On December 15, 2017 for the third time I travelled to Nicaragua to promote a clean water project. Once again, I was joined by my friends from Boulder Valley Rotary, John and Maud Kenyon. John is at the beginning stages of writing a Rotary Global Grant for the small village of El Siuce, located on a rutted, steep, dirt road outside the mountainous northern city of Jalapa, fast against the Honduran border.
I arrived the evening of the Friday the 15th at the Managua airport and was met there by Greg, a U.S. citizen married to a Nicaraguan. They live about an hour south of the capital city near the small town of Diriomo. He invited me to spend the first night at his place. There we turned off the porch and yard lights to appreciate the stars, something not possible with all the ambient light at home.
Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17- As we always try to mix fun with work on these trips,
I spent the next two days in the old colonial city of Managua. I followed a walking tour suggested in the Lonely Planet Travel Guide that included centuries-old architecture, museums, the central plaza and a boat tour of the small islands in Lake Nicaragua. I stayed at the wondrously named Mansion de Chocolate.
Afterward we ventured a short distance to the closeby clay water filter factory, where we met up with a delegation down from El Siuce in their chartered bus that included Karla Pozo, the Jalapa based FCP representative.
The trip was highlighted by an hour stop by police who had a difficult time figuring out what we were all about.
El Siuce presently has a barely functioning, cobbled together, dam and pipe (in some cases garden hoses) water system. Tests on the water show high concentrations of agriculture waste, e-coli and other impurities.
These filters are a stop gap measure. If properly maintained, they can provide from one to three liters of 99.8% pure water an hour for up to 5 years. Boulder Valley Rotary and FCP are in the beginning stages of writing grants to cover the expected cost of up to $80,000 for and entirely new system. The grant process takes time however, and the filters are a way to provide drinkable water to the residents until we can get this done.
Tuesday-December 19- We woke up in our home-away-from-home in Jalapa, the Pantano hotel.
We then all headed out through rain to the site of El Siuce to distribute the filters to community members. Boulder Valley Rotary and FCP had each contributed $2000 dollars for the purchase of the units at $23 each. Recipients were required to cover the cost of transportation from Ciudad Santino, which amounted to $450, so they to had “skin in the game”.
Our hoped for festive distribution of the filters was muted by the wet weather, as we all huddled on the porch of someone’s home for an impromptu training session conducted by Karla.
The handing out of the filters was a laborious process that involved making sure those who received one had originally ordered and paid their portion of the transportation cost.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere was that of appreciativeness, as the community has come to recognize that many of the health problems they are suffering from are probably caused by the contaminated water. As not everyone chose to sign up for the original order, Karla took a list of names for a future order that will total about 30 more units.
The village provided all we visitors with a hearty chicken soup meal.
Wednesday-December 20- We drove from Jalapa to visit a previously unknown, nearby clay filter factory, that will be much closer to our Jalapa projects than the one in Ciudad Sandino. We will thus be able to reduce transportation costs on future orders.
We then spent most of the day hiking, wading, floating and swimming the Coco river in Somoto
That evening with participated in a meeting with the Somoto Rotary club and secured their commitment to serve as the Host Country Club for the new Rotary grant for El Siuce.
Thursday-December 21- Our trip from Somoto back to Managua was highlighted by a side trip up to Galería del Arte de Jalacate. This arduous hike up Jalacate mountain brought us to the site of the interesting rock carvings done by Antonio Guitierrez, a semi-hermit octogenarian, who has spent his life in his work.
This evening we met with Rob Bell of El Porvenir, who agreed to help us in several ways with our El Siuce project.
Friday-December 22- Travel back home to begin Christmas season.
All in all, a good trip for moving the El Siuce work ahead and for finding fun and adventure.