Reflections on day 6


Today is our last day of construction. Tomorrow we are heading back to Managua to stay as our flight out on Friday is very early in the morning.  I was supposed to work on the high school building again – and I really wanted to – but my wanna-make-it-better-for-everyone side warred with my I-wanna-be-selfish side, and the wanna-make-it-better side won out. I’m glad too because it turned out to be a good choice.

Here’s a little bit of what happened: a number of our volunteers ended up with stomach issues, so instead of 23 people strong, we were only 16.  Of those, only 3 were left to go out to Casa Rio del Coco.  The remaining 13 volunteers going to work on the school were joined by 12 additional school attendees and teachers.  Soooo, the school has plenty of help and the village? Well, not so much.  So, I stay on the bus for the mountainous, gear-grinding, bus ride south.  At least it’s not raining today.


Monday’s wet and muddy drive south.

On Monday we worked on the stove bases.  Today we will continue with the chimneys and assembly. We are also set to build 15 Eco Biosand water filters.

Bicoand filter

Biosand Filter

These filters are made of simple materials that cost about $19. They are plastic buckets with a sieve at the top. The water is poured into the sieve and then filters down through sand.   The organic material present in the dirty water is trapped at the surface of the sand bed, forming a biological layer which actively removes pathogens and contaminants. (There is a scientific name for this layer but we know it as common slime.)  The filters are 95 – 99% effective in removing dangerous contaminants from the water, and 100% effective in removing parasites, rendering it clean and drinkable. Drinking waterWe completed 8 filters and have all the parts ready for assembly for the additional 7.  While working on the filters I learned 2 important lessons:

  1. The hardware store around the corner from my house in Denver is a pure luxury.
  2. Wastefulness comes in many forms – not all of them tangible.

Let me explain.  Lesson 1: Part of the process for assembling the filters involves a rubber washer.

Hose washer

The $0.17 washer that stopped us cold.

Just a simple one – the kind you use when attaching your garden hose to the spigot.  It costs around $0.17 each. You probably have a few of them scattered around the workbench or lying on the garden shed floor. Well, we ran out of them about half-way through.  And when you run out there is no Home Depot around the corner to just “go and grab what you need”. Honestly, I don’t even know where you get your building supplies. So when we had assembled all we could, we just continued with what was left- knowing that the final assembly would have to wait for another day.

Lesson 2: I got an insight on all the little wasteful habits I have. It came when I was changing the drill bit from a small one to the keyhole bit. Most of you know I use drills on a daily basis. I am very familiar with all the workings, chucks, keys, reverse, forward, strength, and speed. So I didn’t even pause when starting to change the bit.  I held on to the chuck

Drilling buckets

A lesson in wastefulness. (With Antonia & MK.)

(that’s the black section just below the drill bit), set the function to reverse, and squeezed the trigger to roll back the bit holder. It takes about 1 second to open up the bit holder enough to replace the bit.  As I was putting down the small bit to pick up the new one, Antonia took the drill from me and showed me that I should just unscrew the chuck manually rather than using the power to assist. In one flash I saw how important the littlest things are when you are not in a privileged area.  I realized that when the battery pack ran out of juice, we were done.  There was no plugging in, no switching out of battery packs, no running to the hardware store.  Power gone = project stopped.


I really can’t even begin to tell you what lessons, how many, all the insights, and (hackneyed as it sounds) soul changing experiences I had while in Nicaragua. Since I came home, I have been asked many times about the trip. Sometimes I don’t know where to start to tell about everything.  But in the end, this is what I think sums up the entire trip:

“It was amazing!  Absolutely incredible – but what was most important was that I learned that almost 100% money you donated ends up funding the charity. The staffers from are 100% volunteer.  Not only do they each give their time, but they each paid for their own trips. On top of that, the money goes directly into the economy.  All of the construction workers are 100% local; the general contractor is an expat living in San Juan del Sur, so his money goes back into the community – you are funding salaries, jobs, families, people. You are bringing clean air and safe drinking water to children, adults, and villages. All of the building supplies are locally sourced, renewable, and unbelievably beautiful! The school is not supported or funded by the government.  With the exception of some teacher training and accreditation, all funding for the school comes from donations, foundations, and primarily through the sister city project.”

That’s it!  I confirmed what I already believed – this is a great charity, funding an independent, well-deserving project. Checks are written and people paid.  I couldn’t be happier with my choice and I believe that everyone who helped should rest assured that each donation went where it should. Period. Fini. The end….  well, not really, I have a lot more to tell you, so look for more posts in the future.

This is a really great video -a 360º walkthru of the new building.  Be sure to use the left and right controls in the upper left corner to swivel the view to see the entire room.

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