Sleeping for four days in a hammock underneath a large wooden structure, open and exposed to all of the Amazon’s elements beckons for a post. Three of the nourishers (including myself), worked with members in a community on the outskirts of the rainforest to build a greenhouse in order to grow vegetables. Due to the infamous amount of rain the region receives, vegetables are nearly impossible to grow without some sort of roof to grow under, and of course, protection is necessary to deter the large array of pests.
The community was roughly two hours from the city, Puyo, where we were staying. Thus, to be more efficient, we decided to stay in the community with a host family for a week as we helped build the greenhouse.
We painted a mural in our free time:
We played in waterfalls, picked bananas and cocoa beans, hiked in the rainforest, and had our faces painted with tribal art:
But more importantly, we made an impact within a community composed of the most welcoming and liveliest people, all while creating a bond between us three that continue to this day.
Hello virtual world! It has been a while. Upon return from Bali, half of the team launched right into the summer institute and the other half fell back into normal life in our respective home towns.
This week we are all reunited and are jumping back on the Nourish train. Having the group back together has given us a lot of opportunity to look back upon our time in Bali.
We started off the journey pale but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We returned home after an amazing stint in Bali a little road-weary but tanner and satisfied. We were able to teach students of varying ages English skills like reading, writing, speaking and listening. With education, the progress is difficult to see to the naked eye but everyone was able to find worth in students correctly utilizing a pronoun or remembering to differentiate between he and she (there is no gender in Indonesian.)
The last week of our stay was all about launching an environmental program. We talked about this a bit in the previous blog post so I won’t bore you with all of the details again but we were able to make a real and visible impact on the coastline by Slukat and seemingly inspire many students to take initiative in their own communities and make a change for a more environmentally-friendly Indonesia.
As well as working with the students, the Slukat alumni were often around the compound and always willing to sit and chat. They also sought help with academia and English. For example, Agus is a talented young man who is looking to study abroad in Japan to further his hopeful law career in Bali. However, money and a solid application were needed for this so there was editing to be done as well as networking for finances. Check out his Gofundme page if y’all are interested in learning more. http://www.gofundme.com/c3cimk
I think that every team member had interactions with people this summer: students, staff, alumni, local people or other travelers that really widened their perspective on human nature. We were treated with nothing but kindness and respect by almost every single person we encountered. Sure, I would like to think that we made an impact and bettered the lives of our students; but they definitely made a bigger impact on our lives. And we are incredibly lucky to have been given such an amazing opportunity.
Thank you so very very much to everyone who contributed time or thoughts or money to our journey. We could not have done it without you and we appreciate it so much!
Nourish University of Idaho Chapter
As we head into our last week in Uganda, things are starting to wrap up. It’s exciting to see all of the projects that we’ve been working on so close to completion, but it’s sad to think that we only have a few more days to spend with the wonderful people we’ve grown to know over the past month.
The wells are nearly complete, both just waiting for pumps. Thanks to the unpredictability of Ugandan electricity, there are still a few parts that weren’t ready to pick up over the weekend, so we are waiting for them to arrive from Kampala in the next few days. Installing the water pump and purification system is the last step before both Kiseeza and Mazooba have fully functioning wells and clean water!
(Tarryn and Sarah helping lay bricks and rocks in Mazooba)
One inspiring moment from the past week was watching the community come together in Mazooba during construction. The well is at the bottom of the hill where trucks cannot reach, so we had to dump all of the bricks and rocks at the top. We spent one full day with community members helping shift the materials to the bottom, working alongside people of all ages carrying what they could manage, whether that was one brick, or eight.
(Children from Mazooba carrying rocks down the hill)
We also had the chance this week to sit down with Walusimbi Willy, one of the co-founders of Rural Health Care Foundation, to talk with him about all of the different projects the organization does. We realized that we didn’t know about much outside of our projects since we’d been so focused on water. After hearing everything, we were blown away by the range of projects and extensive involvement they have with the communities surrounding Mubende. RHCF started with a goal of improving the health of communities, initially leading to programs in HIV/AIDS treatment. As the organization grew, they added on projects for orphans, food and nutrition, maternal health, and other small projects. While water is their primary focus now, RHCF still runs projects in all of these other areas when funding is available.
While we have all been working very hard on completing the wells, we did steal a weekend to get away. Nearly all of the RHCF staff went with us to Queen Elizabeth National Park to go on a safari! It was really fun to hang out with the staff outside of work and get to experience something new for all of us. We saw lots of different animals, from water buck to elephants to hippos lounging in the Kazinga Channel. We also got to cross the equator!
It’s almost half way through our project and things are going well! Both of the water projects are underway. The first, in Kiseeza, should be working by the middle of next week. We helped to build the cement covering a few days ago and we’re waiting for it to dry before we can finish up. Yesterday, we watched the start of the second water project in Mazooba village – in one day the community dug 10 feet! It’s been really exciting to witness the construction of both projects and to see the commitment of the community.
These successes haven’t come without some slight setbacks. The weather, periodic heavy downpours, have definitely delayed the progress at Kiseeza. Many times, due to soil saturation, the sides of the well caved in. This destroyed the work on the day and the well had to be re-dug. The heavy rains also have been affecting our ability to get to and from the site. Our car has been stuck in the mud more than once, but thanks to the ingenuity of the villagers, we have been able to get it out and moving again. This definitely isn’t what we expected when we thought about complications, but thankfully nothing has been able to stop us from pushing forward!
In our free time, we’ve taken on a few more projects at the office to help make an even bigger impact. Tarryn has been working on helping create reports and graphs from baseline data, and teaching the staff how to use the various programs needed. We’ve also been helping to revamp their website to make it more user friendly and to hopefully help them attract more donors and grants! Check it out!
On our way back from Kampala last weekend, we had the honor to stop by another RHCF project – Rural Mama Children’s Home. We found out that it is an orphanage that was created as an offshoot of an HIV/AIDS program that they were running in order to find care for the orphans of the affected persons. While it is still largely under construction, the work that RHCF has done and what they hope to do is inspiring, and we can’t wait to see where it goes.
Probably the hardest experience we’ve had so far is visiting the only school in Kiseeza that services all children in a 6km radius. Being only 2 years old, it serves over 150 students from baby school (preschool) to primary four. Despite being on holiday, most students showed up to greet us and sing us songs. The headmaster and one of the teachers took us on a tour of the grounds and told us about how important education was to the village and the children. Unfortunately, even though there is a need and desire for education, only 100 kids were able to take their exams due to the high cost of school fees. When we asked how much it was, we were devastated to hear that one trimester only cost 15,000 shillings, the USD equivalent of $6. Needless to say, we were inspired to do something to help the children and the school grow, and hopefully we will be able to contribute in the future (keep an eye out, we’re working on a plan!!)
Here are some photos so you can see what we’ve been up to!
This is a kid getting water from the current water source. Not only are these local sources highly contaminated and shared with livestock, they also pose a danger to children who can fall in and drown.
Measuring how deep the well at Kiseeza is. You can see the flooding around the well that happened after a rainstorm.
Just over two weeks ago we started the work week with finishing the bunny cage that tortured our souls (we tried to upload a photo of finished product, but it repeatedly caused the computer to freeze). It was a great way to begin a week full of completing projects. After finalizing the construction at San Bartolome in the morning we taught all three workshops (accounting, empowerment, and herbs) in the afternoon. The next day (Tues., July 22 if you’re following along), we conducted the accounting workshop at Sumpango and we were treated to delicious local cuisine made by the women of the cooperative.
After lunch and a round of good-byes, we transferred back to Guatemala City and surveyed the site at Junkabalito. Over the next two days, we made, sanded, and sealed three tables, tilled ground and planted mother herbs, installed wire mesh inside a structure (note: getting the wire mesh inside the structure was a task in and of itself), and made two planter boxes from recycled pallets.
The weekend greeted us early – with a trip to Maria’s finca south of Mazatenango. For two days, we were hosted by a fabulous family in a fabulous puebla and stayed in an amazing home built by Maria’s grandfather 60 years ago, who styled it with antique Spanish and Moroccan flair. There was a waterfall, a gorgeous pool, coffee production, vermicompost production, bats, and insanely delicious home-cooked food in a grand hall. It was difficult to leave this wonderland, but we headed back to the city.
After conducting all three workshops for the women of Junkabalito on Monday, we had our first inauguration there that afternoon. It was great seeing the women excited about the work we did and eager to ask questions and provide feedback during the workshops.
We traveled back to Antigua that night to conduct our first follow-ups in Sumpango and San Bartolome. On Thursday, we left early in the morning for a major vacation: Semuc Champey and Tikal. There are no words to describe the beauty and awe of these two places. “The pristine, sky-blue natural pools, waterfalls, underwater caves, cliff and bridge jumping, incredible ruins, and magnificent scenery” doesn’t do these places justice. They seem other-worldly.
We’ve been back in Guatemala City now for the last few days. We visited Sumpango and San Bartolome Tuesday to do a final follow-up and answer questions the women had. We were again treated to delicious food, great conversation, and said our tearful good-byes por ahora – as we are all certain we’ll accept their offers to return. During a debriefing session with Byoearth, we all acknowledged how grateful and positive this experience has been. We are excited to see how next year’s team follows up and are anxious to stay in touch with each cooperativa.
As this trip wraps up, we’re bidding our final adieus and taking in all we can of this amazing country. We’re sad to leave and our good-byes are always tearful, but we’re looking forward to seeing our friends and family back home. Expect a reflective post in the coming weeks, and thanks for all your support, encouragement, and positive thoughts throughout.
Adios por ahora.
Global Mamas offers an awesome experience to both its volunteers as well as anyone who is interested to learn about traditional Ghanaian arts. The Cape Coast location manages the batikers and seamstresses around the area, so Abbey and Ericka were able to meet up with one of the batikers and take a workshop with her. Seeing the women do their work first-hand was fascinating. We had a lot of fun and were able to create the fabric that we used. We also got the chance to travel to and do some smaller projects at the Global Mamas Krobo location. The Krobo area is known for beads, hosting an enormous bead market every Wednesday. There, we were able to take another workshop with Grace and Moses, two bead makers who have worked with Global Mamas for 5 years. We learned the whole process of creating beads – from glass bottle to bracelet. It was great to see firsthand the work that is done within the Global Mamas family each day.
But our project nears its end. Over the past month, we have formed amazing friendships and successfully adapted to the Ghanaian groove—traveling in taxis to the office each morning and afternoon, in “tro-tros” to our favorite beach spots and weekly cricket matches, and to the farthest reaches of Ghana to experience the enormity of the largest waterfall in West Africa. Our database project is almost complete. When it is, Global Mamas will be able to use this tool to analyze how their organization has impacted their producers since the very beginning. We meet with management next week to illustrate our ideas to reorganize their offices in order to add an inventory Room and account for three new positions at the Cape Coast location- Inventory Manager, Design Assistant, and Production Assistant.
Only have a day left in Ecuador now. I meant to blog more than this but the time went by so fast. I’m definitely satisfied with how the trip went. We worked hard and I felt we had a positive impact on the communities that will be long lasting. I liked being able to experience Esfuerzo, Chuya Yaku, and teaching at a few of the schools. The Esfuerzo community was always very welcoming and thankful for the work we were doing. The people at Chuya Yaku seemed invested in carrying on the completion of the garden.
I wish we had explored more of the country but long travel times and short weekends made it difficult.
Overall, a great experience.
Five weeks later and we’re back in the United States (or Canada if you’re Dayae). Over the past few weeks we’ve experienced and accomplished more than we could have expected. We’ve painted well over ten walls and helped to fix the plumbing and mosquito nets around the bathroom of the school in Santa Cruz all while translating games from our childhood into Spanish.
We’ve traveled for countless hours by boat and hiked over 50 miles through the Amazon rainforest. We’ve found entertainment in things like mud balls and butterfly-eating spiders. We’re so thankful to people like Emerson, Gilberto, Devon and of course Nourish International for making our trip possible. We’re so excited to continue communicating with Santa Cruz throughout the year and help another group of Rice students prepare for their own Amazonian adventure.
This week was our last in Peru! We left our field station on Tuesday morning, and trekked our last hike. We exchanged sad farewells with Ruth and Casey, the two little girls who lived with us, their parents, and Oso their pet dog. We said bye to Gilberto (our cook) in Mazàn, and finally arrived back in Iquitos around noon. I can’t express the joy I (Dayae) felt at the sight of motorcars and streets. We all enjoyed the wifi at our hotel and fans (electricity is amazing) before heading out to eat at Ari’s, a local hamburger/pizza/pasta place near the hotel. We then headed to the Artisan Market where we were able to buy some beautiful souvenirs. I ended up going a little overboard on earrings – where else can you buy anaconda vertebrae, butterfly wings, porcupine spines, and Paiche (a fish) scales?!
At night, we went to a pizza restaurant and gorged ourselves on the most delicious pizza I’ve had. Half of that deliciousness came from the fact that we hadn’t had any Western food for five weeks, but the pizza was also great and cooked in an oven right below us. We then had some fun looking around the area near our hotel – it seemed like downtown Iquitos, with plenty of casinos and brightly lit clothing and electronic stores.
The next day, we attempted to go to a Manatee reservation and took a 40 minute motorcar ride there, but sadly it was closed. We did run into the director of Project Amazonas, who was there with another group about to leave for the field site, and he suggested we go to the zoo which was nearby. Fortunately that was open and it was a fun experience. It was also a little saddening to see the small spaces they left the animals in – the pumas had a cage smaller than my own room at Rice.
The next morning, we left for Lima and made it safely to our hotel. I thought I had been over-excited to see motorcars in Iquitos, but seeing cars was a whole new experience. We walked to a nearby mall to get dinner (at Chili’s!) and had some fun with a photobooth station and giant, moving stuffed animals you could ride.
The next day, we had the whole morning and afternoon before our flight back to the States, so we went to Miraflores. Unfortunately, Avery was sick and couldn’t make it :(. We went to a chocolate museum, where we got to make our own chocolate – all the way from unroasted cacao beans! We also went to Kennedy Park, or rather, Cat-edy park. There were so many cats just lying around everywhere – so many I couldn’t even keep count. Apparently there’s an adoption campaign for these cats, but clearly it’s not working very well! We also went to a local restaurant and the group split Cui…also known as guinea pig. It’s a delicacy in Peru, and we felt like we should experience it before leaving. It was quite the experience!
Finally, we returned to the hotel to collect our luggage and get Avery before going to the airport. I was actually very sad that the trip had ended, even though we’ll all be seeing each other again in two or three weeks. Nothing like the Amazon to make a group of strangers into a group of close friends!