Posted by: justinknabb | February 13, 2011

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

In this final installment of our “Virtual Brownbag” conference call from Dec. 2010, David Rounce tells us about his time in Waslala in the Summer of 2010, helping to design systems for the El Guabo and Yaro Central communities.  Meag Gruber then describes the role that educational workshops play in the larger fabric of our work, 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 links.  Thanks again to everyone who participated in the conference call back in December and/or stopped by our blog to read the transcript… we hope this all gave you a clear look into the world of Waslala and the important development that we’re spearheading in the region.

DAVID ROUNCE: One of the things that I loved about Villanova University was its focus on service break trips… and Water for Waslala is a perfect example of uniting service with students from Villanova.  The relationship between WfW and the Villanova Engineering program is phenomenal.  Every spring a group of engineers from Villanova head down to Waslala to conduct feasibility studies for potential water systems in communities all over Waslala and return to work on preliminary engineering designs.  It’s a remarkable experience for engineers to learn how to combine education and service, and of course it’s very beneficial to Water for Waslala.

I was fortunate to be involved in one of these trips my junior year when I led the engineers and what happened was I absolutely fell in love with the people down there.

During our trip, we often went on hikes up the mountains through the jungle to check out the springs.  I remember the pastor of the parish, Padre Annelio, leading the way with his machete as he slashed our way through the woods.  Thinking I was a pretty fit guy, I was surprised by how hard we had to work on these hikes, so when they told us that in order to build the system the communities have to carry up 80 lb bags of cement and those big rocks you saw in the tank… I was shocked.

On that trip, we had an overnight stay, where we did our work, but also got some time to get to know the community we were helping.  When we got back from our day of work a big group of guys had been waiting for us for hours and took us out to play a pickup baseball game out in this rural field that was just majestic.

I made a friend and talked to him about his lifestyle, his family, his fields, his animals… and on our hike back the next day we were just singing songs (me and English and him in Spanish obviously).  It made me really feel connected to these genuinely incredibly people, and I was inspired to get to work on these projects.

So it was an easy decision to go volunteer for the summer of 2010 after graduating from Villanova and design two of WfW’s upcoming systems (those being El Guabo and Yaro Central).  It turned out I left the Monday morning after graduating on Sunday the day before, to get down to Waslala.  At first I truly missed school, couldn’t believe I had graduated, couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to be living with all my best friends anymore… but looking back Waslala was the perfect place to be.

While at the parish I was living in the center of town and really got to make a lot of great friends.  I got to know people on a very personal level, and Meag is right– they are some of the most caring and genuine people I know.  Everyone I knew worked so hard on their education or to pay for their kids to go to school.  Living there also made me realize how much these communities need these systems for clean water.  Furthermore, it provided me with a constant source of motivation to get these designs completed.

When I went to work on my two sites, I truly saw how much effort these communities were putting into these projects.  Each time I went out for surveying, we’d have a bunch of community members out their helping us out… chopping our path with machetes, answering any potential questions, just doing anything they could to help.  This picture (above) is from Yaro Central where we were taking measurements at a stream crossing, but it also shows a glimpse of all the people that were there helping us and their commitment to these water systems.

One of my fondest memories from my trip was when did our surveying work in Yaro, where we literally walked at least 10 miles throughout the course of the day and we had a huge group helping us the whole day.  It also started to pour midway through the day; hence they chopped down those big banana leaves, that you saw in the first picture of me, to use as an umbrella!  So as we’d continue to survey we were fairly cold and exhausted and as we’d walk along the road the people would invite us into their homes and give us a cup of coffee… to be honest I hate coffee but that day I think I had about 5-6 cups (and it was delicious)!  Their hospitality and generosity were just overwhelming… I think it’s just a special part of their culture cause you find that everywhere you go… It’s incredible.

So while I was at the parish, everyday I’d work on the engineering designs- each of these systems is going to serve 2 schools and approximately 40 homes each… which comes out to serving over 300 people with clean wáter.  I spent my days learning the intricacies of the designs of each part of the system, and I learned so much while I was down there.  But the most rewarding feeling was when I finished those designs and went over them with Meag.  Just the thought that these systems were ready to be built and that I had done them was incredible.  I felt so empowered, but this couldn’t compare to how happy I was for the fact that these communities that I had gotten to know were finally going to get the clean drinking water that they deserve.

So when I heard that we’ve received funding to build El Guabo, I couldn’t stop smiling all day.  It was such a great feeling and so I have to personally thank you, on my behalf and definitely on the behalf of those in the community and all the communities that Water for Waslala has supported because your generosity is truly remarkable and will make a huge difference in their lives.  I’m really excited for our new Project Manager to get down there and to discuss the designs with him before he goes down so that everything goes smoothly.  I’ve also talked with Meag about having to go back down in a year or two in order to visit these communities and check out the systems and also to see all my friends.  It’s just genuinely exciting and just puts a smile on my face every time I think about how much these systems are going to help and how incredible of a time I had thanks to all the friends I made down there.

So really I just want to say thank you to our supporters and to Meag, who is definitely one of those great friends that I made down there.  Now Meag is going to tell you a bit more about the other initiatives that Water for Waslala has been involved with.


Moving on from Dave’s presentation I am going to quickly share a bit more information on the education workshops that Virginia and I have started up with the Water ministry this past January.

Please keep in mind that most people in Waslala have only studied up to grade 3 or 4 before joining their families to work the fields for essential income.  So, on top of ensuring that clean water is made available in the communities, it is critical that people learn about related topics that simply were not taught to them in school.

For example, the first workshop we held was on how to rid water of contaminants by boiling, or adding chlorine and filters. We also have taught about proper hygiene and its larger importance in maintaining our health – from hand washing to keeping clean kitchen spaces.

Our second workshop was on reforestation, the impact of chemical use on water, and the importance of caring for the environment.  You can see some forest land burned down in this picture.  It is critical that community members understand that burning down trees for farming is just a short-term solution that harms Waslala’s eco-system.  Also, burning the forests harms the integrity of the sources that provide water for the rural communities.

This photo was taken in Yaro Central– the community that Dave was just talking about and is due for a water system in 2011. There they are working on reforesting the water source.  Pictured are some of the 700 bags of seedlings the community started to ensure that the area is well forested.  Two-hundred bags in Guabo were reforested as a way to show care and commitment to the land and water project pre-construction.

In this photo you can see Noel, who is from a partner-project at the parish’s Secondary Institute.  He’s putting on a demonstration for the members from the community of Zinica 1, which already has a WfW funded system.  Noel was showing communities how to start seedlings in a cacao shell, which are quite prevalent in Waslala.  Existing NGOs have joined forces with us and have been helpful in with these workshops, which WfW plans to continue organizing in years to come.

Before our question and answer session, I would like to share some final thoughts.  The people of Waslala often refer to our work as a great hope and a dream for the future – the absolute essentialness of the project and clean water for all is a fundamental human right for everyone.  I think that our work in Waslala is beautiful as it shows the solidarity we have with the people of Waslala … working side by side on projects… and supporting them through our funding of materials.   You listeners all make this through your contributions, and they reciprocate with their commitment to the cause through their sweat equity and community organization.

I want to thank donors for funding our work over my tenure with Waslala and going back to 2004.  12 new systems later, we all feel in Waslala that we have already accomplished a lot, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without this support.

Justin actually surprised me the other day by putting this last slide in.  This is a photo taken in July 2009 of me and a dear friend from Waslala, Dona Rita, who died just over a year ago.  His choice was fitting as she was a wonderful friend and one of the most prominent community leaders in Waslala—Dona Rita never stopped running around to support those most in need.  She never stopped talking about the importance of all the humanitarian work done through the Parish in Waslala – as well as my work there.

The need is there and it is great.  However, we can do something about it – working together across cultures.  Please know as you listen in at home or at the office tonight, that because of our work this past year, community members in El Varillal and 11 other communities are drinking clean water tonight.  And it’s all thanks to you, our team at the parish, and last but not least, the dedication of the communities.

Working together we will continue to do some great things.



  1. congrats for the work you’re developing in our country, it’s just more than an excellent project.

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