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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mexico City and UMA

Our trip to Mexico has been outstanding, so far. Rick, Susan and I arrived in Mexico City on Tuesday, July 7th, made our way to the Hotel Isabel via the metro and checked in. Rick and I then met with Michael Sumner, our volunteer living in Mexico City, for dinner. He gave us a good rundown of the city, explained recent news events and cautioned us about certain dangers (like which taxis in Mexico City to avoid). He also made tentative arrangements to meet us in Oaxaca this week during the Festival of the Population.

Wednesday, we caught a taxi to Industrias Mass, one of the water filter suppliers we have been in contact with via email and telephone. Our appointment was with Roberto Lopez. When we met him, he immediately took us to meet the company Director and Elsa Villasana (sales). We explained what Water for Humans was interested in accomplishing in Mexico and how filter suppliers would be instrumental to achieving our goals. They expressed an interest in working with us and proceeded to call upon their technical team to show us some of the products that they currently have available. After showing us their products, they said that they could customize a system for us, depending on what needed to be filtered out of the water. They then offered to independently analyze (pro bono) the water for us as an added check to the university testing that we are planning. All in all, we left with a very good feeling about Industrias Mass.

In the afternoon, we met with the World Vision director, Victor Sandoval. He asked Marco Antonio Garcia (head of Fundacion Realidad) to join us, since we were interested in micro-financing. When we explained that we were interested in long term leasing and banking for the poor, he said that those were areas that they would like to explore/start and if there was a way to help us achieve our goals, through their help, they would do what they could. He then volunteered to send a representative to Oaxaca while we are there to start some exploratory investigating. We told him that it was premature at this time, but we would call him from Oaxaca and let him know when we would be ready to proceed. This was also a very good meeting for us.

Our taxi for the day was more like a hired driver as we used his services all day long. Miguel was outstanding, he found Industrias Mass easily with only one phone call. This was amazing since the office was a good forty-five minutes across town in a complex set of buildings. After our meeting, he was ready to take us to World Vision across town in the other direction. He even suggested a nice restaurant for lunch, close to our afternoon meeting. We were glad not to be driving as we would probably still be searching for these locations and our hotel.

The next day we went on a three hour bus ride to Valle de Bravo to attend an intensive with BGI’s(Bainbridge Graduate Institute) sister institution in Mexico. La Universidad del Medio Ambiente (UMA-the University of the Environment) was holding its final intensive for its initial cohort (C-1). It is an entrepreneur certificate program set up in a similar fashion to BGI. The fifteen participants in the program are all seasoned entrepreneurs who are interested in bringing social justice and environmental sustainability to their businesses. The CAIR (Change Agent in Residence) for the weekend was Dr. Eduardo A. Batllori Sampedro, the Secretary of Urban Development and the Environment for the Yucatan. He presented his detailed plan to deal with solid waste in Yucatan. He has been working on this plan for many years and is now ready to roll it out. We have a copy of the presentation, but were unable to understand it completely since both the presentation and lecture were in Spanish.

Rick and I presented Water for Humans to UMA. After the presentation and Q&A session, the participants identified a number of challenges in our plan. They divided themselves into five groups and each group discussed the challenges. Susan, Rick and I participated in three of the groups. After about thirty minutes, each group presented its conclusions to the entire class. Basically, everyone liked the long term plan. There was a lot of criticism, however, with regard to the short term plan. For various reasons, most did not like the idea of using filters as point-of-use water purifiers, but some did. All in all, we learned a lot from the feedback and will use it as we continue our journey on to Oaxaca.

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