Posted by: iainjhunt | December 16, 2010

By Way of Introduction…

Greetings Water for Waslala supporters, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Iain and I’m the (soon-to-be) new project manager for the Pastoral de Agua in Waslala, WfW’s partner on the ground.

A bit about myself… originally, I’m from a small town named Del Norte in Southern Colorado, possibly so named because the region represented the northern extent of the Spanish footprint in the Americas. I graduated in 2004 from the Colorado School of Mines with a degree in applied mathematics, and then set forth immediately for a tour with the Peace Corps in Jamaica, where I worked with an NGO in charge of managing the island’s largest protected area. Then I returned stateside for a couple of years and worked with a for-profit environmental consulting firm.

DR pipeline

Constructing a suspended stream crossing in the D.R.

Soon after, however, I found I had a continuing desire to work in international development, so I signed up for a second tour with Peace Corps–this time in the Dominican Republic. In some ways, my road to Waslala originates here.  It is here that I spent the last two years living in a remote campo community that I accompanied (while providing the necessary technical assistance) through the various stages of the development of their own potable water project. With construction of my community’s water system completed, I spent the better part of my final months in the DR on the road – visiting sites for prospective future projects to perform feasibility studies and prepare preliminary designs and budgets – and also visiting sites of previous projects with the goal of forming a regional association of community water committees.

But whew… enough about me!  I’d rather describe to you my initial visit to Waslala in November, and tell you about some of the amazing people I met during the trip…

Junior Gasparini, the parish administrator, along with his wife and four-year-old daughter, greeted me at the airport. The following day, we embarked on a 7+ hour drive to Waslala where we got to know each other and I had a great chance to familiarize myself with the vast array of projects in which the parish is or has been involved. And they are vast – the construction of schools in the campos, youth programs, community heath promotion, and an agricultural institute, just to name a few. Junior, a native of Brazil, has been in Waslala for seven years, after originally planning to stay for just two. The enthusiasm he exudes while talking about these programs is contagious.

During my week in Waslala, I stayed at the parish house. There is a photo of the parish priest, Padre Anelio (another Brazilian), on the wall there that stood out to me.  On the photo he’s mounted atop a horse and equipped with rubber boots, undoubtedly en route to one of the nearly 90 campo communities surrounding Waslala, where he spends the vast majority of his time visiting and engaging with the campesinos.

The agenda for Day One in Waslala was to visit El Guabo, the next community that will begin construction of a water system in 2011. That day I was accompanied by Virginia Leiba, the Pastoral’s community organizer/ all-around superstar.  It was great spending several days with her, touring communities that either had completed water projects or were applying for water projects.  I sensed this aura that she projects in these communities where she’s worked for the last 20+ years.  She is certainly a loved and respected friend and neighbor. When we returned to town that afternoon, I met Virginia’s husband and she introduced me as “mi nuevo jefe”, “my new boss.” I smiled and suggested my preferred term, “compañero” — partner.

I soon met Denis Taleno as well, who is WfW’s go-to maestro de construcción in Waslala (I prefer the Spanish title “construction master” than the bland English one– “general contractor”). He accompanied me to a few existing (including some recently built) water systems. The way I saw him interact with members of the community water committees, promoting sustainability of water systems and their associated maintenance funds, showed that he provides a service beyond “just building stuff.”

When I return to Waslala in January, I anticipate that my plate will be fuller than those plates of rice, beans, and tortillas generously offered to my compañeros and me by folks in all the campos we visited.

One immediate priority will be to begin construction in El Guabo. I also plan to visit each and every community where a water system has been built during my first months.  These will be visits with a two-fold purpose: (1) for me to better orient myself and get to know the people and geography of Waslala, and (2) to perform a rapid assessment addressing the general question: “How are we doing?”

Additionally, Virginia and I have already had extensive conversations on where we want to go with the educational portion of the Pastoral’s work– we share the dream of organizing a workshop for all the water committees in the region of Waslala.  Our workshop would cover (of course) essential health and hygiene themes, but also topics ranging from watershed protection to water system and community fund maintenance. Finally, I’m sure the arrival of a group from Villanova in early March will come before we know it.

However, despite the scope of work we have before us, I am confident that we will accomplish much in the coming months.  Fortunately my predecessor, Meaghan Gruber, has left this position well-organized for me, and there is incredible team of people that WfW has invested in and partnered with us in Waslala.

Can’t wait to get started!

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Responses

  1. Good luck, Iain! As wonderful as this group sounds, and I might be slightly biased, but Water for Waslala sure made out on this deal with a heck of a project manager. Looking forward to hearing all the new stories, about all the new people you meet, the lives you change, and your development as a leader of worthy causes. Kat and I also look forward to visiting soon! Be careful out there, buddy! We love you!

  2. […] with the completion of our 13th water system this past month, in the village of El Guabo Jicaral. Iain Hunt, our Waslalan project manager, replaced concrete with ferrocement for our storage tank and […]


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