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Nourish International

Guat’s Up! UCLA-UCSC team wraps up in Guatemala

August 9, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Summer Projects, UCLA, UCSC | By

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.


Anna Goldby, Jeffrey Hsiao, Ashley Luna, and Marisa Galasso instruct a lesson on accounting to the Cooperativa de Mujeres in San Bartolome.


Tamale, beef, and soup made for the team by the women in Sumpango.

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.


Allison Stafford, Paul Lee, Ashley Luna, and Jeffrey Hsiao secure additions to recycled pallets, which will be used as planters at Junkabalito in Guatemala City.


Allison Stafford installs wire mesh and nylon screening to the greenhouse frame at Junkabalito in Guatemala City.

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.


Maria’s finca, a Spanish-Morrocan masonry estate with coffee production, on the side of a volcano in east Guatemala.


Marisa Galasso and Lilianna Romero enjoy the waterfall on Maria’s property in east Guatemala.

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.


The team celebrates with the women of Junkabalito at the ribbon-cutting event for the new greenhouse.


Anna Goldby and Jeffrey Hsiao instruct the women of Junkabalito how to create planters from recycled plastic bottles and adhere them to the wire mesh.


Lilianna Romero shows the women at Junkabailito the garden that was cleared, where the mother herbs are planted.

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.


Semuc Champey – gorgeous natural pools formed by a rushing river below the surface – as seen from the mirador after an intense 40-minute hike.


Swimming in the natural pools at Semuc Champey.


Looking east from the highest pyramid in Tikal.


Most of the crew in Tikal.

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.

Week 5

August 8, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Ghana, Summer Projects, UMN | By

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Ericka’s Batik

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Crushing glass bottles to make beads

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.

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Some of the Krobo Staff

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On our way to Wli Waterfalls

Trip Reflection – Brandon

August 8, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Cornell, Ecuador, Summer Projects, UPenn | By

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.


August 6, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Peru, Rice, Summer Projects | By

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.

The renovated teacher's lounge!

The renovated teacher’s lounge!

Inside the girls' bathroom.

Inside the girls’ bathroom.

We didn't get to paint all the green walls.

We didn’t get to paint the green walls.

The teachers invited us to a final lunch on our last day.

The teachers invited us to a final lunch on our last day.

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.

Michael playing soccer during recess

Michael playing soccer during recess

Vy got the kids to do the "Vy pose" with her!

Vy got the kids to do the “Vy pose” with her!

Me (Dayae) with my trusty walking stick.

Dayae with her trusty walking stick.

Laura befriends Charlie the Cow.

Laura befriends Charlie the Cow.

Juan getting ready to lead the hike.

Juan getting ready to lead the hike.

Avery and the kids

Avery and the kids

Nick (who's already tall enough!) even taller on a ladder.

Nick (who’s already tall enough!) even taller on a ladder.

But first...let me take a selfie.

But first…let me take a selfie.


Week 5: Back into modern civilization!

August 6, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Peru, Rice, Summer Projects | By

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?!

Enjoying slushies at Ari's

Enjoying slushies at Ari’s

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.

A monkey that managed to escape from it's cage.

A monkey that managed to escape from it’s cage.

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.

Riding giant stuffed animals!

Riding giant stuffed animals!

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!


Week 4: Swim in the Amazon, then…run run run!

August 6, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Peru, Rice, Summer Projects | By

Sunday, 13 July
The World Cup Final! In addition to our usual Saturday trip, Juan, Michael, and I (Nick) took a Sunday trip to Mazán to watch the game. We were accompanied by Emerson, with boating by Julio and family. We arrived at 11 because we thought the game started at 11:30. Turns out it actually started at 2, so we killed some time using the internet and eating some delicious fish at the local cevicheria, El Pez Blanco. (The fish here is straight out of the river and better than any fish I’ve ever had. No annoying “fishy” taste.) Germany won, much to the disappointment of the 50 or so Peruvians also watching in the restaurant. They were all cheering for Messi, if not Argentina.
We walked back in semi-darkness without flashlights. The hike back was a little scary, but manageable. If the game had gone to penalties, though, we might not have made it back. (Emerson says there used to be quite a few jaguars around the field station, but we haven’t seen any yet.) We left Emerson in Mazán and picked up Gilberto, who just recovered from a few-day stint of malaria. We arrived back at the field station to discover that the girls hadn’t had lunch since we left with the cook! Luckily they survived on cookies and ate an extra big dinner to make up for it. 

Gilberto chillin' in his hammock.

Gilberto chillin’ in his hammock.

Monday, 14 July
Continued work on the school today, painting and replacing mosquito screens. Many kids are absent from school with malaria; Emerson said one class has 12 of 16 students out sick. The hike back was dreadfully hot so some of us decided to go swimming. While swimming we made 4 mudballs, and decided to name them Chachi, Tofer, Pablo Sanchez, and Pelota.

Tuesday, 15 July
Today for lunch Gilberto made us Huancaína, which is a delicious cheese sauce that tastes amazing with potatoes. We’ve asked Gilberto to make it more often. (Note by Dayae: this was my favorite food I had on the trip, and that’s saying something because all the food was amazing! I don’t even like cheese…)

Wednesday, 16 July
Watched Brother Bear and finally learned the word for the delicious ice cream things: curichi. There’s curichi salespeople everywhere. We keep calling it “helado,” but Emerson told us the real word today. The aguaje flavor (Emerson’s favorite) is made from palm tree fruit and has a really unique taste.

Thursday, 17 July
Incredibly hot today, so Michael and I (Nick) decided to jump off the boat on our way back from the school. It was slightly terrifying once we realized the current was stronger than we expected, but we both made it to shore safely. Then Juan and Dayae and I decided to run the trail instead of hiking. It was a terrible idea but surprisingly fun. We made it in 12 minutes and collapsed when we made it to the table. Gilberto had orange slices ready for us, and after a long, sweaty run they were the best-tasting orange slices I’ve ever had.

Nick after jumping off the boat.

Nick after jumping off the boat.

Friday, 18 July
We painted using ladders today, and bought some orange KR (a Peruvian soda) from a house store near the school. Then one of Julio’s sons climbed an incredibly tall coconut tree and threw down a couple coconuts. He hacked them open with a machete, and we drank the coconut water! It was refreshing even though it actually tasted pretty bad.

Michael did not like the coconut.

Michael did not like the coconut.

Then a bunch of us jumped off the boat again to cool off. Walked back to the field station with Emerson, and he told me a bunch of stories about working for Project Amazonas. Apparently he only took one year of English classes, and the rest of his knowledge was learned through work. Which is amazing, since he’s a pretty competent English speaker. He told me that the Mazán river has tons of stingrays. Emerson is such a wise, caring person. I’ll miss conversations with him.


Week 3 in Peru: Paintin’ Partay

August 6, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Peru, Rice, Summer Projects | By

It’s the end of the third week of our trip, and things are a lot calmer than they were the first few days. The hike is a lot easier now and there have been significantly less giant spiders/tarantulas in our huts recently. Rain kept us from working on Monday, which was a bit disappointing, as we were all really excited to start painting. It was nice to have another day of relaxation and sleeping in, though. On Tuesday, we had to head down to the school with a smaller group than usual, as a few of the girls seemed to have gotten food poisoning from our trip to Mazan over the weekend. I (Michael) haven’t gotten sick out here yet, so I’m hoping my luck continues!

Having fewer numbers than usual worked out, however, as when we met Emerson at the school and started painting, we had just enough brushes for the group that came. Painting was a really interesting process. We started by mixing the paint with glue and water until it was “ready”. I couldn’t really tell what made it “ready”, but Emerson was there to let us know when it was good. Next, we had to sand down the walls of the bathroom to clean off clung-on dirt and make the surface tacky for putting on the paint. Scratching the spiderwebs and bat droppings from the wall wasn’t the most glamourous of work, but we got through it pretty quickly. Then we finally got to paint! We went with a light blue for the boy’s bathroom, with a light green trim around the top of the room. Painting was a blast, and we played some music in the background to get into the zone, so it was basically like a mini painting party! We were able to get through several coats of the walls in one day, and when we came the next day, the room looked fantastic. With the whole group healthy again, by the end of the work week we had finished the boy’s bathroom, painted the wall outside the bathrooms green, and started on the yellow for the girl’s bathroom. The plumbing the bathrooms was also working without leaking now!

Boy's bathroom - Before!

Boy’s bathroom – Before!

Boy's bathroom - After!

Boy’s bathroom – After!

All the paintttt.

All the paintttt.

After a solid week of working, we actually got two chances to head into town. We went to Mazan on Saturday for internet and food, heading to Pez Blanco again, where we got a full menu this time around. We also found out they had spaghetti as a side, which literally everyone at the table ordered. The internet didn’t work out, as the laptop we were going to use died and couldn’t be charged, so we just enjoyed our meal and then headed back to the field site. On Sunday, the guys headed back into town to catch the world cup final. This was great as we had heard of Germany’s trouncing of Brazil a few days earlier and were dying to see some soccer. We came back to Pez Blanco, which had basically become our home base, and got good seats for the game. We accidentally got there a bit early (about 4 hours before the game), but it gave us time to use the internet and relax. The game was great, although a bit disappointing as almost everyone in Mazan was supporting Argentina. Still, the game was a highlight and a great way to wrap up another productive week in the Amazon.


Week 2 in Peru: EMERSON IS HERE!

August 6, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Peru, Rice, Summer Projects | By

On Monday at school, we tried Peruvian “ice-pops”. They look like ice pops, but taste a lot creamier (though there are also non-creamy kinds that we haven’t tried yet). The coconut flavor was full of little coconut pieces and was amazing, especially with the hot weather.

Yummy curichi.

Yummy curichi.

We also had someone else join us this week! Her name is Kate, and she’s a med student from Britain who is doing her elective with Project Amazonas. She just finished a medical expedition on one of PA’s larger boats, and will be staying with us until we leave. She’s staying for a bit longer and going on another boat trip – I don’t know if I would be able to stay here that long!

The whole crew, Kate is the 2nd person in line.

The whole crew, Kate is the 2nd person in line.

The day after Kate came, the boys had a visitor in their hut: a giant spider that we named Ivy (she looked terrifying and poisonous, so…poison ivy?). She was our entertainment for the night, as she ended up murdering 3 butterflies and making them a 3-course meal. Now that’s something you’ll only see in the Amazon.

We were waiting all week for Emerson, the constructor who is supposed to help us, to arrive but he was nowhere to be seen…until Friday! We were all so excited because now we have all our supplies and we can start working on our latrine-repair project. So far we’ve been playing games with the kids at recess (Pato Pato Ganzo, or Duck Duck Goose, is crazy tiring because all the kids are fast and the sun is so intense).

Once he got here, we were able to clean out the bathrooms so we can paint them. The boys’ bathroom had been full of bats so there were bat droppings and twigs everywhere. Emerson told Nick that the twigs are actually fruit tree branches, and that the bats eat the fruit. Anyways, next week we’ll finally be able to paint and we’re all very excited!


Week 1 in Peru: Row, row, row your boat!

August 6, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Peru, Rice, Summer Projects | By

We’re here in Peru! It was a long journey with lots of flight delays (we had to board a plane, get off the plane, and reboard another plane in Lima), but we made it to our home for the next five weeks. We’re pretty isolated – Iquitos is the nearest mainland city and it takes around 2 hours to get there (30 minute hike, 50 minute boat ride, 15 minute motorcar ride through a small town called Mazàn, and a 30 minute speedboat ride). Speaking of, the hike from the river to our field station is quite intense. It’s only a mile long but it takes us 30 minutes because we have to step through recently machete-d trees, canoe across a flooded region, and try not to trip and die along the way. We’ll definitely get in shape here!

Michael canoeing through the flooded part of our trail.

Michael canoeing through the flooded part of our trail.

Part of our daily hike.

Part of our daily hike.

I think we were all a bit surprised when we saw the huts we would be living in. The huts are half wood and half mo
squito netting (so that air can flow through, seeing as there’s no electricity for fans or AC), and have thatched roofs. There are beds in the huts, and thankfully we have mosquito nets to put around the beds – I have no words to express how many mosquitos come out to feast on us here.

Hut sweet hut.

Hut sweet hut.

The first night was especially bad for me, because we had to shower in the dark. The only two showers are outdoors (though they have walls and doors) so I (Dayae) felt pretty vulnerable. Juan also found a stiff, dead mouse in one and I nearly touched it thinking it was a leaf. It took me quite a while to recover from that, haha.

The bathrooms at the field site. The showers are the two doors on the right.

The bathrooms at the field site. The showers are the two doors on the right.

But the excitement couldn’t end with just a dead mouse – not in the jungle! Vy and Laura found a tarantula in their hut and eventually moved to another hut. I also woke up to very disturbing scratching noises in the middle of the night. Turns out, they’re from harmless geckos on the thatched roof but I thought a giant bat was going to come and eat me.

Basically, it was a tough week of adjusting but I’m feeling better already. The food is WONDERFUL (Gilberto is our chef and he could probably win Masterchef), and showering in the light is a lot more pleasant. We also haven’t seen any more tarantulas (though that could change in the next few weeks), and there haven’t been any snakes on our hiking trail yet. The kids at the school we’ll be working at (15 minute boat ride down the river) are wonderful and adorable. The school even has toilets already! We had all thought that we were going to be building portable latrines, but it turns out we just need to fix the plumbing. Unfortunately the constructor we’ll be working with – Emerson, isn’t here so we can’t start yet. For now, we’ve been keeping busy by teaching English and playing games with the kids during recess.

We’re all excited for the next four weeks!


Yahgala (?) Uganda

August 5, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Summer Projects, U Washington, Uganda | By

One week since we landed in Uganda, and it’s been quite the experience! Everyone at RHCF has been wonderful to us and made us feel at home. It took no time for us to get settled before we were out in the field working along with staff members and the communities surrounding Mubende. One of RHCF’s primary goals is to make sure there is no more open defecation by December 2014 through teaching sustainable hygiene and sanitation practices to all. We went out into the field to do baseline studies in different villages to assess the extent to which they already follow sustainable practices, for example looking at whether they use latrines or have hand-washing stations (which they call tippy-taps). The point of this is to assess the potential impact that a well would have on a community; if villagers do not practice sustainable hygiene and sanitation, then the water will be contaminated and the well will become useless.

After doing studies in four villages, we analyzed our data and selected the two villages where we feel the wells will have the most impact, Kiseza village and Mazooka village. The community in Kiseza was so grateful and excited about the project that they started digging the next morning at 8am and have been tirelessly working since It’s been amazing to see their progress and to watch the community come together to oversee its completion.

Having the chance to experience and learn about a new culture has been great for all of us. Paige has been our leading language expert and we’re learning that simple phrases like “my name is Paige” and “I like jack fruit” go a long way with the children, though they rarely choose to respond and rather giggle and look away. We have quite a fan club of children anywhere we go, normally there are about 20 trailing kids on any walk. The company has been great, and despite the laughs, it’s helping us improve our Luganda.

One of the funniest moments of the past week has been introducing peanut butter to the RHCF staff, it was a big hit. It’s asked for at every meal and has been put on everything from potatoes to beans to egg sandwiches. We’ve gone through half of a huge jar in two days, and we’re expecting it to be gone in a few more. After trying so many new dishes made by the staff, it was nice to share one of our favorite foods with them too!

This weekend we will be in Kampala and hopefully we will be able to get up some photos!