy season. Our visit to Nely required a truck with double traction (more traction than a 4 by 4). ASODISPIE constructed a new product in form of a walker with a seat to encourage Nely to strengthen her ability to walk.
Her younger sister (3 years old) has multiple disabilities in the form of visual and hearing limitation, cognitive and physical disability. Nely and Meleidas have not received therapy and are left to their own devices.
We put Meleidas on a cloth spread on the ground to see what she would do and the picture shows the result. The pity of it is, that she spends most of the day in the hammock, which is safe, but doesn’t offer her opportunity for development. Her family is very poor, so the Rotary Club will purchase a straw mat for her. We hope that the family will follow through and put her on this mat for periods during the day.
We keep working on the design of the stroller to improve the fit as well as the stability. Back in 2005, CAPD made the decision to no longer send used wheelchairs to Colombia, but rather to support local industry, especially that of people with disability. As mentioned, the constructor is ASODISPIE, an association of people with disabilities. These projects not only provide them with an income source, but also build capacity toward a self-sustaining business.
We are also following-up on strollers provided in previous years, which gives us feedback on the durability of our product. As a result we are replacing cushions as well as stroller parts.
These strollers bring improved self-image to children, and freedom to families who can now take their child to visit relatives and friends. Thanks to the Rotary Clubs of Ronda del Sinú and of Cerrejon (through their Foundation, Manos Solidarias), for their collaborative effort in helping these children.
There is a village near Fonseca, La Guajira, Colombia called “El Confuso”. You will be mostly right about its meaning, even if you do not speak Spanish. When I visited this village more than 2 years ago, it was depressing – the village had a well, a wind-powered pump that actually worked, a rapidly disintegrating elevated water tank, and piped water to the 60 plus homes in the village.
BUT, as in many, many places in Colombia, the water was brackish. People did not have many options for drinking water and ended up with parasites, stomach problems, and skin infections. Not even the vegetation would grow when watered with this brackish water. Nor did concrete last long when mixed with brackish water. Somehow the leaders in the community connected with the Rotary Club of Fonseca (friends of mine) and this started the ball rolling.
What a difference 2 years have made! Together, Rotary Club of Calgary South and Rotary Club of Fonseca got some funding. It was matched by The Rotary Foundation. And then the local Rotarians and the community started working the approved plan – a hydrogeologic study, a new deeper drilled well producing sweet water, an electric pump, a new concrete overhead tank and BioSand filters in the homes.
The community received some training in hygiene and filter maintenance and set up a monthly payment system to pay for repairs to the pump and controls. Each family pays C$1.00 per month and sometimes this is difficult – but they have seen the results. A recent electrical problem would have stopped everything if they did not have some funds for repairs. This experience provided much needed positive reinforcement, because it is not unusual for maintenance funding to disappear, effectively killing any progress to date. The Rotarians are involved in the management of this maintenance fund.
No more parasites, no more stomach aches, no more skin infections, and with sweet water gardens will actually grow. In the photo you will see the best ever raised garden. Not everyone has such a large and productive plot, but many now are eating better and have some surplus produce to sell. All because they now have reliable sweet water.
But the success of the water project has had a domino effect. One lady now is raising chickens as well as doing the market garden. A small private donation towards school desks triggered a community school painting day. A few soccer balls now have several teams of kids and adults playing soccer.
The village name may sound depressing, but the inhabitants are not confused about one thing- it all started with water!!!
CAPD has a goal of providing 20,000 families with safe water. Obviously CAPD cannot do it themselves so it is a question of collaboration and building capacity to be used by other groups.
The week leading up to November 4th was a busy one in Santa Marta, as the 4 facilitators prepared for the first “formal” Biosand Filter Construction Workshop. Bob has taught similar workshops but never so elaborate or large. This workshop was collaboration among CAPD, CAWST (a Calgary non-profit that provides training world-wide), FRPG (Fundacion Red Proyecto Gente, who are CAPD partners), the Rotary Club of Santa Marta (provided the facility) and the Mejia family (provided a great place to stay).
The workshop attracted 19 participants. Some have been working with filters for a while, others were completely new to the technology. They ranged from members of a foundation working among coffee growers to stimulate production of organic coffee, to a Peace Corp volunteer, to University students working on water related topics in their theses. A couple had extensive experience with concrete and its uses in water tanks, others had some experience working with communities. It was a great time of sharing and learning.
We spent 3 intense days sifting sand, mixing concrete, filling molds, sifting and washing filter media and then stripping the form and installing the media.
Groups are understandably proud when their concrete box comes out of the mold with no leaks and no damage. We suffered through the dust and the heat and a power failure for half a day which meant no air-conditioning. I am looking forward to -15 degrees in Calgary.
As always, the dynamic leadership of Eva Manzano of CAWST kept everyone focused and energized. No mean feat in such heat and humidity! Our thanks to Eva and the CAWST management who are increasingly focused on Colombia. Thanks also to Ivan and Rocio (FRPG) who are rapidly coming up to speed on effective training methods and are offloading Bob somewhat. Now we hope all who attended will continue pushing the idea of Household Water Treatment and that each one will eventually do their own project.
We could not have done this without the Rotary facilities and their logistic support. Thank you Rotary Club of Santa Marta!!!
Last week we entertained long-term friends, Rick and Karin, in Bucaramanga. They came to learn more about our programs in Colombia and to meet the people involved. So, we took them to Fandic and to Asodispie where they were entertained by dancers. We took a trip to a rural school where the students sang a song about caring for the environment. And we took them to see a water filter where Karin had an impromptu jam session.
Our visitors had a particular knack of interacting with people through music. Karin, who borrowed a violin from here, used it to full advantage. Not only were they entertained, but they returned the favor!
Asodispie also treated us to a dance performance. Here again, Karin used the violin to interact with the youth in their program.
Our visit to a rural school called Las Llanadas, entailed a drive up to a plateau that was anything but flat.
Here we met with students and parents in the Green Light Education Assistance Program. Music was a connector here as well: Karin led the students in music-based activities and they reciprocated by singing a song about caring for the environment.
The parents related how the Green Light program had brought about change in their school through its emphasis on parent participation. One father, who was a student at that school, now had his own children attending. He told us that initially, the school was in the same condition as when he left in grade five. But now, since the Green Light program, parents have painted the walls and planted flowering bushes. They were very proud of these improvements. This school is located in a semi-desert environment and is one of the poorer schools in the program.
Finally, we went to the house of the music teacher, Oscar. It is an anomaly to find a music teacher in a country school but there he was! He is actually hired by a private organization to build environmental values in children through music. His house had a filter supplied by a local Rotary Club, which we saw before getting back to the subject of music.
I hope you enjoyed this virtual visit to our programs in Santander.
In 2017, CAPD decided to name a National Coordinator for the Green Light Education Assistance Program in Colombia to provide orientation and monitoring of the programs in the states in which it is offered.
In March of this year, the National Coordinator, Rocio Núñez Espinel, visited Wayuu communities in La Guajira where the program is active, to provide orientation and training to the coordinator for that state and her facilitators. The overall objective of the program is to encourage the children and youth of these communities to stay in school. The follow-up and monitoring is done with the help of Rotary Club Fundación Manos Solidarias.
It was of great concern that all schools in the state were closed for the first semester of the year because the position of State Governor was left vacant. The Education department would not open schools until they could guarantee funding for the lunch program and for transport, both necessary elements for indigenous and rural communities.
Despite the obstacles faced by the closure of schools, the Green Light program was active because it is essentially a community program that continued to do its work with students and parents.
The photo below shows me (white shirt) in the school of the community called New Hope. A child came up to me to take the photo in my arms. This was a special, caring gesture that caused the other children to trust me and to come closer.
The following paragraphs will tell you about my visit to the communities where the facilitators, with the collaboration of the coordinator, organize community activities that embellish the schools. I asked people in the community about their activities. The response from the teacher in San Jose was, “The coordinator calls meetings through the facilitator and delivers materials for us to work with in the school. One activity was to put a fence around the school to keep out the goats, which was important because the goats didn’t want to leave the school and damaged the floor. But now it is the children who study in the school, not the animals”.
The comments from the facilitator of New Hope were, “we have been working in the ‘rosa’”. What do you mean? “Rosa is a community garden in which everyone plants different crops and when they are ready, we all harvest them and share the food. This activity gives us pleasure because we have food to eat. After the last harvest, we cooked for everyone in the community”.
Comments from the teacher in Coveñas: “Up to a short time ago, some students who were sent to school by their parents didn’t attend, but herded goats instead and although we raised this problem with the parents many times, there was no change in the situation. Now the parents come to school with their children, especially those who didn’t attend. The number of parents in the school meetings has increased. For the first time, the students have new, complete uniforms. The teachers have also been motivated because of the assistance received”.
The photo below shows the community of Coveñas working as one for their school. The yard is well cared for by the parents, mothers and children benefiting from the program, because they realize that it benefits everyone.
The Rotary Club collaborates by training a group of high school students benefiting from the program, to tutor primary students with educational needs or poor marks. What is interesting is that the students simultaneously started to orientate primary children in their respective communities even before classes began.
The photos below show the second meeting organized by the Rotary Club, and the high school students tutoring in school classrooms and community meeting places.
In addition, the Rotary Club gathered used books in good condition and of good quality to take to the schools with the objective of constructing a library for students to research topics. Parents and teachers fixed up the book shelves and painted them.
The photos below show Martha, the coordinator, delivering the uniform kits to the community and the children with their uniforms and books.
The 254 students had to wait many months to receive their uniform kits because of the school closure. The wait finally at an end, the students happily received their uniforms.
The leaders representing their communities expressed their thanks and their desire to continue motivating their communities to participate in the program. The same was expressed by the parents who said, “It is the first time that my children are wearing a uniform to school. Now they are happy and we are too”.
The photo below reflects the pride of the children upon receiving their education assistance.
Finally, I’d like to thank those who spoke to me expressing their appreciation for the program and especially to the children for their warm reception. I am happy to see the commitment of those who manage the program and who strengthen participation within the Wayuu communities.
When one mentions “Household Water Treatment Systems” for Colombian homes without treated water, one must go far beyond what we in Canada are familiar with. A lot of these homes are actually in peri-urban locations with piped but untreated water.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect technology with reasonable cost, ease of use, high effectiveness, tolerant of turbid water and a long useful lifespan. There is a lot of dis-information floating around and some of it promulgated by manufacturers.
CAPD, as part of our plan to scale up, recognized the need to raise level of awareness among decision makers. CAPD and our Colombian partner, FRPG, were asked by CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water & Sanitation Technology) to host a 2-day workshop in Bogota to raise the level of knowledge concerning available treatment systems. It was a good fit for what CAPD is trying to achieve. You may know that CAWST is the Calgary entity whose mission is to train people to improve their water and sanitation situations. They have a broad experience and knowledge of most of the technologies related to treating water in households.
On March 28 and 29, using our collective contacts in Colombia, we hosted 29 people at the Centro de Juventudes in Bogota. The seminar was over-subscribed and included a wide range of participants including representatives of the Ministry of Housing, who are responsible for drafting legislation for alternative technologies, ICONTEC (national standards setting body), Universities, municipal water system representatives, various filter suppliers and non-governmental organizations.
Eva Manzano of CAWST shared her extensive knowledge and wonderful facilitation skills to guide us through the multiple barrier approach that is necessary in the field and helped us evaluate the various technologies in an unbiased manner. CAPD purchased a wide variety of filters that the group could actually test using fairly realistic water quality. Happily, the group concluded that the BioSand Filter ranked as one of the best solutions for households.
The seminar was very well received and there is a strong possibility that two more seminars will be held in June.
Bob and I are now back in Calgary but still have a few things about our last weeks in Colombia left to show you .
Following a successful workshop for coordinators of the Safe Water program, Bob and Eva, the workshop leader, spent four days in La Guajira where they visited Wayuu “rancherias” in which the Rotary Club Cerrejon has been providing filters to needy families.
Later, the group traveled to Fonseca, a town site where they meet up with Harold, a Rotarian from the Fonseca Club.
Bob continued his travels by going to Santa Marta, Medellin and Bogota to meet with other Rotary Clubs, businesses and our local safe water promoters, Rocio y Ivan. Back in Calgary, he can finally stay put for a little while, at least.
I arrived in La Guajira the weekend after Bob left, traveling in the company of John, the engineering technician working on the custom stroller project. These strollers are custom-made for each child and are adjustable to provide a comfortable and secure fit. Three of the five strollers delivered in La Guajira were to children living in “rancherias”.
When John and I arrived, a hurricane (forget which one) was blowing over the Caribbean, throwing rain on a normally dry area. This complicated our travel by converting normally sandy, dusty roads into something that felt like slushy snow (slip and slide).
The stroller project gives me a great deal of satisfaction. When we seat a child, I check the posture, of course, but I also look at the child’s face. I want to capture the child’s expression to know if and when he or she feels really comfortable. An expression of satisfaction and in some cases, all-out joy, comes into the eyes of even those who are profoundly affected and do not express themselves verbally or with facial expression. In those cases, we take our cue from the parent who, in many cases, express relief that a good solution has been found.
CAPD works with Rotary clubs in a cost-sharing arrangement to provide these strollers. The assessment is completed well in advance to allow ASODISPIE time to finish construction.
The next weekend, John and I were off to Montería where CAPD shares the project with the Rotary Club Ronda del Sinu. This year was the third for the stroller project in this district and besides providing new strollers, we reviewed strollers provided in previous years.
Bob and I are happy with the results of this trip. Not to say that improvements cannot be made, because there is lots of room for providing a better product to more people.
But, above all we are thankful – thankful to be working with people who are committed and passionate about their work; thankful that we have been given this work to do; and thankful for the guiding hand that directs our organization and that of our partners. We are also thankful to have supporters such as you, who keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
Fourteen participants came from four different Colombian states to participate in a workshop given by Eva Manzano from CAWST (Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology) based in Calgary. All are currently actively involved in Safe Water Projects supported by CAPD and our partners.
The 4-day workshop was held in ASODISPIE’s new Centre located in Piedecuesta, Santander. Not only did we learn important components of training such as motivation and the four stages of learning, but also HOW to train other people in a manner that was didactic, fun and inclusive. There were no power points in this workshop!
And there was time for one-on-one discussion to clarify issues or to talk about specific project issues.
Following training on topics such as active learning and listening, participants learned essential components of lesson planning followed by teaching sessions in front of the group. Each participant had an hour to prepare materials for the lesson they were given and 10 minutes to present a training session that would normally take one hour.
The lessons used any number of dynamic activities such as the role play in the pictures below where a neighbour is given water that is turbid – not pleasant!
Or use of written materials as well as symbolic props such as below:
And using the audience as part of the presentation. In this case, the old and the young are at greatest risk of illness from contaminated water.
Following the 4 days, seven participants stayed for an additional two days during which they developed their own lesson plans in a Colombian context. All materials developed will shared with all participants.
The time came for celebration of achievement. It was a terrific workshop and our thanks go to Eva Manzano, an excellent workshop leader, and to CAWST for collaborating with CAPD to provide this workshop.
I did a lot of traveling within Colombia during the month of October. Starting in Santander some Rotarians took me to visit a “Rotary” project where they have used CAPD molds to build and supply 250 families with filters.
Water supply in rural areas is precarious and this “manifold” allows water to be shared among 70 hoses that run for kilometers over the ground to the various farms.
As a CAPD volunteer I try to visit any filter project to offer guidance and encouragement and possibly plan a follow-on project.
After a 6 hour bus ride over twisting mountain roads, I came to Tunja in the state of Boyaca. This city is very high and very cold at night and with intense sun during the day. Here I spent time with Ivan and Rocio. Their Foundation RPG is collaborating with CAPD and they have built and installed 102 filters in the altiplano where the rural folk exist between selling milk and growing potatoes.
Ivan and Rocio have installed two filters n a rural school where it has good visibility.
School filters and talks to school children are important for keeping families using their filters properly and washing their hands with soap – all those little people reminding their parents how to do things properly!
I spent some time with Ivan and Rocio in Bogota investigating alternatives to the concrete version of the Biosand filter but that will be a separate Blog. A visit to Parex Resources, a highly successful Canadian (not so junior) oil company, was also very encouraging. I’ll expand on that when we have something more definite.
More bus riding to a city called Ibague, on the edge of the coffee zone. Lots of mountains and valleys! Many neighbourhoods on the edge of this city of 600,000 rely on rural water systems, organized as a kind of a cooperative which finds water up the mountain and pipes it into the homes, without any possibility of treating it. Each family pays a monthly fee for service, sometimes based on consumption. During rainy periods the water comes out of the tap the colour of tea or worse and the bacteria count is way too high. This is a typical peri-urban neighbourhood in Ibague and the water comes from “up there”.
There are many of these rural water cooperatives serving neighbourhoods on the periphery of Ibague and apparently more than 12,000 in the nation. The Rotary Club of Nuevo Ibague is using Rotary funding to serve 370 families with filters and training in maintenance and hygiene. They are using 6 molds on loan from CAPD. Their “product” has great quality thanks to Mario, who is a stickler for quality – zero leaks!!!
This club is extremely well organized and despite the workload the Rotarians are really enthusiastic. I attended some sensitization sessions with them and was impressed with their dedication.
Later, they treated me to a unique experience – lunch with a bunch of farmers who were displaced by armed groups more than 20 years ago. The 15 families have made what appears to be a successful transition and now have their own land and are prospering. I was very impressed with their positive forward looking attitude and ability to articulate this. The ladies who provided lunch were also very interested in what we had to say.
By good fortune they connected with the Rotarians and now have filters as well. The challenge for CAPD is to keep these experienced groups functioning even after the Rotary funding has been spent. Your donations to CAPD help these enthusiastic teams continue to serve needy people.
Next stop on the tour was Monteria near the Caribbean coast. The club of Monteria 2 has been working with CAPD and filters for almost 5 years and has helped more than 2,000 families with safe water.
CAPD has funded about half of the filters with the other half of the funds coming from municipalities. We are trying to encourage more of this approach. The Rotarians took me on an inspection trip to visit a zone formerly famous for its insecurity but thankfully a lot safer now – called Montes de Maria.
This agricultural area is very fertile and very lovely but tough to access via clay mountain roads that are okay for motorcycles but tough on trucks and impossible when it rains which happens frequently. The project is fully financed by a large rural development project and is well advanced. Sr. Juan has built most of the thousands of filters and does a good job. Fabiola and Juan pose in front of some of the 16 CAPD molds.
Here are some more Rotarians visiting the work site for the weekly inspection.
We have more irons in the fire but that will have to wait for another Blog. After a month on the road I was very happy to be reunited with Marlene in Bucaramanga.