Posted by: justinknabb | January 24, 2011

Transcript from Virtual Brownbag Conf. Call, part 1 of 3

Last month we held a “Virtual Brownbag” conference call to update our supporters about the progress we’ve made in Waslala in 2010. I’m posting an abridged transcript from that call for everyone to view.  Because the call was relatively long, I am breaking it up into three separate parts. This first post covers some general topics and Meaghan Gruber tells us about her own background. The next installments will be posted over the next two weeks and will cover our most recent system construction for the El Varillal #2 community. Also, the entire deck of photos from the presentation is also posted here on our blog.

Justin Knabb: Good evening, Happy Holidays and welcome everyone to our first ever Virtual Brownbag conference call!  We are so glad and excited that you made time to join us.  Since we began this work in 2004, our team here at Water for Waslala has continued to work so hard to deliver the necessary funds, materials, and technical support to this specific community in Nicaragua.  Your participation on this call strengthens our resolve to make a difference that much more.

A challenge for us since day one has been: “How do we take Waslala—this poor yet extraordinary community, and make it relevant to our supporters here in the United States, thousands of miles away?”  This conference call was one idea we had to help bridge that gap.  Thanks to this webinar technology, we can stream high def photographs directly from the lush mountains and valleys of Waslala, right into your living rooms or offices tonight.

So let’s get started.  Your presenters for tonight’s call include Meaghan Gruber, David Rounce and me.  Starting with myself, I am on the Water for Waslala Board of Directors, and I have been involved with this NGO since its very beginning about 7 years ago.  I’ve been to Waslala myself, and have had the chance to present on this work to supporters ranging from Philadelphia to San Francisco over the years.  Needless to say, this work has really been a big part of my life.  Next up will be Meaghan, who has served as our first full-time Waslala Project Manager this past fiscal year.  Meag just recently completed her year of service with us, and will fill you in on some of the progress made in that year.  Finally, David is joining us in the middle of final exam season at the University of Texas-Austin.  David is currently an environmental engineering masters student there, and he recently served as an engineering intern for us.  After heading down there as a Villanova student, David was inspired to help us design systems for Waslalan communities with very urgent water needs.

Before I hand the mic over to Meag, I would like to paint the context of our mission for you first.

Let us NOT forget how truly critical water is in our lives.  We drink it to survive, to quench our thirst, to cook, to clean, to wash our clothes, to bathe.  Quite simply, water is LIFE.

We are fortunate right now if we can get up from our computers, walk to the sink, and receive clean water that looks much like this.

Yet, nearly 40,000 people in Waslala spent their morning, afternoons and nights on this day fetching water from polluted streams just like this.  This is reality.  Furthermore, 900 million more people around the world have the same challenge.  Just this year, the United Nations issued an official proclamation that water is a fundamental human right.

We cannot overstate the importance of addressing and taking on this challenge, focusing on this specific community of Waslala that we know very well, and building sustainable systems.  Please keep this mission in mind tonight as you listen to Meaghan and David.  So, without further adieu, here is Meag!

Meaghan Gruber: Hi everyone and thank you Justin for the introduction. I’m excited to be here tonight to share with you a bit of Waslala and the work we are doing down there.  There is no way to fully pass along the gratitude from the beneficiaries on the ground as a result of WfW’s support – but, tonight I hope to give you a little taste of the impact of our work over the past year.  We have a wealth of great photos to share with you this evening, and I have no doubt that the smiles and joy seen on faces of Waslalans will touch your heart.

Waslala has become home to me over the past two years.  The one thing that visitors are always struck by about Waslala and comment on a lot to me during their time there is the generosity of their people, their hard work ethic, their friendliness, and their deep kindness.  You can’t help but feel overwhelmed by their enthusiasm and warm personalities when traveling out into the rural communities.  This all struck me when I first went down to Waslala as a short term volunteer in 2002.

I started with WfW as volunteer in January 2009 and later helped establish the Pastoral del Agua (translated into English) the Water Ministry of the local parish in Waslala.  The local parish has been active for decades with the region’s social projects, having offices committed to primary education, our own secondary technical institute, a health project, and a street kids program – and it seemed like a natural fit to include our water project as a formal “pastoral,” or ministry, of the parish.

So the Pastoral del Agua is the local partner of WfW – it’s the office that facilitates and supports the successful construction and maintenance of water systems in Waslala.

The picture you are seeing now was taken in our parish office– I’m sitting with Virginia Leiba, who is our project facilitator.  Virginia and I led educational workshops, which I’ll talk about later.  In working closely with her this year and seeing how well she worked with leaders of different communities, I myself learned how to better develop the trust of community leaders to keep our water projects moving forward.

For those of you who haven’t been to Waslala, I want to quickly give you an idea of the town.  Waslala Central is the small city of about 6,000 residents, located in the center of the greater Waslala region.  It is surrounded by over 100 rural communities in the mountains, making the population of the municipality over 50,000 people.

The rural communities are very remote and require a combination of truck/motorcycle/or bus travel and then either hiking or horseback to traverse the rugged terrain.

The rural communities range from a pop. of 100 to a couple of thousand.  Most people of the communities are subsistence farmers – growing beans and corn for survival, Men typically work in the fields – farmers and women typically work in the campo homes – washing clothes, caring for children, cooking, and retrieving water.  The people are materially poor and drink water from the closest water sources, which are often contaminated, leading to health problems, especially among the children.

And water-borne disease doesn’t just lead to health problems – it causes severe and chronic diarrhea that prevents proper physical and mental development in children, wastes hours of time each day, and impedes the economic development of the region.

To be continued next week…



  1. […] in the El Varillal #2 community, which was completed in October 2010.  We published the first of three installments of the transcript from the call last week.  The final installment will be published next Monday!  As always, thanks […]

  2. […] and offers final thoughts on her time spent working with Water for Waslala.  We published the first and second installments on our blog over the past two weeks, which you can view by clicking on the […]

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