Challenges, lessons learned, expansion efforts Manu, Peru
Hi Jenn, Caramba , sorry for the delay its been a busy time! Answers to your questions!!! Let me know your thoughts! Lots of love for a health, happy "New Year" with all your dreams come true! xo Nancy
Developing and implementing the first clean water, sanitation and health project for native rain forest people in the Manu Rain Forest had its challenges no doubt about it! First, when we enlisted the help of indigenous experts who had work in the region for 16 years, they told us that we were doomed to fail. There is no model to follow, because a clean water/ indigenous health project in context to rain forest cultures simply did not exist in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon. So everyone was skeptical! But we persisted, holding the energy for the project, against a stack of odds, -- working toward a goal of improved health for the children and families of Huacaria.
In the beginning of the project it seemed like each day we faced about 10 new challenges! Cultural barriers, misunderstandings and rumors were non-stop with our initial construction staff, certain people of Huacaria and in the surrounding pueblos. Change was making the people a bit uncomfortable, and they were not clear where this change would take them. It was a bit difficult getting work completed and delivered on time, organizing community workforces, and getting a male dominated work force accustomed to a women supervisor "ME" that had an eye for the details! LOL!
We eventually established a construction crew that was accountable for their work, respected customs and lifestyle in the community, and open to learning and exchanging knowledge with our US based supervisory team. We learned to give each worker an opportunity to improve, learn, and expand his/her work. We fixed constructions mistakes over and over, and used each mistake as a teaching tool. We built using natural resources and local materials, which blended into the environment and supported the local economy.
We learned that our work had to be developed and implemented in harmony with the natural cycles of the Amazon, and that most everything scheduled took two to three times longer to accomplish than originally planned, adding additional costs to our budget. We also learned that when working in the middle of the Amazon and with native cultures, work schedules had to be flexible, and the forces of nature (heavy rains, winds and mud), in fact, always won over our well-planned construction schedule.
In the end we understood that we had no control of the success or failure of their lives or life and death in the village, and that indeed we were a global family helping each other improve the quality of our human existence. It was a journey of the heart that ultimately led each one of us back to ourselves. The impossible has now been made possible in Huacaria and they as a people will always have this "Monumental" achievement!
What we carry forward into our expansion efforts are greater patience, deeper compassion in understanding the subtleties of indigenous cultures, submission to the elements…sound, culturally appropriate indigenous health programming, humor and lots of LOVE!
Best practices for building in remote rain forest communities (populations 200- 500):
1) Equal access to safe drinking water at each home/Communal Water System
2) Build in harmony with the eco-system using low technology methods of water and sanitation infrastructure. (Slow sand filtration/septic systems that naturally decompose waste)
3) Principle work force/team in-county based.
4) Communal water fund, where each family pays a fee for health infrastructure and water.
5) Community based participation and with active involvement from the children. All community meetings and correspondence be translated into native language.
6) Establish and train community based water committees to build, maintain and sustain infrastructure.
7) Health and hygiene education for women, children and families over 5 years.
8) Partnerships with Health and Education Ministries so not to reinvent the wheel and long term sustainability.
9) Not look at the people that we serve as poor, and supporting people/humanity in their strength.