Archive for the ‘David’s Work’ Category

A couple weeks before Kristi and I head home for Christmas we traveled once again to the department of Copán.  Generally, our trips to Copán combine a few work meetings with a bit of relaxation.  This trip would prove to be much more than we usually get ourselves into.

Through one of our work counterparts, Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario (ADEC), we were summoned to be a part of a large topographic survey effort in various small communities in the mountains surrounding the town of Copán Ruinas.  ADEC has partnered with the Florida Water Alliance which includes the Florida Rural Water Association and several Rotary Clubs to complete an ambitious potable water project that includes seven different communities.  Our Peace Corps friend, Kyla, who lives and works in Copán, invited us as well as three other PC volunteers to help collect the necessary survey data to complete a study, design, and budget.

Although the effort was well coordinated, the weather did not cooperate.  The most difficult section of the survey included a roughly seven kilometer proposed conduction line.  My team (Kristi, PC buddy – Zach, and Mario from ADEC) tackled this section of the survey as the more experienced group.  Due to the rainy weather the week prior the roads leading out to the remote site were horrid.  We were forced to abandon the truck and haul our equipment (with help from community members, of course) 2 ½ hours to the water source.  The hike in was one of the worst we’ve endured here; it was very steep and included ankle deep mud.

Helpers resting among coffee plants

Trying to look amused

Still headed to our starting point

The water source... FINALLY!

Steep terrain

After completing only four hours of work and roughly 0.7 kilometers, we headed back to meet our truck (another 2 ½ hours of very steep hiking).  Fortunately that 0.7 km is the worst section of the proposed line mainly because of dense forest and extremely steep and slick terrain.

Taking a break on the hike out - we still have to hike down to that town and then up the other mountain

With that section behind us, we set out on Day 2 of the study only to find worse road conditions and more rain.  Another five hours of hiking yielded only about an hour of work before we were entirely rained out.

Cold, tired, and wet but still smiling

With the weather being so uncooperative, Kyla decided we should refocus our efforts to more accessible portions of the project.  On Day 3 of the study our two teams collected data for over five kilometers of proposed water line.

Showing the ADEC staff how to level the instrument

Bad weather, gorgeous views

Extremely exhausted and with more bad weather forecasted, Day 4 was utilized to process the data we collected and create a game plan moving forward.  The rest of the 7 km water line will have to wait until the dry season when the access roads are actually accessible.  With help from my PC volunteer coworkers I will attempt to mesh our survey data with existing GPS and GIS data to do a preliminary design and budget so that funding activities may proceed.

To reward ourselves after several days of intense hiking and work, Zach, Kristi, and I caught a ride to the Luna Jaguar thermal hot springs about an hour outside of Copán Ruinas.  Our bodies and our feet especially were very happy to get some therapy in the form of volcanic mud baths and steaming hot natural spring water.

Jaguar Luna hot springs (channeling the Jaguar)

There were many pools of varying temperatures

Not an original Mayan stella but definitely adds to the atmosphere

A sulfur-scented steam bath

All in all, the trip was a success even though we will likely be returning in February or March to finish up the remaining surveying.  It was great to see our PC friends and be a part of such a great project effort.

Copan's park decorated for Christmas


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One of the more recent projects that I have been working on is a chlorination program in the municipality of Trinidad.  While our friends from the States, Paul and Clare, were here we visited the community of San Francisco about 20 minutes outside of the town of Trinidad.  Our intention was to go over the steps of the chlorination process with the community leaders.

On the day of that visit we found that their chlorination box (located on the top of the storage tank) did not have the necessary connections in order to drip-feed a chlorine solution to the water.  I went over the chlorination process with the environmental coordinator from the municipality (Irvin) and instructed the community leaders on how to prepare the chlorine box for future use.


The focus of the project is to prepare Irvin to take over this program when I am gone while at the same time training individual community water system operators how to properly disinfect their community’s water supply.

Irvin and I returned a week later to redo the chlorination lesson with the community leaders.  I was very happy with their retrofit chlorine dosing valve.  The original chlorine box didn’t include a way to pass the chlorine to the water supply so we tied a 1/2″ PVC into the clean-out pipe leaving the chloro box.

Drip-feed chlorine into the water piped in from the mountain source

First they measured the volume of the chlorine box.  With that volume we calculated the drip-rate required to drain the box in 4 days (the effective life of chlorine in solution).  Then we used the newly installed chlorine dosing valve to achieve the calculated drip-rate.

Using a baby bottle to calculate the drip rate in milliliters per minute

Next, the flow rate into the tank from the water source was measured using a 5 gallon bucket.  The bucket filled in approximately 11 seconds corresponding to a flow rate of about 27 gallons per minute.  The measured flow is then used to calculate the amount of chlorine powder required to achieve a chlorine concentration of around 1 ppm in the community distribution system.  In this case, 4 lbs of chlorine powder need to be used.

Measuring out 4 lbs of chlorine powder

The 4 lbs of chlorine powder is mixed into a highly concentrated solution.  Chlorine, which is actually a gas, is dissolved out of the chlorine powder into the liquid solution for application.

he refused to wear a mask... ha

Once the solution is ready it is dumped through an old t-shirt into the chlorination box.  The shirt filters out the powder which has already been stripped of its chlorine gas.

Over the following 4 days, the chlorine box will drip chlorine solution into the tank where it will mix with the raw water supply, killing bacteria and other forms of disease causing microbes.  After 4 days the community leaders will have to return to the tank and reapply 4 pounds of chlorine powder.

Irvin and I will continue to visit individual communities to support local water operators to disinfect their drinking water.  We’ll also be revisiting communities to test the water from the tap to see if there is residual chlorine in the water.  We are currently working with other municipal partners to create a monitoring and chlorine distribution program (or chlorine bank).  A chlorination program is completely dependent on an effective monitoring and supply program.

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This year for Thanksgiving we had two great friends as guests, Paul and Clare!  David and Paul have been friends since high school and we became couple friends around the time of Paul and Clare’s wedding in 2007.   Unlike our first visitors (read about David’s parents visit here, here, here, and here) we had a more “authentic” trip planned for P & C, meaning budget hotels, “chicken buses”, and more time spent in our site, Trinidad.

Chicken buses are the old yellow school buses that are no longer fit for US school children and eventually find their way down here.  They are called chicken buses because it is very likely you will see a local transporting a chicken (or duck, dog, goat, etc) in hand.  Very authentic indeed!

Our old dog friend from a previous trip, Bombero, somehow found us while we were breakfasting in the local market.

No trip to Honduras would be complete without a visit to Copan, home of the Mayan ruins, so that’s where we started.  Although we’ve been to Copan several times we still found new places to eat and enjoy an afternoon latte.  Other Copan must sees include Macaw Mountain bird sanctuary and of course the ruins.

No birds on the head this time

After a few days of “Honduran Disney Land” we headed back to reality – our house in Trinidad.  Our house is rather small (less than 400 sq. ft.) so it was a sharing experience for all of us!  David had a work day planned to head up to a small community and check on their progress with the new chlorination project.  It was fun to show P & C what a workday looks like here and I think it gave them a new understanding of the challenges we face.

Hiking up to the tank in the town of San Francisco

To give our guests a further taste of mountain life here we took them up to a nearby lodge called Estancia El Pedregal.  It is both a lodge with cabins, rooms, and a restaurant, and also a working farm with coffee, beans, and cattle.  The accommodations have a certain attention to detail that is often overlooked in Honduras and it is a totally relaxing country escape.

Exploring the property

Visiting the cows and this funny guy

This little cutie and his brother had fun splashing in the creek with the Gringos

It was rather fitting waking up at the lodge on Thanksgiving morning and seeing these two fellows hanging around our rooms.

Gobble, gobble

After a relaxing night up on the mountain we headed back to Trinidad to make a mini Thanksgiving feast.  Since we’d be leaving the next day for the coast I decided to skip the bird (it would’ve been chicken anyway) and just go for the side items.  I used every measly inch of counter space in our tiny kitchen to produce deviled eggs, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and of course, gravy!  Everything turned out delicious, thank goodness!

David and I spent one last night sharing a thin mattress on the floor and the next morning it was off to Tela.  More pictures coming soon!

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USAID is a US government aid agency that funds and manages development programs in poor countries all over the world.  Currently USAID is implementing a series of programs in the western region of Honduras related to various themes such as watershed protection, drinking water quality, wastewater management, and solid waste management.

In the municipality of Trinidad, which includes more than 20 small towns and communities, I am supporting USAID and the municipal government of Trinidad in the implementation of a chlorination program.  Recently, a promoter from USAID gave a workshop in the community El Tigre on the proper application of chlorine at the community water tank to disinfect the water that is distributed to the taps of the community members.  Several water governance boards (juntas de agua) from all over the municipality of Trinidad attended to learn the proper methods.

Dolan from USAID in front of the storage tank

Measuring the dimensions of the chlorination box on top of the tank

Mixing the powdered chlorine into solution

In my final months as a PC volunteer in Trinidad one of my most important contributions will be accompanying municipal workers to as many communities as possible providing technical assistance in the application of chlorine in their water systems.  I hope to train several municipal workers so that they can continue assisting technically the juntas de agua and monitoring chlorine application after I am gone.

Pouring the chlorine solution into the chlorine box

Also, the municipal government is establishing a “chlorine bank” where juntas from the surrounding communities can come to buy chlorine.  They already have a similar system; however, due to lack of promotion, it is not being properly managed or utilized.  I hope to get this chlorine bank back on track as well.

View from atop the tank

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This past week David and I had the opportunity to travel to Puerto Cortes (on the North coast) to translate for a medical brigade.  This brigade of doctors, nurses, a pharmacist, and other helpers is mainly from Arizona but also included members from Virginia, Maryland, Nebraska, and Alaska.  We translated for this same group in October of last year (read about that here) only difference being last year they were based out of our town, Trinidad.

Shipwreck off the shore

The Episcopal bishop of Honduras decides where the brigades are most needed and this year that happened to be Corinto which is a small town right on the Honduras/Guatemala border.  Interesting fact: according to our driver, Henry, there are over 100 Episcopal brigade groups in Honduras each year.

Because Corinto is a small town we actually stayed in a hotel in Puerto Cortes and commuted about 45 minutes every day.  Several things we enjoyed about the hotel were: cable TV, air conditioning, a pool, catered breakfast and dinner, and laundry service!  The hotel is technically ocean front which made for some nice sunset shots however the beach was not all that appealing.

Boys acting tough (complete with temporary tattoos)

Can't seem to find a place to lay out my beach towel...

Hondurans, and their Central American neighbors, are notorious for littering; however, most of this trash was washed up (after being deposited into the ocean by rivers).  It’s really sad that there was so much pollution because of all of the Honduran beaches we have been to this one was actually the most utilized by people – we saw many runners, beach volleyball players, and dog walkers.  Later in the week we did see clean-up crews preparing for weekend visitors.

Volleyball at sunset

As described in our post from last year, there are several common medical complaints that we see during the brigades including headache, body/bone pain, cough/cold, stomachache, diarrhea, foot fungus, and skin spots.  This year was unique because we held clinic in the same town for 5 days straight allowing for patient follow-up.

Crowd waiting to check-in

One particular case was an 84 year old woman with a broken hip whose family could not afford surgery.  The woman was being cared for at home by several of her daughters (she had given birth to 15 children).  I went with a couple of the doctors and nurses to translate as they explained some basic care to the family.  Although the woman was in a lot of pain (and with no pain medication!) the doctors were very impressed by the level of care her family had given her and had hope for her recovery (and we left her some Tylenol).

Cuties! I wanted to take little Andrea home with me

Overall we had a great week and really enjoyed having some new folks to socialize with.  The boys also enjoyed being able to watch the World Series and discuss whether game six was the best baseball game of all time (the jury is still out).

This man was on crutches and traveled to the clinic with the help of his 4 year old grandson

The pharmacy

Filtering water for the crowd. The doctors brought 60 water filters, 15 of which David and I will distribute.

Brothers in their new shades.

Cutest little kitty, Micho.


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Our biggest accomplishment of September involved a second ceramic drinking water filter project in an isolated community in the mountains near Trinidad.  This project followed the same model as a similar project in La Fragosa only the new community, Tascalapa, is a shade more populous.

Kristi and I and our chauffer/friend, Juan, delivered 41 ceramic filters to Tascalapa.

Juan showed up just in time to watch me finish loading the truck! Notice my sweet tie-down job and my sweaty shirt.

Kristi crammed in the back with all the buckets

Kristi gave a great presentation to the community members present about the proper use and maintenance of the filters.

Kristi helping with the distribution of the filter systems. Check out her pretty charla papers posted on the chalkboard.

Before our arrival the community had already collected L.100 from each interested family.  The current retail price for the filter system is L.400; however, the NGOs Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario and International Rural Water Association subsidized L.300 of the cost of each filter so that the filters were more affordable to the members of this small community.

Selling like hot cakes!

The filter system comes complete with a plastic bucket, top, spigot, and ceramic filter.  The ceramic filters are manufactured in Honduras and treat water by two processes: filtration and disinfection.  Disinfection is achieved by colloidal silver which is baked into the ceramic.

Soon we will also deliver a small water treatment system for use in the community school.  This system is capable of treating 450 liters of water per day.  It will be used by the school children during the school year and by the coffee workers that come to the area to work during coffee season (November to March).

In addition to the 41 filters delivered to Tascalapa, we delivered an additional 13 filters to La Fragosa to the families that did not order a filter when we did a similar project there several months ago.

As in La Fragosa, we will return several times to Tascalapa over the next few months to monitor the use of the filters and the school water treatment system.  We’ll also go back to give presentations to the school kids about potable water, hygiene, hand washing, and brushing their teeth.

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Based on our blog it would appear that we’ve adopted the “Cuerpo de Pasear” lifestyle.  In Spanish, Peace Corps is translated to Cuerpo de Paz.  A common saying among some PCVs is Cuerpo de Pasear which basically means the Backpacker Corps.  This would be a dig at volunteers that are routinely traveling, rarely in their site, and doing little work.


While it is true that Kristi and I have been on the move a lot lately (USA in June, Honduran vacation with the Lees in August, and two PC meetings in September) we are still plugging away at our community development work.  In this post I’d like to update those of you that are interested on what we’ve been working on lately.


Recently, Kristi wrapped up a water filter project with her counterpart, Red Cross Honduras and a medical brigade out of Arizona.  In all, about 12 micro-pore water filters (similar to the filters used in kidney dialysis procedures) were distributed to schools in surrounding communities.  Mostly Kristi, and a little I, trained Red Cross health promoters in the operation and maintenance of these filters who, in turn, distributed them to community schools and trained the teachers and other adults in their use and maintenance.


With another counterpart, the Honduran NGO, Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario (ADEC), we are installing more than 50 ceramic water filters in the mountain communities around Trinidad.  The filters will be delivered this week.  In addition, a Combined Treatment Unit (a mini drinking water treatment plant) will be installed in a community school as part of this project the following week.


We are still pushing forward on a permanent water system project in the community of La Fragosa where we achieved much success with an earlier ceramic water filter project last year.  The Engineers without Borders (EWB) Lehigh University chapter has taken on the design, financing and implementation of the project.  They are in the design and fund-raising phase of the project currently and will be visiting Honduras in January 2012 (and several other times next year) to begin implementation.  Kristi and I would like to facilitate the construction of latrines in La Fragosa before or during the construction of the water system to create a full water and sanitation project in the community.  We are currently looking for ways to fund the construction of about 35 pour-flush style latrines.


Three new water and sanitation volunteers arrived in the department of Santa Bárbara in May.  Since their arrival we have been working together on several water system designs.  Each new volunteer has little technical experience with respect to hydraulic design so I’ve been helping out.  One of the three is an environmental engineering graduate.  I hope to train her very well in the proper design of water systems before the end of my service.  Since their arrival we’ve been working to improve their topographic surveying, design, and technical reporting skills.


Since concluding a water system study for the community of Tulito in the municipality of Chinda, Santa Bárbara, Kristi and I have been searching for means to fund the construction of several much needed improvements to their existing system.  We started the project working together with the NGO Water for People (WFP).  WFP has since been forced to withdraw from that municipality due to budget cuts leaving the community to find funding for the project on its own.  This should prove difficult since their municipal government has shown very little interest in supporting the small, isolated community.  We hope to help them along in the process of soliciting funds to complete their water system improvements.


This is the majority of what we have completed (or nearly completed) recently.  We’ve got several great projects in the works involving various governmental and non-governmental agencies that we will be developing over the next few months.  Check in later for more details!


Sorry for the lack of photos!  We’ll get some pictures up from recent adventures next week!


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