Sunday, November 22, 2009

SIFE Volunteers

We are excited to welcome 4 volunteers from the SIFE chapter of the University of Valdosta, Georgia ... Cameron Hoopes, Scott Manley, Jeffrie Shipley and Nikki Mitchell.

SIFE is an international non-profit organization that works with leaders in business and higher education to mobilize university students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders. Participating students form teams on their university campuses and apply business concepts to develop outreach projects that improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need. An annual series of regional and national competitions provides a forum for teams to present the results of their projects, and to be evaluated by business leaders serving as judges. National champion teams advance to the prestigious SIFE World Cup. In addition to the community aspect of the program, SIFE’s leadership and career initiatives create meaningful opportunities for learning and exchange among the participants as well as the placement of students and alumni with companies in search of emerging talent."

The group, consisting of two students and two faculty advisors, has come to El Remate as an "outreach project" to teach us to market ourselves, both as individual entities (beginning with Gringo Perdido and Project Ix-canaan) and as a village that has a lot to offer as a tourist destination.

Over the past week, the group has spent a lot of time familiarizing themselves with Gringo Perdido and Project Ix-canaan ... here you see them checking out the new experimental water collection system at the Women's Center ...

And they have been visiting local points of interest, like the Ruta del Mono Canopy tour, to collect marketing information.

They have also spent a lot of time in the Ix-canaan library,

putting together a new website for Gringo Perdido (I'll let you know when its online!) and preparing for what could be a huge seminar this afternoon, to which they have invited all the hotel owners of the village.  The seminar will be in two parts ... Nikki is going to teach part 1 and Scott will teach part 2.  Tune in later to find out all about it.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Solar Cooking Workshop is Altered

After building the solar ovens on Saturday, we planned a Solar Cooking Workshop for Sunday. The volunteers had done fundraising before they left home, and were prepared for the expenses of the food, as well as the few things we needed for the ovens themselves.

Unfortunately, Sunday turned out to be too overcast to cook solar, so we turned the class into an indoor cooking class to teach the women the recipes for the foods that they had planned to cook in the solar ovens.  They taught how to make a delicious lentil and rice casserole, as well as a chicken/vegetable stew.

Julie Mikus taught the procedure ...

and everyone gathered around to watch ...

while Gloria prepared the tortillas ...

and Doña Goya prepared the fire with the comal on top to cook them for the lunch that followed.

For some reason, I didn't get photos of the lunch, but everyone agreed that the recipes were superb and we all look forward to trying them in the Solar Ovens.  We decided that we would collect more boxes over the next while, so we can commit one day to building the other 10 ovens for the other person in the pair, and while we are building, we will use the first 10 ovens to cook the recipes that we had just learned, along with a variety of other local foods, like beans, rice and sweet potatoes.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Solar Oven Building Workshop

The students from the University of North Carolina were instrumental in organizing and facilitating our first Solar Oven Building Workshop.  From left to right above:  Julie Mikus, Brandon Dixon, Jessie Kruse, Avani Javer, Roshen Edathil and Anushri Deshai.

We collected boxes from all over Santa Elena for weeks before the date of the workshop so we would have enough to make 10 ovens.  There were 20 women who wanted to participate, 10 from each of the two women's groups, so we divided them into teams of two to work together on the ovens.

The volunteers began by matching up boxes in pairs ... one approximately 2" larger on all sides than the other in each pair.  Sometimes they had to actually rebuild the boxes to get the right size.

Gloria and Doña Goya have chosen their paired up boxes.

Lots of cutting and folding.

The cut folded pieces of cardboard are stuffed below and into the sides, between the two boxes, to provide insulation to the stove.

Then the flaps of the outside box are folded and tucked in, and the flaps of the inside box are folded and then glued down to the outside of the box.

Then the insides were painted black.

A great deal of hilarity ensued when the women tried a variety of alternatives while trying to figure out the "wings", but it didn't take them long to come up with a workable design.

And cover it with aluminium foil.

The last step is to measure and cut a piece of glass about 1" larger than the smallest box on all sides.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Collaboration with N.U.F.E.D. for Computer Classes

This past school year, we have been collaborating with the Nufed School here in the village so that the students are able to add Computer Studies to their curriculum.

THE NUFED School is a technical institute for grades 7, 8 and 9. The graduates from this program are mostly unable (usually because of financial reasons) to go further with their education, so it is important to give them as many life skills as possible in their short time in this school.

We don't have enough computers in the Ix-canaan Library to be able to teach an entire class at once, so Byron, a local man who volunteers to teach Computer Skills to the students, has set up a schedule for afternoons, every second week. The eligible students don't get what I feel is ENOUGH computer time, but they at least get some time to become familiarized with the use of a computer. Considering that many of these students will be looking for work in tourism, their studies in Computer Skills and English are critical to their future success.

These two students are waiting for their class to begin ... it was an exam day, so they were spending every extra minute going over their notes before their class.

If you would like to volunteer to teach either computer classes or English classes to the students of the NUFED Institute (or any of a variety of other classes), then please let us know.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Volunteer Group from North Carolina State University

We recently spent 10 days working with a group of volunteers, mostly students from the North Carolina State University who organized two programs to benefit the local people.  The first of these programs was a Diabetes Awareness Day.  Shown above are Julie Mikus, Emily Soli (a woman who just happened to volunteer at this same time), Avani Javer, Anushri Deshai, Roshen Edathil, Jessie Kruse, and Brandon Dixon with Dr. Enrique and the early-morning line-up of patients who were interested in participating in this program.

Diabetes is a huge problem here in the jungle.  This is a result of diet (heavy on sweet coffee and soft drinks and low on nutrition) in combination with the hot humid climate.  Since there are no programs for the jungle poor who have this disease, many, often women, lose feet, then legs, then their lives at a relatively young age.

The volunteers had brought information for the patients, which they passed out while they prepared to do individual testing.

Anushri and Emily kept records of the patients ...


Jessie began by taking blood pressure and pulse

Anushri was in charge of height and weight ...

Avani took the temperature for each patient ...

Brandon prepares to help with the patient intake, also at the temperature-taking station ...

and the two nurses of the group, Roshen and Julie, were doing the glucose testing on each patient to determine if they have high blood sugar content, an indicator of diabetes.

The Diabetes Journey was a huge success.  Many diabetes patients were identified, and all were given information about how to manage their condition.

Here at Project Ix-canaan, we are continuing with a program for diabetics ... to identify those who are having problems, and to counsel on how to manage the disease.  We are in great need of ongoing donations of testing strips to check for blood sugar levels.


Solar Lighting

Thanks to Light Up the World, who donated this small solar lighting system, and Dr. Bob Dickson, who volunteered to bring it down with him when he was here in April, we now have solar lights in the Ix-canaan office.

The system includes a small battery, as well as a small solar panel

which we have placed on the edge of the lamina roof, where it gets relatively direct sun all day, and two small but powerful lights that each have two settings and about 10 meters of wire for each one.

The office is dark and cool, which is great for the climate, but lighting is required in order to work during the day ... we left the electric lights hooked up, but haven't had to use them since putting in the solar lights, thus cutting back on rapidly increasing electricity bills.  IT WORKS GREAT!  WE LOVE IT!!  Now, all we need is a solar system to run the refrigerator, the satelite dish and a device that will charge computers and cell phones, and we can get off the grid altogether.


Adelaida Finishes her "Practicas"

Here is Adelaida in her uniform in the morning, getting ready to go to her "practicas".  For the last month, she has been going each morning to work at a company in Ixlu.  She has done well ... and this week she will formally graduate from her course in "Perito Contador" ... Junior Accountant.  Adelaida's schooling  (and that of 3 other young women) has been supported for the last 3 years by a small group of 4 Ix-canaan supporters (coincidentally, two sets of sisters) ... Dina Hanson, Laura Bunting, Linda Kiernan and Ruth Bieber.

Adelaida will now be seeking employment and will not need educational support, but not only do we still have the other three young women who are working towards their basic junior-high education, but I have had applications from another 6 young women this year who would appreciate support in being able to return to school.  All of these young women, like Adelaida, were forced to quit their educations when they reached grade 6, and would now like to return, with the goal of becomming secretaries, teachers or accountants.

Please contact me if you are able to make a one time donation to our Scholarship Fund, or, if you can (even better) donate on an ongoing basis throughout the school year.  We do give tax deductible receipts for donations to this worthwhile cause, as well as quarterly reports.