Guatemala Service Trip Assessment



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Guatemala Service Trip Assessment

Sydney Anderson, Randal Berkley, Mary Scherer, Aaron Treglia, Kevin Passino

The Ohio State University, Humanitarian Engineering Program

Humanitarian Engineering Scholars and Women in Engineering


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Lake Atitlán, Guatemala (above, Volcano Tolimán on left, Volcano Atitlán behind it, and Volcano San Pedro on right); Mayan woman in Chichi (below)


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Day One: May 17, 2014: Saturday

  • Flight from Columbus to Guatemala City

  • Drove from Guatemala City to San Juan La Laguna which is on Lake Atitlán – approximately a 4.5 hour drive

  • Arrived in San Juan La Laguna, reserved rooms in Hotel Maya, ate dinner there at Restaurant Maya, then watched a community basketball game

  • Explored the community because it was a likely site for a Habit for Humanity Guatemala build

  • Positive: Beautiful community

  • Negative: Very difficult to get to, winding switchbacks down a mountain


Day Two: May 18, 2014: Sunday

  • Went to Chichicastenango (“Chichi”), shopped/checked out the market – approximately two hour drive from San Juan La Laguna

  • Visited with ASELSI (Association of Equipping the Saints International)

  • ASELSI had only healthcare opportunities for the time being and was rented out for the week; heavy focus on healthcare in future but some construction and perhaps some education opportunities

  • Drove to Panajachel (“Pana,” < 15,000 people) and secured a hotel (Posada de los Volcanes) that we stayed in till Friday - a hotel used by Mayan Families – about an hour to drive from Chichi to Pana.

  • Located “Mayan Families” building (Mayan Families is the largest nongovernmental organization – NGO – in Pana):

Mayan Families: https://www.mayanfamilies.org


Day Three: May 19, 2014: Monday

  • 10:30am meeting with Hannah from Mayan Families and toured Mayan Families facility

  • Mayan Families is an NGO founded in 2005

  • The Mayan Families facility is split into 11 parts:

    • Director Offices

    • Donor Relations

    • Marketing

    • Store (for sales to visitors and donors – Mayan products – at fair trade prices)

    • Preschool

    • IT

    • Library

    • Medical Building

    • Computer Lab (about 20 laptops)

    • Sewing Room

    • Micro Finance Office

    • Accounting Office

    • Construction Office

    • Carpentry School

  • Met with Sharon Smart-Poage (cofounder/co-director of Mayan Families), Sara Luiza Kolata (architecture and green construction coordinator), and Hannah LaPalombara (volunteer coordinator). After brainstorming, the following ideas for OSU-Mayan Families projects were identified:

    • K-12 STEM education at schools

      • Definitely need cartoons with no language for experiment construction procedures (Prof. Betty Lise Anderson experiments) as mostly Spanish is spoken, but some Kaqchikel, and it is clear that the more advanced technical terms do not need to be introduced and pictures will suffice (in all cases?)

      • Preschool (Age: 3‐5) at Mayan Families facility – could do some STEM experiments for 5 year olds

      • Mayan Families also associated with middle school (K-8?) not within the facility

      • Middle school may be better for some STEM experiments

      • Mayan Families also supports schools for about 3000 people all over the area (around the lake) and these could also be candidate sites for STEM education

      • Showed DC Motor demo to a four year old who was interested in the project and capable of doing most of the steps

    • Construction Projects – Natural building

      • Research on natural building is needed (i.e. bamboo strength and adobe brick chemical recipe for construction)

      • Natural building (sustainable, local materials, traditional building) effort led by Sara, an architect.

      • Program format: Lectures/class (1 week)+Sweat work  (~1 week)

      • Perhaps shorter term help is needed too, definitely for sweat work

    • Construction Projects - Schools

      • New builds and renovations

      • Mayan Families has about 3000 students in area plus 200 schools they work with

    • Single Homes needs

      • Stoves (to replace open fires in houses)

      • Water filters (established system that they sell)

      • Rain sequestration system (gutters + barrels?)

      • Solar panels (with donor dollars)

      • New construction (in natural building program with adobe brick)

      • Renovation (roof, gutters, room addition, for example)

    • Sewing program: Learned about the sewing program that empowers women. Traditionally in Guatemala machine sewing is a male-dominated trade while hand-sewing is done by the women. Teaching women machine sewing allows women to earn more money to support their families. We saw a class in progress. We also saw the classroom for automated embroidering (laptops connected to embroidery machines). It seems that this program is also focused on empowerment of women.

    • Research opportunities

      • Bamboo building for structures (research strength of bamboo joint building, particularly multistory structures)

      • Adobe brick durability

      • Comparative study of light bulbs types, solar panel types, solar lantern types


Day Four: May 20, 2014: Tuesday

  • Talked to Dwight Smart-Poage (cofounder/co-director of Mayan Families), Maria Fernandez (Mafer) (construction co-head & architect), Sara Luiza Kolata

  • Travelled to El Barranco to visit a construction site for a pre-school

  • Visited three homes to see living conditions so we could see first-hand the needs that Mayan Families is trying to meet.

  • Mayan Families representatives answered our questions:

    • What hotels do people usually stay in?

      • Mayan Families takes care of that (usually Hotel Kaqchiquel)

    • Do they understand mathematical symbols (e.g. in STEM cartoons)?

      • The students we work with should know

    • Is there a local electronic supply store?

      • Should be able to find them (we sent them a list of needed parts and they will confirm that they are available locally). But later found out that the parts are not available locally.

    • Can we have a job description for the internship? An internship is a multiple-month stay outside an envisioned OSU trip.

      • Sara sent us job descriptions in an email for various different internship positions, and Hannah sends out general applications to interested students

    • Are they concerned with lighting in homes? (solar lights, light bulbs)

      • Easily incorporated into a house

      • Mostly financial need for donating solar, not many technological or research needs. D.Light not as good as Sun King pro ($23-$86) (durable solar panel and bright light)

      • There is a need to compare different types of light bulbs (LED are ideal but too expensive) and determine the amount of time a bulb needs to work to pay back relative to other bulbs, particularly, a compact fluorescent bulb. But, that study would only be useful to their donors – so they could create an argument for providing LED bulbs. Would have to take into account what is available in Guatemala.

      • Note: They have a 3-day workshop for women on creating and installing solar panels – for homes.

    • Is there interest in aquaponics?

      • Not really, they said we could start a project on our own but they weren’t looking to support such a project right now.

    • Is anyone helping people with disabilities? (wheelchairs and mental)

      • There is some work that can be done for people with physical disabilities (prosthetics for amputees etc.), but it doesn’t really fit what we are looking for

    • Would you get access to clean water if we installed wells?

      • Cheaper electronic answers (submersible pumps)

    • Would they be interested in making microfinance more computer  automated?

      • “Mifos” has some multilingual micro finance software for the world www.mifos.org

      • It would be of value to test it out to determine if it is valuable for Mayan Family’s microfinance program, potentially cut down the size of the open source software, and they would need a computer with more computing power donated to handle that size software. Seems that they would need help to help the staff learn it.

    • Is there any way we could have the kids construct a 'computer'?

      • To be further discussed based with Prof. Betty Lise Anderson

      • Depends on how the initial STEM education projects go and on availability of electronic parts

    • Do you have a need for computers? They have a significant need for computers (laptops or desktops that have a flat screen monitor, but those may be more difficult to ship) (windows XP and newer). The preference for computers is those that have good computing power as it seems that many of their computers are not only old (in some cases >10 years) but ones without good computing power.

    • Do you have other IT needs? They have a need to have someone set up their network properly (make sure there are no dead zones on their wifi at their facility) and to set up network printers


Day Five: May 21, 2014: Wednesday

  • Visited local hardware store (checked for electrical supplies for STEM experiments, but did not find any)

  • Visited “Maya Traditions” another local NGO (but much smaller than Mayan Families)

    • Organization that works with women weavers, and natural medicine and sells product in the United States

    • Did not see an opportunity to work with/for them, but perhaps they could give people on our trips a tour of their activities (however, the only part that is different from Mayan Families is the natural medicine part)

  • Returned to Mayan Families and discussed fundraising possibilities for the HES program by working with the Mayan Families store. Would need to determine what the funds would be for (e.g., to pay for some product to be donated to some Mayan family). Idea now: Personalized hand-made bracelets from weavers to sell to OSU students

  • Visited San Antonio which is a likely construction site for Summer 2015.


Day Six: May 22, 2014: Thursday

  • Traveled to Universidad del Valle de Guatemala Altiplano in Sololá

    • Met Erik—the head of Engineering department at the university

    • The University only has an agricultural and forestry engineering program

      • Tour of Agricultural Engineering Experiments

        • Patrick Brown showed us the “No energy” cooler experiment

        • Met Liz-Anne Wheeler and Jose, a student who is conducting experiments with fungus as an alternative to pesticides, and they showed us experiments that were meant to improve the quality and quantity of post-harvest produce

        • Erik and Juan showed us the university’s greenhouse in which they were conducting different experiments with tomatoes and roses involving soil types and insect traps.

    • Returned to Pana and visited “Friendship Bridge Organization” (another NGO)

      • Spoke with a microfinanceer

        • He explained their microloan mission, but did not indicate a need for volunteers

        • Directed us to their website for more information


Day Seven: May 23, 2014: Friday

  • Traveled from Panajachel to Antiqua at about noon, getting us much closer to the airport in Guatemala City.


Day Eight: May 24, 2014: Saturday

  • Traveled back to the US


Web Site: During the trip, we got approval for a web site that was requested from the College and set up the initial web site:

https://guatemala.engineering.osu.edu

We plan on filling out the details on this web site after returning to OSU (where we will have a better internet connection).

In Panajachel, San José Pinguinos, Mayan girls playing the marimba, the Guatemalan national instrument (click on picture to see video).




O-H-I-O with group of 11 Mayan boys, most of whom are shoe-shine boys, after playing a soccer game with them.



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O-H-I-O in front of Lake Atitlán (Volcano San Pedro in background)



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