Exploring new territories

Bob and I are in Ipiales, Nariño. It is a border city with Ecuador and sits at 2860 meters above the sea, which is higher than Bogota. Bob is here to provide orientation to the Rotary Club of Ipiales, which is at the beginning of the process of starting a filter project. The process started about 6 months ago and they are nearly ready to submit their application to the International Rotary Foundation for a Global Grant. Once the financing is in place, the project can begin. Bob’s Rotary club is partnered with Ipiales in this project and CAPD plays a supportive role.

This is drinking water???

The contact between Bob and Monica, a Rotarian from Ipiales, occurred two years ago in a Rotary Project Fair in Cartagena. Since then, Monica and her team has completed a community needs assessment, which entailed several meetings with the community members to hear about their water problems. Believe me, they are grave – just take a look at the source of their water.

These pools of water are fed by small springs emerging from the hillside, just below the road. Water lab tests reveal fecal bacteria too numerous to count, parasites and viruses. The people in this community of Guacuan boil their water to excess (15 minutes) just to be safe. They say water used to be pure, but since communities up the hill starting dumping black water directly into the river, it has become contaminated. Another factor is the close proximity of the family latrine to the water source. 152 people from the community attended the meeting with Bob, the Canadian expert, as featured guest.

Those interested in a water filter are assembled at the local school.
Monica, project leader, speaks about the stage at which the water project stands.
Various players pose – community members, Rotarians, and the Secretary of Health.

The woman to the left of the man with a white poncho told me that they were so very grateful that a person from Canada would take notice of them and come all that way to talk to them. They feel so very neglected by their own government.

Our next visit was to a community called 12 of October. Both these communities are largely indigenous, engaged in agriculture. They grow potatoes (a huge crop in this region, corn, peas and green onions.

52 people from the 12 of October community attended the meeting.
This man spoke up with many questions and comments about the water.
Another contributor to the conversation.

The Secretary of Health (in black jacket below) was present at both meetings and also talked to the community about how to improve the health of the community. They will work in parallel with the water filter project.

Bob draws a filter on a white board and explains it.
A very nice poncho is presented to Bob with thanks for coming to share his knowledge with them.

The Rotary Club of Ipiales also took us to visit some of their daycare schools for children up to age 5. They started this project with 60 children about 15 years ago and now have over 1000 children in daycares in various locations. These are darling, happy children.

Rotarians made sure we did some sight seeing as well. One afternoon, we crossed the Educadorian border, without stopping at immigration, to visit a cemetery in Tulcan. What would be the reason for such a visit? Have a look!

The cemetery was full of pine trees carved into images. It was impressive!

We also went to the Santuario de las Lajas, a most impressive cathedral built on a stone bridge spanning a deep gorge. It is a popular destination for pilgrims seeking a miracle such as the first miracle in which a deaf and mute child saw the Virgin Mary in the rock face and, being no longer mute, promptly told her mother. The rock lining the walk down to the cathedral was lined by plaques commemorating these miracles.

Santuario de las Lajas

Bob was really on the hot seat – speaking here and speaking there. Inevitably there was a Rotary meeting with dinner at which Bob spoke of the project and the two clubs exchanged their Rotary banner.

I am writing this blog from Pasto, the capital of Nariño, where we have been meeting with the Rotary Club here. They are also interested in starting a water filter project and have grilled Bob for information. We are getting in some sightseeing on the side, thank goodness, because this is a new region for both of us. It is well worth the visit. Come and visit. You will be made very welcome.

Marlene on Bob’s behalf.