Saturday, July 17, 2010

Got a sec? Let's Clean the Cumbre!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we currently have a volunteer working for our foundation from Ireland. His working situation is slightly different form ours in Peace Corps. His contract is for six months as opposed to 27. He isn't funded by the government or his organization. He doesn't deal with any of the beuracracy that we do, but he has to pay for everything out of his own pocket. Joe Mclean is making a sacrifice that is far greater he would admit. I receive a monthly paycheck that is sufficient to live on and then some. In terms of dollars and the American mindset, it's nothing (roughly $300 a month), but here my monthly salary is more than many families earn (and I only need to provide for myself).

Joe is working in construction here in the cumbre, and has been helping the foundation build our eggshell water tanks. He has another project which is seperate from the work of the foundation called Proyectos Sanitarios (Sanitary Projects). He is raising funds from Ireland through his blog, but is short on what he needs to commence the project. Let me pull at your heart strings for a second. I have talked about the differences in life in the cumbre and life back in the States, but I can't stress enough the need for latrines and bathrooms. Many of the families in the cumbre who cannot afford the materials to build these necessities are left with only one option. The unsanitary and (to my friends from the States) unimaginable option of going to the bathroom in the open air.

This is a beautiful project, and with the limitations I have with my work in the Peace Corps, this kind of project is an impossibility for me at the moment. I encourage you all to visit - - and assure you that the smallest of donations to Joe's project can make a tremendous difference here in the cumbre (trust me, the exchange rate is in your favor). If you want to help, it's as simple as a few clicks (Look below the map for the "Donate" button).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Things I Should Build and Then Some...

I guess you could say I'm in a bit of a building mood these days. I've been working on building water tanks in my village the past several weeks and it's been great to see a finished project. There is a volunteer from Ireland that is working with my organization. He uploaded a video explaining our tank project, so check out to see what it's all about... I was going to upload it too, but I'm not what you would call computer savvy. I have friends who are, so really, what's the point? (I appreciate all of my tech equipped friends by the way.) Enough sidebar, I've got things to build.

Thing one: I've worked out my plans to rebuild my family's rabbit cages. The idea is to repair the existing cage and add two more. I'm going to use their lonely rabbit to breed with mine (once I get them), and the offspring will be split down the middle to be sold or (cover your ears children) eaten. Rabbit meat is more nutritious than most others, and delicious to boot. Their reproductive prowess is common knowledge, and they are relatively cheap to care for. Hopefully it will catch on. The downer is that I only have time to work on this during weekends, which would have to be next weekend or sometime next month, and I need the money to buy the materials. It really isn't that expensive for me to build the rabbit cages, but things two, three, and four have upped the budget.

Thing two: A new latrine door. I have been having some stomach trouble lately. The kind that is not bad enough to call the nurses, but that tends to linger for a couple of weeks (pretty common in Peace Corps). During a rather unpleasant instance, a strong blown wind had forced the rain inside of the latrine, soaking it completely. Suddenly it was time to go, but the forces that be were temporarily delayed for a frantic cleaning (that frankly was not effective). I'm not going to give further details, but needless to say, I have decided to replace the consistently worthless and frequently flapping nylon costal with a brand new wooden door.

Things three and four: With the added materials that I buy for the door, there will also be enough wood to build a dresser and kitchen shelves. I've been needing those for a while, but thought I could get by without. Why not?

Thing five: Chicken coops. Unfortunately, I don't have the funding for this, so we're going to have to be creative. Chickens have been my main focus for the past couple of months, and with each meeting, I realize more and more that it should be my focus for some time to come. Chicken coops just don't exist, and an environment where chickens are free to roam and mingle during the day is unhealthy for, not only the chickens, but for people. They are frequent guests in the family kitchen here. The result of all of this freedom is that many chickens die from diseases that could be prevented fairly simply. This costs the families meat, eggs, and money, which is a tough blow in a malnourished, underdeveloped, and overly impoverished area. The ideal chicken coop has a boundary large enough to give the chickens free space to do their thing. It has water and food troughs. It needs to be cleaned and sterilized. There must be a perch, a dry zone, and a sunny zone. Ash piles are great chicken baths. Also, ash is recommended by the entrance to sterilize your feet when you enter and exit. None of those things exist here, and the people are fairly uneducated when it comes to chickens. Even if all of these coops were up to par, I would still give them vaccinations. Many diseases can be prevented by using other precautions, but viruses have no cure and the only way to prevent them is with vaccinations. I am having some difficulty getting a vaccination campaign together. I have made all of the plans for five campaigns, running throughout the course of the next 15 months with all of the women's groups, but it is a touchy subject with my counterpart director, and I have yet to receive the approval to proceed. She has good reason to be skeptical. Sick chickens that are vaccinated will always die soon after, and once she participated in a vaccination gone wrong where all of the chickens died. She is afraid that I will have the same results, especially since many of the chickens have been dying recently, and that the women's groups will not continue to work with us if I do indeed kill all of the chickens. Although I understand her reasoning, I disagree that we should skip the vaccinations. Without the proper coops, it is the only possible way to stop more chickens from dying from some of the most common preventable diseases. I have been trained in chicken vaccinations and know what to look for, but I will have to do much more convincing to get my project through. So, for the moment, I'm left with one option: alternative methods of preventing disease that frankly aren't as effective. I have a few medicinal recipes, a homemade chicken feed, and the knowledge on how to construct better coops. Long story short, I've got to build some coops. I'll be starting at my house with my host family, then spreading out into other surrounding communities. Now if we just had something to build it with...