Archive for May, 2011

After a long week of hard work, the EWBers decided it was time for a little relaxation…and we agreed!  The group planned a day trip to the semi-nearby Pulhapanzak waterfall and graciously invited us along.  We have been wanting to visit the falls for some time but it is a bit tricky to get to by bus and would include at least 4  bus transfers and probably a taxi – much more fun riding in the car with EWB! (Actually we rode in the car and they rode in the pickup bed and got a wee bit sunburned, but that’s another story)

I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

EWB Lehigh

Protected from certain death by a rather rickety fence


This lizard did lots of posing so I could get the perfect shot. Thanks, man

EWB went with a guide behind the main fall and later did some cliff jumping. Much to their advisor's relief they all made it back safely.


We finished the day with a fried tilapia lunch on the shores of Lago Yojoa.  It was a very nice end to our week with EWB!


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The Engineers without Borders – Lehigh University chapter made its first official visit to La Fragosa on their most recent trip this month.  This group last visited in March to finish up another engineering project in the town of Pueblo Nuevo and made an unofficial trip up to Fragosa where they completed some preliminary social studies in the community.  Based on the results of their March trip they decided that Fragosa is a good candidate for their next EWB project.  The project is to include a permanent drinking water system (intake, storage tank with chlorinator, and distribution system) as well as latrines and pilas (for home water storage) at every home.

The group had much to accomplish during this trip including a topographic survey, a more extensive social survey, water quantity and quality studies, and community meetings to talk about the future project.

EWB split its members into two groups: one for topographic surveying, the other to do the social surveying.  Naturally, with my grammatically-challenged Spanish and technical background, I accompanied the topo-group, while Kristi worked with the social surveyors.  Each group was also assisted by one or two community members as guides.

The topographic survey was completed using a GPS (with an onboard barometric altimeter) and an auto-level (with tripod and level rod).  The GPS provides relatively accurate x and y-coordinates, the altimeter gives a decently accurate z-coordinate while the auto-level gives a more precise z-coordinate.  The auto-level measured the elevation along all the community roads relative to the elevation of the water source (a small spring) and proposed storage tank sites.  Each elevation was accompanied by a GPS point.  The GPS and altimeter were also used to record coordinates (x, y, and z) at each home in the community.  This data will be used during the fall college semester to complete a water system design.

EWB surveying with the auto-level

The social survey group visited every house in the community to compile data about each family (number of members), their houses and properties, their perceived health, and their views about water and sanitation.  They also visited the closest health center in the nearby town of Quebraditas to get data recorded by the local health care provider.  This health center is the closest medical facility to Fragosa and is where community members go when they are ill.

EWB interviewing community members

Potential community water sources were also analyzed by the group.  At four sources they measured the flowrate and several water quality indicators such as turbidity, alkalinity, temperature, pH, and collected samples for a coliform presence/absence test.  Based on these tests it is clear that there is only one feasible source based on elevation and flow rate.

Water quality sampling

Checking turbidity levels

Measuring alkalinity

Unfortunately this source has proven difficult to secure due to contentious relations between the local government and the owners of the land where the source is located.  Because of this, Kristi and I, with support from our friends Juan (from the mancomunidad) and Jorge (a local business man and general do-gooder) will be working hard to mediate a deal so that the community can have access to the water source.  It is imperative that an agreement is reached this summer so that EWB can begin the water system design in their fall semester.  We’ll keep the blog updated on our progress in the coming weeks.

During two community meetings the group explained their project goals and conversed with the community members and leaders about the community’s goals.  The format of the meetings was informal and encouraged community participation.  The roles of both EWB and the community were discussed as well as any questions and/or doubts the community members had.  Using the information gathered during these meetings, EWB will draft a sort of contract that will be reviewed and signed by the community leaders outlining what shall be expected from both parties as the project moves forwards.

After all the work in the community was completed EWB met with the NGO Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario (ADEC).  The two organizations are looking to work together on this project.  ADEC will provide support managing project logistics on-the-ground when EWB is not in Honduras.  Of course, Kristi and I will do all that we can as well to make the project a reality including training the Junta de Agua (community water and sanitation committee) and technical assistance during design and implementation phases of the project.  The tentative project timeline laid out during this trip is as follows:

§ June to August 2011 – secure rights to the water source and tank site

§ August to November 2011 – design water system and gain EWB board approval for latrine and pila designs

§ November 2011 to January 2012 – gain EWB board approval for the water system design

§ January 2012 – EWB comes to Fragosa to begin construction of latrines and pilas

§ January to April 2012 – completion of latrines and pilas construction, community education on proper latrine/pila maintenance, and excavation for water pipe installation

§ May 2012 – EWB comes to Fragosa to begin construction of intake at the water source and the storage tank

§ After May 2012 – periodic EWB visits, completion of the water system, project monitoring, and ongoing community education

Until Kristi and I finish our service as PCVs we will be actively educating the community members and leaders on the management and maintenance of water systems, latrines, and pilas.

The timeline will surely be modified as the project develops but hopefully, Kristi and I will see latrines and pilas as well as ground-breaking on the water system before our departure from Honduras in the spring of 2012.

EWB – Lehigh University worked very hard on this trip and we are very glad to have them working to improve the quality of life in La Fragosa.  The technical and social challenges and the grateful members of the community should make this a fulfilling experience for the group.

Check back later for a blog on our visit to Pulhapanzak Falls with EWB.  A few more pics from Fragosa:

Crab found at the highest water source (950 meters). I thought you lived in the ocean!?

Kristi loves cows

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Occasionally Kristi and I have to go out of town for business and on most of these occasions business takes us to Marcala, La Paz to meet with the Honduran NGO, Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario, and our friend and project counterpart, Fred, from International Rural Water Association.  On our most recent trip we also had the pleasure of seeing another friend of ours and fellow PCV, Zach.  The purpose of this get-together was to talk about the small potable water projects that we have completed in the last few months (ceramic drinking water filters and Combined Treatment Units plus heath and hygiene education) and to talk about the future.

Each project has been a success and therefore, another round of projects to provide access to potable water to more than 100 rural families has been preliminarily approved.  Zach, Kristi, and I have already begun the pre-project work of introducing the technology and methodology to the new communities and Fred and IRWA will be working in the near future to secure additional funds.  As with the first small potable water projects, the funds will be managed and distributed through ADEC.  We volunteers will be responsible for the majority of project implementation and post-implementation monitoring and education with as-needed technical and logistical support from ADEC.

The relationship that has developed between ADEC, IRWA, and Peace Corps as a result of the successful execution of these small potable water projects may lead to further partnerships down the road.  All parties have expressed an interest in expanding the application of this project methodology to many more rural communities in western Honduras.  The partnership would allow ADEC to more effectively apply its limited resources and continue to expand its influence in the region by utilizing PC volunteers for greater outreach.  Volunteers in turn would receive the support of a dedicated and well run counterpart agency to achieve their personal goals and the goals of the PC Water and Sanitation Project.  Over the next few months we’ll be working towards cementing this multi-agency partnership.

Also while in Marcala we stopped in at the town’s drinking water treatment plant.  The town, with the support of several NGOs including IRWA, Agua Para el Pueblo (APP) out of Tegucigalpa, and ACRA from Italy, are finishing up an expansion which will increase the plant’s capacity from about 500 gpm to 850 gpm.  The plant uses technology developed at Cornell University in conjunction with APP and runs entirely on gravity flow; no electricity is necessary.  For a general explanation of the technology, check out this earlier blog.  Here are a few pictures of the plant as the expansion nears completion:

Expansion on the left, existing on the right

New flow controller and grit chambers. Flow controller splits flow between the existing and the new expansion

New floc tanks with vertical baffles

New sedimentation tanks


Kristi dominating the treatment plant

A couple additional pictures from our trip:

“Hi, AAA, I think my front-left cowburetor is leaking. Can I get some emergency roadside assistance?”

Sunset from Fred's porch

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For many months Kristi and I have been working together with the community of La Fragosa and the NGO – Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario (ADEC).  Implementation phase (constructing the school water treatment system or CTU and delivering the ceramic water filters) is complete and currently we’re in the education/monitoring phase of the project.  With this project experience under our belt, we are ready to take this project methodology to another rural community, improving access to clean drinking water while providing education on basic health and hygiene practices.

A few days ago, Kristi gave her final charla at the community school in Fragosa.  The topic was hygiene, specifically hand washing.  As usual, the children of Fragosa participated enthusiastically in Kristi’s charla and the accompanying activities.  The school received a supply of hand soap and each child demonstrated the hand washing process that Kristi suggested.  Kristi ends each of her charlas with instructions for the kids to go home and demonstrate what they’ve learned to their siblings and parents.

La Maestra

The little dude in the blue t-shirt is hilarious!

Also on this trip to Fragosa we invited representatives of the municipality of Trinidad to come along and see the project.  While we live in Trinidad, the community of Fragosa falls within another municipality.  For our next manifestation of this project methodology we would like to involve a community within our municipality, Trinidad; therefore, after showing Fragosa to the representatives of Trinidad, we set off for Tascalapa.  The community of Tascalapa is located only 20 minutes from Fragosa and is slightly larger.  The close proximity of the two communities will make it easier for us to combine visits into one trip in the future.

The Trinidad reps were very interested in the entire project methodology and helped explain it to  community leaders and members of Tascalapa.  We met with the teacher at the community school, the patronato, and several community members; all were very receptive to the project and many had already seen the ceramic filters and CTU that we installed in Fragosa.  Our feeling is that we can move this project into implementation much more quickly than we did in Fragosa due to the advance understanding of the project by the community and more importantly, the direct support of the municipality and mayor of Trinidad.  Kristi and I will be presenting a preliminary budget for this project to ADEC very soon.

Additionally, the Trinidad reps were highly interested in the school water treatment system.  Typically, ADEC would fund construction of the CTUs, but we talked with the reps about installing a CTU in each community school throughout the municipality of Trinidad with municipal funds in the future.  We are very excited to pursue the possibility of such a project next week with the mayor directly.

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