Posted by: waterforwaslala | January 12, 2013

Volunteer reflection: Your task – change their lives

By Kevin Woods, Villanova Univ. Mechanical Engineering PhD ’12

It is amazing how numb we have become to the fact that we have fresh, clean water at our fingertips.  I’ll never forget being at a conference in Colorado and having a foreigner ask, “Is the water safe to drink in this hotel?”  The question seemed, frankly, absurd and so far from my mind that I didn’t have a response at first.  But then I remember my time in Nicaragua.

There, we’d take full day trips by foot and horseback through tropical hills and jungles to villages where the water served to us was as brown as iced tea.  No 9-1-1 for help.  No social services.  Just the supplies on your back, companions by your side, and a canteen of clean, fresh water worth more than gold strapped to your belt.  It’s a humbling experience like no other.

Kevin Woods and friends during their trip to Waslala with Villanova University

Kevin Woods and friends during their trip to Waslala with Villanova University

It’s not that the people of Waslala don’t have water.  Quite the opposite actually- there is plenty of fresh water.  It’s simply non-potable.  Something a simple sand filtration, and chlorination system will remedy.  In most of the communities there is little technical know-how,  no electricity, no hardware store (within a days walk), and not much economic activity.  The supplies available are limited to the basics and you must design a cost effective, serviceable, continuously working water supply system.  That is your engineering task while in Nicaragua.

I will carry my experience in Nicaragua with me forever and would encourage any person to volunteer down there.  However, this isn’t a one day trip to paint a wall or feed the homeless.  This is a multi-semester investment of time and effort to provide living conditions to people that are significantly better than their current situation.

If you’re up for the task, I encourage you to join me and the Water for Waslala team to make a difference!

Kevin Woods earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Villanova University in 2012.  Kevin currently works as a Research Engineer for the United States Office of Naval Research.

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Posted by: waterforwaslala | January 4, 2013

We need you to help us manage our website!

We are looking for a volunteer website design and content manager to manage and improve our website!

Because we are a virtual organization, with no physical office space in the US, our website is literally our home. Our success as an organization depends on how well we communicate our mission and our impacts with our supporters on our website. Which is why this volunteer position is so critical to our organizational success, and so exciting for those looking to apply their skills to a great volunteer opportunity!

Do you have – or know anyone that has – a creative side, experience with creating and editing images in Photoshop, and knowledge of the technical side of website management: the WordPress CMS, SEO, and basic languages like ASP, PHP, and JS?

And do you want to put those skills to use to help a non-profit with an exciting mission to end the water crisis for 60,000 men, women and children in Nicaragua?

Finally, do you have 1-2 hours a week to volunteer from home?

Then check out our volunteer description for more information, and send us an email today!

Posted by: dawnmepstein | January 2, 2013

Hitting the Ground Running in 2013!

Executive Director, Dawn Epstein

Executive Director, Dawn Epstein

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe that it was only a few short months ago that our founder, Matt Nespoli, was writing about building a new Water for Waslala and now here I am writing my first blog post as the Executive Director!

As you may have seen in Matt’s most recent newsletter, Water for Waslala has grown significantly in the last year and we have ambitious plans to help more people in 2013 than we’ve helped in the last eight years – combined! So I am here to help us achieve these goals in both the US and Waslala by managing our day-to-day US operations, scaling our fundraising program, and improving communication with our donors and supporters in the US.

I’ve worked in nonprofits and fundraising for over six years and I am really excited to join Water for Waslala. Check out my bio here.

There’s something special about this organization that I can’t quite articulate. Maybe it’s the laser-focused mission and the sense of urgency to solve this crisis, while insisting on doing community-supported, sustainable work. Maybe it’s the compelling story of how it all started with a group of college kids on a trip who decided to take a need they saw and do something about it. Or maybe it’s the simple fact that for about $100 you can literally change the course of someone’s life by providing access to clean drinking water. I don’t know for sure, but whatever it is, I’m honored to be a part of it.

At the end of January I’ll be making my first trip to Waslala and I can’t wait to see our work first-hand. From what I’ve heard, I’m in for an adventure and I’m really excited!

Have you been to Waslala? Do you have a great Waslala memory to share? What’s your advice for a first-timer like me?

Posted by: mattnespoli | November 9, 2012

Seeing our baby grow…firsthand

Last month, I visited Waslala, Nicaragua for the first time in over three years. My biggest takeaway from the experience: wow, how we have grown!

Three years ago, when I was last in Waslala, we had no full-time salaried staff members on the ground. Rather, we utilized volunteer parish staff and a contracted construction manager to implement our projects. We realized at that point that we needed more boots on the ground to improve the quality and sustainability of construction of our water systems, so we hired two staff in 2009, and two more in 2012.

After countless phone calls with our Waslala staff over the last few years, I finally got to meet the voices I had come to know so well. For those of you who might not know, we currently employ four staff in Waslala: Iain, a US expat who works as our coordinator and project manager; Virginia, our Waslalan community organize; Denis, our water system technician; and Wil, our admin and accountant. Here’s a photo of the team:

The Waslala team: Iain, Denis, Virginia, and Wil

For much of the trip, I shadowed our team as we traveled out into the rural Waslalan communities where we implement water projects. Here’s what I observed:

Iain and Virginia with the water committee of Santa Maria Kubali

Iain is trusted, respected, and well liked by the Waslalan people, and is exceptionally good at too many things to count.

Virginia seems to be beloved by every person living in Waslala, and has excellent communication and interpersonal skills, which makes her very effective in organizing and training community members to build, maintain, and use a water system or household filter properly.

Denis working on a stream crossing in Yaro Central

And Denis has become expert in his work building the myriad components of a water system without the need for oversight or correction.

In short, our team is top caliber and doing an excellent job turning Water for Waslala mission into reality on the ground. Seeing the growth and improvement of Water for Waslala over the last three years, manifested most clearly in our staff, made me very proud and energized to continue raising the money we need to continue helping the people of Waslala.

Over the next 12 months, we’ll be hiring 3-4 new staff in Waslala to continue improving our delivery model in Waslala and to begin scaling our work at a much faster pace. If we can find staff as talented as the ones we currently employ, then the only limits to what we can achieve will be the amount of dollars we can raise every year!

I’ll write more on our plans for growth in Waslala in a separate post. For now, enjoy the pictures from our trip, and thank you for supporting the life-changing work we are doing in Waslala!

Posted by: aviloewenstein | October 24, 2012

Impressions of my first trip to Waslala

I joined Imagethe board of Water for Waslala in the Fall of 2010, and after two years and many hours of hard work on behalf of the organization, I figured it was finally time to make the long trip to Waslala. One of the ironies of modern day travel is that we can travel far across the earth, yet our bodies do not physically move from one or two spots all day. Unfortunately, the trip to Waslala is an exception – while the plane trip to Managua is typical, the final 3 hours of the 7 hour journey from Managua to Waslala are spent on a steep and jarring jeep road, making the journey both mentally and physically exhausting. Upon arriving in Waslala, I felt as though I had traveled every inch of the 3,000 miles from Denver. This is all to say that Waslala is a remote part of our world, separated from a metropolitan center by almost a day’s travel. Few places in America can claim the same.

Waslala refers both to the city of Waslala and the surrounding 90 or so communities scattered around the adjacent mountains. Seeing the people and places I knew only through phone calls, emails and pictures felt a bit like meeting a pen pal for the first time, or seeing the movie of a book you’ve read. Waslala is hot and humid, but exceptionally beautiful. If the trip to Waslala wasn’t such a nightmare, ecotourism would abound, with hiking, zip lines and rafting trips; instead it is a place untouched by tourism. In contrast to the outlying communities where we build water systems, the city of Waslala is a bit more affluent than I had expected – the abundant cell phone stores indicate that the residents do have some disposable income, though the awful infrastructure and decaying wood-built houses are a reminder that this is an area of tremendous poverty.

Water for Waslala has a valued partnership with the engineering and nursing schools of Villanova University, and my trip coincided with a visit of a group of engineering undergrads who use the trip to study the design and construction of our gravity-fed water systems. The purpose of my trip was to see the people and the places, as well as assist in the construction of the water systems, though it is the communities themselves who are responsible for building the systems. As an organization working in a region that witnessed some of the most intense fighting in Nicaragua’s civil war between the US-backed Contras and the ruling Sandinistas, we are cognizant of the “white savior industrial complex” as it is known, and have structured our organization and our solutions to thoughtfully address the complex and difficult context of Waslala. As described in our annual report, we provide the materials and technical expertise needed to construct gravity-fed water systems, but each community that applies for a water system must form a management committee, raise at least 5% of the system cost for its maintenance fund before construction begins, and create written rules governing the management and use of the system. Waslalans are also in charge of constructing the system (with technical help provided) and maintaining it with their own personnel and funding. Water for Waslala helps the Waslalans achieve their own water-related goals by facilitating community organizations and providing materials, engineering expertise, and health and environmental education.

During my week in Waslala we visited three projects – Yaro Central, a system very close to completion, Acote Cubali, a system still in its design phase, and Santa María Kubal, the rehabilitation and extension of a system we built in 2006. In both Yaro Central and Santa Maria Kubal, we helped oversee and build two stream crossings that would permit the systems to be extended across two streams. To ensure their longevity and safety, the designs are technical – there is lots of graph paper involved and I kept hearing words like “abney” and “frictional losses,” which to a non-engineer are as perplexing as English is to the Waslalans. I contributed where I could, recreating my summer in Alaska by digging part of a trench and moving rocks, although calling my contribution slight is an exaggeration.

Acote Cubali is one of the more remote communities in Waslala. While the treacherous roads through Waslala get pretty close to many of the communities, the first homes in Acote Cubali are a solid hour’s hike from the road on poorly constructed horse trails. Our task for the day was to do a topographic survey of a branch of the system off the “main line,” which required hiking another 2 hours to some of the furthest homes in the community. As we mapped out the system and how it would be routed from home to home, the residents of the community acted as our guides. While we were slugging through dense jungle and steep slopes taking measurements, our project manager, Iain Hunt, became concerned the branch was becoming too long, which was not only too expensive, but not mechanically sound. The residents wanted the branch to extend to a group of three homes further down the valley, but after hiking and measuring almost a mile, it seemed that the homes were simply too far, and Iain instructed the group to stop taking measurements. The realization that the branch might not reach the three homes caused visible angst and frustration among the residents. As a corporate lawyer, I’ve experienced many difficult conversations with our clients and had to deliver plenty of bad news, but this was markedly different: in the balance stood a fundamental human necessity. Thankfully, after descending down closer to the main line, we realized that it is very possible to reach the homes from another branch of the system, and we relayed the good news. Iain and a team will have to return to ensure its feasibility, but knowing that it is likely that the system can reach the homes is incredibly relieving.

Despite dutifully following the advice of the travel doctor I visited before the trip and avoiding untreated water and raw vegetables, I became quite ill for about 24 hours in the middle of my trip. I’ll spare the details, but suffice it to say that I think I now know what an all juice cleansing diet does to the system, and am not interested in repeating the experience. I think getting sick drove home for me the importance of our work here; Waslalans too get sick from the food and water, and the lack of access to medical professionals and facilities (not to mention the Ciprofloxacin that saved me) only increases the urgency of our work.

One final thought: On Sunday in Waslala we attended a quasi-religious “celebration” that involved lots of music and signing. One of the community members gave a sermon of sorts, and discussed the importance of helping others in need, no matter how much one can give. He asked the group of Americans why we come down to Waslala to help. The answers were predictable: we have an obligation to help those less fortunate; helping others restores our faith in humanity and heals our souls; helping fulfills our religious obligations, etc. These are all good reasons, and true, but for me the most compelling reason is that of necessity: if we do not provide Waslalans access to clean water, it is unlikely that anyone will. While the local municipal government is well intentioned, they wholly lack the resources and expertise needed. The Catholic church had been doing wonderful social work here, but a recent organizational change resulted in the church eliminating essentially all of their social programs. Moreover, there are virtually no other NGOs in Waslala focusing on water issues. Although I can’t explain how it has come to this, access to clean water for most of the 56,000 Waslalans now depends on Water for Waslala, a U.S. non-profit located some 3,000 miles away. We’re committed to continuing and scaling our work, and I hope that you’ll continue to support us and help us achieve our goal of sustainably providing clean water to all 56,000 Waslalans.

Posted by: mattnespoli | September 11, 2012

From our founder: building a new non-profit…again

By Matt Nespoli, WfW Founder and President

Three days after I graduated from college in 2004, while many of my friends were in the midst of moving to new cities and starting new jobs, I was on a plane to Nicaragua. I had boldly pledged to everyone I knew that I was going to be spending the next 12 months starting a successful new non-profit organization called Water for Waslala, which would provide everyone living in Waslala, Nicaragua with safe drinking water for a lifetime.

Interestingly, I had no experience building water systems, no fundraising knowledge, and no capabilities for building a functional organization…but no matter!  I had heart! Passion! Ambition! Those things were just as important as real experience and knowledge, right?  Right, I would have thought back then.

Then suddenly, I landed in Nicaragua. The days of talking, of romanticizing about what I was going to do, were over. It was time to figure out how to actually do it.

And, somehow, over the last eight years, with the help of an amazing Board of Directors, talented staff in Waslala, and countless donors and supporters here in US, I did. Well, sort of…but more on that later.

Today I find myself back where I started. It’s the middle of September, and most of my classmates from the MIT Sloan MBA graduating class of 2012 have moved and started new jobs…while I’m about to board a plane for Nicaragua.

You see, I’ve decided to delay starting my full-time job until January and spend the next four months working for Water for Waslala. My goal is the same as it was in 2004: create a brand new organization called Water for Waslala. Let me explain.

Over the last eight years, we’ve managed to raise $546,000, and today roughly 2,500 Waslalans can turn on a faucet at school or home and have a constant supply of clean drinking water.  While we’re proud of these accomplishments, they pale in comparison to what’s needed.

For example, there are 56,000 people currently living in Waslala, and so far we’ve only helped 4.5% of them gain access to safe drinking water. Moreover, given the $100+ marginal cost of supplying each additional Waslalan with clean water, we estimate that we’ll need over $6 million to finish the job, of which we’ve raised less than 10%.

If we continue raising the same amount of money in the future as we do now, it will take 62 more years for us to finish our work. At that point, I’ll be waddling around at the ripe old age of 92, and will probably be too senile to remember what Waslala even is (a fruit, perhaps?). Not acceptable!

So, in short, the scale of our solutions does not match the scale of the problem. Which is why, over the next four months, I intend to put together, with the help of our Board of Directors, a new strategy for rebuilding our organization from the bottom up. Luckily, today, unlike eight years ago, I’ve got plenty of non-profit experience and a freshly minted MBA – not to mention the intellectual firepower of the rest of the Board – to help me find a way to propel WfW forward.

So…here we go again. Time to board that plane for Nicaragua. Time to stop talking about what needs to be done, and actually do it. Time to build a new Water for Waslala. Onward!

Posted by: norapillard | September 5, 2012

Searching for a new Waslala project manager!

By Nora Pillard Reynolds, VP & Director of Communication

Water for Waslala has been so lucky to work with Iain Hunt in the role of Project Manager in Waslala for the past year and a half. In this relatively short time Iain has…

… pushed us, as an organization, in new directions,

introduced innovative solutions (built our first ferrocement tank!),

completed construction on our biggest water system to date in El Guabo,

started construction on a new water system in Yaro Central (currently underway),

initiated reforestation efforts,

built strong relationships with our staff and partners in Waslala (see this post for a great example of Iain’s focus on relationships),

initiated ties with other water NGOs working in Nicaragua (blog post to come about recent meetings),

served as a mentor for undergraduate engineering students,

successfully facilitated our transition to work with ADIS (local NGO in Waslala),

made me (personally) think about our work in different ways,

and so much more that I cannot even begin to do justice in this blog post!

Have no fear…Iain is not going anywhere (yet)! Iain will continue working with us in Waslala until at least next May, but we are starting the search for a new project manager NOW. It is crucial that WfW can continue the work that Iain has underway and for a smooth transition we think it is vitally important to have substantial overlap time in Waslala with Iain and a new project manager. We are excited to continue moving forward with our work and incorporate another perspective with a new project manager. Please keep this opportunity in mind if you know anyone who might be interested…or might know someone …etc.

For more information take a look at the job description or contact me at nora@waterforwaslala.org. Thanks!

By Nora Pillard Reynolds, VP and Director of Communication

In April, fellow WfW board member, Justin Knabb and I attended the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative Conference. The conference, “Measure of Success: Performance Indicators for Drinking Water Projects in the Developing World”, attracted over 100 professionals and students to the University of Pennsylvania for the day.

During one interesting panel, Elynn Walter from WASH Advocates called the audience to “discontinue business as usual”. John Sauer from Water for People commented, “we want the whole process to be in the hands of the people…the customers”. Sauer continued by asking whether we are considering the customers’ goals and satisfaction. Acknowledging the lack of understanding about customers’/ beneficiaries’/ community members’ perspectives, Sauer emphasized that Water for People wants “to do customer feedback type work”. Now I could spend a whole blog post discussing what term we should use…customers, beneficiaries, community members…but, for now, I will stick with the term used in Waslala…the community.

This lack of understanding and even focus on the perspectives of those that we are presumably there to “help” is problematic for several reasons that relate to the sustainability of projects, but I think the importance of community perspectives is best demonstrated through a few stories. Oftentimes, when NGOs or development organizations arrive in a location with their own ideas about what the community “needs”, we completely miss out on knowledge held by community members that would improve project sustainability.

In a past blog post, “What would the pigs eat?”, Jordan Ermilio, the Director of Water System Engineering, wrote about his experience with a failed sanitation project in East Timor.
Another story that demonstrates the importance of communication with community members to ensure sustainability was told to me by a local partner in Waslala.

A group of optometrists travel to a rural village in Waslala to conduct vision consultations. In the village, they are received by lines of villagers waiting to see “the doctor”. The group does have translators with each doctor in order to avoid communication problems. With limited resources, the doctors use Bibles to conduct the vision tests. They ask the villagers, “Can you read this?” Many of the villagers respond, “No”. The doctors give those villagers a pair of glasses, which they proudly put on for their walk home. The villagers are thrilled with their new glasses. The doctors feel satisfied that they have been able to reach so many people in one day who never have access to an eye doctor.

So what’s the problem? Well, the majority of the older villagers in this location are illiterate. When the doctors/ translators asked them if they could read the Bible, the responses meant that they could not read as opposed to whether they could see the words displayed on the pages of the Bible.

Another example from my experiences in Waslala relates to a large water system project funded by a foreign embassy.

The water system was planned to serve most of the Waslalan town center- several thousand people. An outside engineer was contracted by the embassy to conduct the feasibility study. The following year, when I was back in Waslala, I asked the local municipal engineer how things were going with the large water system. He just looked at me and responded, “Well, it works great during the rainy season”.

What is the problem? During the rainy season in Waslala (about 9 months/ year) water access is less of a problem since community members can use water collection techniques. The dry season is when water systems are crucial since community members have no access to rain water. The outside engineer had taken the flow measurements for the new water system during the rainy season when (of course) there was adequate water flow to serve the town; however, during the dry season that water source does not have adequate flow. Months of construction and substantial funding had only resulted in a water system that works during a time when community members already have access to water. The local municipal engineer knows about the fluctuations in flow due to the seasons and, if asked, knows that it is crucial to always do feasibility studies and take flow measurements during the dry season.

Over the years, anyone engaged in development work collects stories that demonstrate the necessity of working WITH the community and letting the community members drive the projects. Some of them would be funny (like the one about the pigs) if it wasn’t so tragic to think about the resources- money, time, energy- that were spent on unsustainable projects. These challenges and stories like this from past work inform Water for Waslala’s approach in everything we do.

Can anyone share some stories of your own?

Posted by: waterforwaslala | August 21, 2012

Starting construction on a new water system in Yaro Central

Hi everyone, my name is Chelsea Mackie and I’m a recent Villanova engineering grad who is volunteering in Waslala for several months. I visited Waslala with other engineering students three times while at Villanova, and after the first time… I was hooked. After being here for several weeks helping out with WfW projects I can say that I love my new home and am truly excited to be here.

One of the projects that is currently underway is a new system in the community of Yaro. I finished Spanish classes just in time to return to Waslala to witness the building of WfW’s second ferrocement tank. I thought the best way to highlight the week for everyone would be to show some pictures that I took.

The first thing to note about Yaro is that it is quite a journey from Waslala. Three hours in a public truck that I could never get used to, no matter how many times I went. Transportation became an even bigger challenge for us during construction because of all the rain we had. On our first trip home from Yaro after constructing the tank floor our truck couldn’t make it up the hill. Thankfully, the next truck was able to, and pulled the pickup truck that one of our friends was in out of the mud as well. We were able to go home with them and avoid the more frightening alternative.

Not only did the rain make transportation a nightmare, but pouring the floor of the tank was a struggle as well. After a decent amount of concrete had been put down, it started to pour. We had a tarp ready to cover the work site, but it wasn’t enough. A small river started flowing over the freshly poured concrete. Thankfully, with the help of some dry cement, everyone came together to finish the work after the rain stopped.

The rest of the tank construction went smoothly in comparison to our transportation and weather problems at the start. Despite all the challenges one faces while living here, I was incredibly excited to witness this construction and can’t wait to get involved with more projects in the months to come.

The pictures below provide a peak into the construction process…

Fist you need an area to put your tank

Then you install the plumbing

Then you pour the floor

Which gets wet from TONS of rain

Then you run into your friends who are stuck in the mud

And your truck can’t get up the hill

Then you go back the next week to add a tarp

And concrete on the inside

And then the outside

This was my “shower” for the week (I use water and a pan to shower in my house too)

Our home away from home in Yaro Central

With a gorgeous view

Me in the tank!

Add a roof

And don’t forget the radio for entertainment while you work everyday

More concrete

And there you have it!!

Posted by: iainjhunt | August 7, 2012

Transition to ADIS Part 1 – Waslala History Lesson

Beginning June 1st, 2012, Water for Waslala signed agreement with the recently established local Waslala NGO Asociación de Desarrollo Integral y Sostenible (ADIS) to manage WfW’s on-the-ground operations, including water system construction, filters projects, health and environmental education, community organization, etc, etc. As friends and followers of WfW’s work likely know, WfW since its inception had partnered with Waslala’s Catholic parish, Parroquia La Inmaculada. Briefly stated, the agreement with ADIS marks the continuation of a relationship with the same partners we’ve always worked with. But to better explain how we’re coming to work with ADIS requires a brief Waslala history lesson, as well as a brief WfW history lesson…

A friend of mine in Waslala recently asked me how WfW first got involved building water systems here. I told her the story of the Villanova students who first came here nearly a decade ago, who returned not only impacted by the injustices they witnessed here, but also having fallen in love with Waslala and the Waslalan people. My friend smiled and added “and in love with Padre Nelson, I imagine”. Padre Nelson was one of the first of a series of remarkable Brazilian priests who have worked in Waslala since the war-torn 1980s to build up little by little the social initiatives that have made a huge impact in bringing about a form of dignified human development in this remote municipality.

Left to right: Padre Nelson, WfW President Matt Nespoli, Padre Vanderlei- 2005

But this history goes even further back, back to a time before there was a parish in Waslala, back when Waslala wasn’t so much of a town as a frontier outpost, with a few houses, one store, and a military installation that remains to this day. In the late 1970s, a group of Brazilian nuns first established a mission in Waslala, and it was they who began the community health initiative that would later become the parish’s Pastoral de Salud (Health Ministry), and now, ADIS. They began forming a network of community health leaders, promoters, and midwives that now numbers over 150, and training people in the cultivation and use of natural medicines. Our own Virginia Leiva worked with the Pastoral de Salud for 18 years, first as a volunteer in the network of community health leaders, and later as an outreach employee, traveling to all of Waslala’s 90 villages. During the war years, the parish was one of few institutions that was able enter conflict-affected areas to provide much needed resources. And even after peace was officially reached in 1990, the violence only continued in Waslala, where armed groups remained armed. Leading up to the present, the Pastoral de Salud has continued its work, remaining the umbrella for the ever expanding and strengthening of community health leaders, and amplifying its efforts to also focus on HIV/AIDS education and nutrition among other areas. Anticipating that the scope Pastoral’s might one day exceed the capacity of the parish to keep it under its umbrella, some 4 years ago, project collaborators began to make moves to establish an independent NGO, to be named the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral y Sostenible, translating to Association for Integral and Sustainable Development, known by its acronym, ADIS.

Image

Virginia on one of her community tours, pictured with a school teacher in the community of El Varillal

It was also the Pastoral de Salud that began constructing small water systems, in an effort to provide piped water to rural schools in Waslala (many of which were also built through the parish’s education initiative, the Pastoral Educativa). But it was until the involvement of Villanova and Water for Waslala beginning in 2004 that the parish had access to engineering expertise and to a consistent source of funding. In 2009, under Padre Vanderlei, the formal Pastoral del Agua (water ministry) was established, and Virginia and Meaghan Gruber hired, strengthening our health and environmental education, community organization, and monitoring and evaluation efforts. Throughout WfW’s history, our work would not have become the success it has without the support of this series of Brazilian priests: Padre Nelson, Padre Cleto, Padre Vanderlei, Padre Danilo, Padre Anelio, and Padre Adir, with all tirelessly promoting our efforts during their grueling giras misioneras, or missionary tours of Waslala’s expansive geography. During these years another Brazilian, Junior Gasparini, served as WfW’s project administrator, as a volunteer. Things are easier now than they used to be, when you literally had to walk uphill both ways in the rain and mud to get anywhere in Waslala, back before roads were opened to most parts of the municipality. And as Waslala’s grown from a frontier village to a bustling town, the parish under the leadership of the Brazilian missionaries has played no small part in ensuring that development has the human at its center.

Junior and Nora- 2005

With this long-standing friendship, we were saddened to learn at the end of last year that the Brazilian mission in Waslala would soon come to an end. And with the change in management, the parish in Waslala is taking a different trajectory, with the social pastorales having to become independent of the parish. By good fortune, as these changes were taking place, the formation of ADIS was passing through its final legal processes, allowing the Pastoral de Salud to smoothly transfer its operations to an independent organization. In the midst of these changes, we at WfW opted to continue working with some of the same partners we always have, joining with ADIS, and ADIS has graciously accepted us under their umbrella.

In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll introduce you to ADIS, its people, and how we’re turning these changes into an opportunity to improve the structure of our work here on the ground.

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