Agua Pura has had a busy month. On September 15th we left for Mexico to start a three week program of workshops and community training programs in two different places. Our first week was spent with old and new friends at Tultitlan, near Mexico City. This is the site of a private garbage dump where community members work as recyclers and live on the property of the dump. Over the years working with different organizations we have become friends with many members of the community and have enjoyed following their progress.
For several days we gave small workshops to families and community members on topics such as basic hand washing procedures and sanitation. Susan Carter gave classes to the children in the community school and showed how to make simple hand washing stations using an empty liter coke bottle. It's interesting that the students in the school are divided up not by age but by families, so the older children help their younger brothers and sisters. Working together, each family made wash stations for their homes and at a presentation ceremony the mothers received a potted plant to be planted below the wash station and watered by it.
Director Tom Carter gave workshops during the week on how to build a solar reflecting stove and how to Pasteurize drinking water using the stoves. For once, the weather cooperated and all the families who made stoves for themselves were able to try them out and see that they worked. Gaudencio Cruz the program director there at Tultitlan is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable leader and eagerly helped with the workshops and promoted them in the community. Tom and Gaudencio also gave very popular workshops on building and using “rocket stoves” to cook on when the weather doesn't cooperate.
An interesting side note is that no one can assume that all the materials for a project will be readily available. The people living in this community at Tultitlan work as resource recyclers and so scrap materials such as cardboard and metal cans are valuable and not to be wasted or given away. Agua Pura purchased all the cardboard and other materials for its workshops from local families so some of the costs of the programs went back to the community.
On Friday of the first week Agua Pura gave a technical workshop on water testing to several Mexican non profit organizations. These groups have their own programs in various parts of the country and wanted the knowledge about accurate, inexpensive water testing procedures for their own work. Because of logistics and travel expenses the training program was condensed into one day, which made it more convenient and economical for the organizations to send more participants.
The workshop consisted of power point type presentations and hands on activities, setting up water samples for testing. Water pasteurization techniques were also shown and all participants received a WAPI pasteurization indicator. There were also discussions about the experiences and ideas that the various groups had had, so it was a very satisfying experience for all . Agua Pura likes to hold these programs in the local communities so that the learning experiences can be shared with the community members as well as the non profits.
The second week was spent in Southern Mexico, in Palenque, Chiapas, working at a new ecology training and demonstration center. The Mexican development organization, Amextra, is building this new center to aid local community members with training in improved, sustainable agricultural techniques as well as sanitation and clean water. Agua Pura helped again teach simple methods of hand washing and cooking using solar stoves and “rocket stoves”. Many local families cook on open fires on a raised, dirt covered table called a “fogon” or hearth. One interesting development was the use of the rocket stove principle, but building it directly in to the hearth, eliminating the outer container of the stove. We also gave a brief water testing workshop to several interested community groups, and left testing supplies for their use.
Finally, we spent our last few days in San Cristobal de las Casas, a colonial town in the highlands of Chiapas State. Although originally planned just as a stopover before returning from Mexico, while there we had several contacts and discussions about a spring workshop. The cultural museum, Na Bolom, has strong connections to some of the remote Mayan Communities and would be interested in hosting a program focused on their needs. Also, a local medical clinic that treats burn victims from open cooking fires would be interested in learning more about safer stove alternatives. Agua Pura would be able to train and supply organizations interested in helping these communities. More discussions are necessary but there is a good possibility of Agua Pura returning to Chiapas to provide a program this spring.