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Thursday, September 12, 2013



Water for Humans wants to thank all of our supporters for reaching a significant milestone:

You have donated $25,000!!!
Your generosity has helped introduce clean, sustainable water and sanitation solutions to the underserved in Mexico!!!

As we celebrate this noteworthy achievement, we would like to share what we have accomplished together and how we have helped hundreds of underserved people in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Fewer Floods, Fewer Droughts, Less Smoke, More Time. Because of you, we were able to complete a pilot project in the Mazateca area of Oaxaca, building two well-received cook stoves.  This project led to an order for eighty-nine more of our clean, efficient stoves in four underserved communities in this area of Mexico.  The stoves will significantly reduce deforestation, free up valuable time for the women and girls of these communities to take care of their families, and most importantly, dramatically reduce the families’ risk of respiratory disease from exposure to smoky indoor fires

Teaching Business Skills. Because of you, we were able to conduct  workshops to teach eighteen indigenous promoters how to build and promote the cook stoves. These eighteen community leaders will spread the technology while introducing much needed jobs into this impoverished part of Mexico.

Turning Waste into a Valuable Asset.  Because of you, we were able to complete a pilot project in the Mazateca area building two composting latrines. Besides providing a sanitary method of eliminating the spread of disease, these sustainable toilets also produce much needed, nutrient rich compost for the subsistence farmers throughout the area.

Make hay while the sun shines; collect water when it doesn’t. Because of you, we were able to complete a rainwater harvesting system pilot project in the Mazateca area. This system is saving enough water during the wet season to provide a family of nine with an adequate water supply during the dry season, enough to save the women and children from hiking three hours to obtain water from a distant source!

A strong, new partner. Because of you, we developed a great working relationship and formed strong bonds with The Hunger Project – Mexico, providing sustainable clean water, efficient cook stoves and improved sanitation to indigenous communities in Mexico.

Clean water for kids, money for schools. Because of you and a generous grant from The Rotary Club of Bremerton, we were able to provide a water filtration system for the Valentin Gomez Farias Elementary School in Santo Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla, in the Central Valley of Oaxaca. This system provides reliable, potable water for over 180 students and allows the school to buy critical school supplies instead of purchasing expensive potable water.

Connections for the future. Because of you, we were able to establish strong connections and build a partnership with the Institute for Nature and Society of Oaxaca (INSO).  INSO has been a critical partner for steering us in the right direction to realize our mission of designing and implementing low-cost, clean water and sanitation solutions to the underserved in Oaxaca. They have also provided us with valuable introductions to the leaders of Oaxaca’s public, private and academic water and sanitation organizations. These connections will be critical to the success of future projects.

Nelly, Our face in Oaxaca. Because of you, we were able to hire Nelly Fernandez Tellez to represent Water for Humans in Oaxaca, keeping our local projects on track when Rick and Stan are in Seattle.

Big-time face-time. Because of you, WFH was able to speak at the 2013 Global Tech Forum in Geneva, Switzerland.  In addition, Rick has been an invited speaker at the 2010 Global Washington annual conference, 2010 Annual Fulbright conference, Pacific Lutheran University Wang Center (2011) and the 2011 Oaxaca Water Forum. During all of these events, Rick was invited to share our work in Mexico with representatives from all over the world.

Expert advice and connections. Because of you, we were able to work with Dr. Firdaus Jhabvala, our expert for advice and guidance on constructed wetlands, Dr. Jhabvala was instrumental in getting us a consulting contract, with Universidad Juarez Autonoma de Tabasco, on sustainability.

More Connections. Because of you, we were able to work with and form a relationship with Universidad Autonoma Benito Juarez de Oaxaca (UABJO).  At UABJO we worked with Chemistry professor Erik Martinez Torres who helped design and build a constructed wetland on campus. Not only is it treating campus wastewater every day, but it is used as a model for student and community/public instruction.

Universidad del Medio Ambiente (UMA). Because of you, we were able to spend time at the UMA campus exchanging business ideas, and networking with sustainable MBA students at Valle de Bravo (a few hours north of Mexico City). These relationships have proved very helpful in moving our programs forward.

The next generation. Because of you, we were able to accept a volunteer intern, Jacob Cantor.  Jacob spent over two weeks working with us in the field and the office, experiencing, first-hand, the hard lessons of working in a developing country. Besides practicing his Spanish, engaging in meaningful conversations about social justice and social entrepreneurship, and expanding his reading list on sustainability, Jacob helped edit our ‘La Mazateca’ Cook Stove Manual. We are happy Jacob expressed an interest in rejoining us in the future—we look forward to using his services as an interpreter.

So, thank-you very much.  With your support, we have completed all these projects, made these important connections and helped so many people.  Because of you, Water For Humans is ready to build on our success, continue to learn, continue to grow and move up to the next level.

¡Muchas Gracias!
Rick and Stan

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

At SeaTac to Mexico

Stan & I are going back to Oaxaca to finish up our work to train and build the remaining 88 stoves.

Wish us good luck and success.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Water for Humans Summer Newsletter: September 2013

WFH exists because of you!!!  Thank you for your support.

This is what we have been up to since our last newsletter.

$25,000 Goal Met
Our supporters reached a milestone when your donations to Water for Humans reached our $25,000 goal. We have been keeping track with the water glass on our homepage. This milestone is for donations from you, our supporters, only. It does not include money from contracts or grants. Thank-you, pat yourselves on the back, celebrate. You make our work possible!!!

Cookstove Workshop in Mexico
Eighty-nine families from the four communities that participated in the cook stove pilot in February ordered cookstoves.  Rick and Stan went back to the Mazateca area of Oaxaca in July to conduct a stove building workshop to teach the promoters/catalyzers from the four communities how to build the clean, efficient cookstoves.
The workshop took place in Cerro Alto (one of the four communities).  The Hunger Project – Mexico purchased and transported the material for the workshop to Cerro Alto.  The workshop consisted of a lot of hands-on activities with each phase broken down to a step-by-step process.

Unfortunately, the workshop was interrupted for two and a half weeks because of the violence that erupted in the area after local elections.  Rick and Stan retreated to Mexico City until the violence subsided and then returned to finish the workshop.

The original intent was to leave when the promoters/catalyzers were knowledgeable and experienced enough to finish the eighty-nine stoves on their own.  But, because of the interruption, Rick and Stan will return in September to finish guiding them to self-sufficiency.

This is what is Next:  Cookstove 2.0
Because of the success of our first 90+ cook stoves we now want to pursue Generation 2.0 of the cookstove. This new stove design will be less costly and much easier to build, more efficient, and thus more sustainable.  To make this a reality, we will need to raise funds for research & development, prototype tooling and stove certification from the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, OR.  We have already built a strong team of partners with groups from Clemson University, University Washington, a local 3-D printing company, local mechanical engineers and heat transfer experts, tooling and mold designers-builders and Allied Materials (castable high temperature ceramics).

Our plan is to have generation 2.0 cookstove ready to six to nine months after we secure the required funding. The building of these stoves will be carried out by the 20+ promoters we have trained during the generation 1.0 cookstove program.  With the help of our partner THP and patent attorneys associated with Invent for Humanity, we plan to secure intellectual property rights in Latin America and India. In collaboration with THP we will help form a co-op business structure for a social enterprise starting with our current promoters to make the stoves available in the greater Mazateca region. Our November fundraiser is to implement this part of our program.

Latrine and Rainwater Harvesting Update
In February Water for Humans built one residential rainwater harvesting system and two composting latrines in Piedra de la Luz (Mazateca region of Oaxaca) as a pilot project.  The four communities involved decided to use the services of Isla Urbana in Mexico City to build community sized rainwater harvesting systems.  Rick and Stan met with Enrique Lomnitz (Director of Usla Urbana) and David Vargas (Director of Operations) to learn more about their technology.  Both organizations learned from each other about the strengths and weaknesses of both systems.  We decided to collaborate and design a system that is better and more cost beneficial to the consumer.  Water for Humans’ contribution will be a more effective, easier to install and less expensive water conveyance (guttering) system.

The communities have not made a decision yet about the composting latrines.  Culturally they are completely different from anything they have used before for human waste.  The idea that in two years they will produce a valuable soil additive for their crops is unthinkable.  We think that there is still a chance they will accept this technology, but it will require a lot of hand holding from us, as well as from The Hunger Project – Mexico (our partners in this endeavor).  We plan to work closely with them to make sure that the latrines are used properly and to show the value of the end product (compost).

Oaxaca State Finance Minister Update
After a long struggle in which we thought we were close to securing funds to rehabilitate the defunct wastewater treatment plant in Santa Domingo Barrio Bajo Etla, we finally had to throw in the towel.  The finance minister and the head of investment worked very hard in our favor to secure the funds through proper channels for us to do this important work. However, because the bureaucracy and other departmental ministers were holdovers from the prior administration and we were potentially going to show that our technology and construction methods were a viable solution, the head of the state water commission (longtime bureaucrat) did not allow the contract to move forward. This was a long and painful lesson for us. However, along the way we built some very good partners for future opportunities. Going forward, we now understand that the only way that we can work at the municipal level is if we have the direct approval of the governor who can then force the hands and direct ministry heads to allow our work to move forward.

GiveBig May, 15th 2013
Thank you for all your support and generous donations on May 15nd for the GiveBIG Campaign.  This was our second year participating in The Seattle Foundation sponsored event.  The Seattle Foundation added money to our campaign based on your contributions.  In total, we collected $1,205.  Your contributions have allowed us to continue our pursuit of providing clean, inexpensive water, sanitation and efficient cookstove solutions to the underserved.  Thank you.

Nelly Fernandez Tellez

We are happy to report that Nelly is still part of our team for our ongoing work in the central Valley of Oaxaca. See is no longer working at INSO, however, she is now on contract with us to help us explore and move forward several potential opportunities in the central Valley of Oaxaca.  As funding permits we still hope to work with INSO to move forward with the Bravo Ahuja rainwater harvesting program.

Want to volunteer and help   Water for Humans ? Just contact Rick

Thank you!
Your support keeps Water for Humans moving forward.

PS: Save the date --- Saturday 2 November 1-7 pm (open house) to: Fundraise For the Future and Celebrate 91 clean cookstoves. Location -- NE Seattle.  Watch for a formal announcement to sign-up.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Part 1 Clean cookstove Trip Report

Trip Report THP-La Mazateca Cookstove Project – July, 2013

This trip started on June 22nd and ended on July 30th.  It started as an exclusive trip for the ‘La Mazateca’ Cook Stove workshop and construction project in the Mazateca area of Oaxaca with The Hunger Project – Mexico (THP).  It turned out to be quite a different trip altogether.

We started in Mexico City at THP headquarters, where we were busy getting more information about the materials for the stoves, finishing up the manual, going through THP training and working with an intern, Jacob Cantor, an environmental engineering student who joined us for three weeks during his summer break from Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University).  The parts’ list changed daily as more information came in about brick sizes and availability, raw materials (cement, lime, gravel, sand, perlite) needed for different concrete, mortar and insulation requirements, and material availability became known.  As the parts’ list was finalized, material was ordered and purchased.

The next challenge facing us was transporting the material for 89 cook stoves from Mexico City to San Jose Tenango (the Mazateca Area).  68 m3 will not fit into 50 m3 of truck space, no matter how you arrange things. That is how much space was available in two trucks.  Finally, THP made arrangements to use one large truck to transport everything at once.

The manual was translated and we left for SJT on July 2nd.  We arrived on July 3rd and made plans to start the workshop on Thursday, July 4th.  Because the floor was dirt, the masons got started right away putting in a foundation upon which to build the walls of the stove.  There was quite a discussion beforehand about the stove orientation, considering the prevailing wind and the best location of the windows and doors for the stove.  The foundation hardened overnight and the masons continued with the walls of the stove on Day 2.  This turned out to be a long day, since we wanted to finish the walls, so that the fireboxes could begin the next day.  The morning of Day 3 the walls had hardened and the workshop continued with the internal parts of the stove.

While the masons were busy the first two days, the rest of the promoters (workshop attendees) were busy building the firebox chimney form out of wood planks that were brought.  They also cut the 45cm diameter cardboard tubes for the two firebox forms.  On DAY 3 they set the cardboard firebox forms in place, back filled the forms with rocks and dirt to their proper levels and poured 2.5 cm of concrete to make the platforms for the fireboxes.  We were prepared to continue with the assembly of the fireboxes, setting the rebar for the pot stands and making the first perlite pour to finish with the fireboxes.  However, this was the day before the local elections.  So, instead a promoter meeting was held in the afternoon and each community was given a list of families in their community on the stove list.  Plans were made to contact them and start the process of determining where each stove would go, the orientation of the stove and selecting the pots for which the stove was designed.  We did not realize, at the time that this was the beginning of a two and a half week hiatus before the workshop would continue.
The plan was to take two days off (Sunday and Monday) and then continue the workshop on Tuesday.  Local elections were scheduled for Sunday and since controversy sometimes follow elections, we hoped that after a day the election would be settled.  Unfortunately, after a day, things got worse.  Dynamite, gunplay and a home invasion were enough for us to pack up and leave the area.  We retreated to Mexico City on Tuesday, July 9th (the day the workshop was supposed to continue), and did not return until Wednesday, July 24th.

While we were in Mexico City, we stayed busy.  First and foremost, we took that opportunity to plan in detail the remainder of the workshop.  We drew up lesson plans for the remaining workshop days, updated the construction manual and had it translated into Spanish.  We also developed additional teaching aids and construction tools.

This gave us time to pursue other opportunities in Mexico City.  Before heading to SJT (the first time), we had had lunch with a patent attorney, Hector Elias Chagoya Cortes, that Rick had met earlier this year at a conference in Geneva.  During the luncheon, he mentioned that another attorney in his office was very active in Rotary and that they were involved in a rainwater harvesting project.  Since we were back in Mexico City, we met with him to find out more about their programs.  As it turns out, their rotary club (Club Rotario Plateros Centro Historico) is working with two Seattle area rotary clubs (Rotary Club of the University District, Seattle and Rotary Club of Ballard) on a project in a marginalized area of the city.
He invited us to the next rotary club meeting where Rick gave a ten minute presentation about who we were and what we were doing in Mexico.  They, in return, invited us to tour the area where the three rotary clubs
are working on their project.  The next day we went to Yuguelito to see the community center that these two Seattle clubs supported to provide a safe place for the children in the area to study and play.  We also toured the remainder of the community to see the ambitious projects they have planned to improve the housing and water situation.  On Saturday, we returned to Yuguelito with Ofelia Aguilar Hernandez of Mexfam to attend the community’s biweekly meeting, meet the community leaders and to learn more about their future plans.  We
think there is a lot of potential to help make this a sustainable community.

While in Mexico City, we also met with Enrique Lomnitz and David Vargas of Isla Urbana.  THP will be working with them to bring rainwater harvesting to the Mazateca area.  We set up a meeting with them to learn more about their system of rainwater harvesting, since the Mazateca communities chose their system over ours for implementation.  Isla Urbana needs help in developing a better guttering system to complete their rainwater harvesting system.  We took on that challenge and plan to provide a solution.  We also talked to them about the Yuguelito community and they are very interested in getting involved.  They have been doing rainwater harvesting in both rural and urban environments (including many in marginalized areas of Mexico City similar to Yuguelito) for several years.  We hope to work with them in the future.

We finally returned to SJT on July 24th.  By then Jacob had returned to the US, since we did not know how long we would be in Mexico City.  By then, his three planned weeks were over anyway.  Although he did not see a stove completed, he learned a lot about working in developing countries.  He saw the complete stove plans and helped edit the ‘La Mazateca’ Cook Stove Manual.  He spent time with THP and learned about their philosophy for tackling hunger and got an earful from Rick and Stan about sustainability (he left with a long reading list of books on sustainability topics).  He also learned a lot of Spanish.  He expressed an interest in rejoining us in the future with hopes of knowing enough Spanish by then to be our interpreter.

The workshop continued on Thursday, July 25th.  With detailed lesson plans for DAYS 4, 5, 6 and 7, we were able to finish the workshop on schedule by Sunday July 28th, but there was not enough sand to complete the internal mortaring as the last step.
Fortunately, Leodan lives close by and he did that part on one of the pilot stoves.  So, we left that last step in good hands, to which it was completed and fully function a few days after we left.  

We returned to Mexico City on the night bus, arriving early Monday morning.  We debriefed THP, did some preliminary planning for rolling out the remaining eighty-eight stoves and our return trip for mid-September, then departed for home Tuesday afternoon, the 30th of July.

Rick and Stan

P.S.  Save Saturday, November 2nd, for a local fall event on the Day of the Dead (Mexican holiday).  Details to follow.