Sunday, December 26, 2010

Twenty-Two

Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Feliz Kwanza! Happy Winter Buddhist Holiday! And so on. How about just Happy New Year! We’re all on the same calendar right? At least as far as business affairs go. And let us not kid, I mean business.

First off I want to thank everybody who donated to my project. You filled it in just a week. I still don’t know who you are but as soon they send me the list I will thank you personally. Because of your donations we were able to get water to everybody’s home for Christmas. Well I think we did.(updates soon[ish]) There was one little job left to do before we could release the water but I had to go the airport to come home for Christmas so I left it to them. But I called them from the airport and they said that water was arriving. I don’t see any reason for them to lie about that. So I’ll be back on the 27th (weather pending) to see the water come out of the tap and jump up and down shrieking and flapping my hands like they’re on fire. They’ll all have seen it already so they’ll just be like “Silly gringo. He gets excited about running water.” It’s true though. I’ve been taking running water for granted for 25 years but I’m pretty excited about this particular water. Funny how things are so much more interesting when my ego is involved.

We’re having the official Inauguration for the system on January 8th. We’ll have a ceremony and people will pray a lot and thank God. Maybe they’ll thank me as well. Usually there is a party afterwards. Unfortunately the guy who likes to party the most in my community lost his mother a couple weeks ago so he is supposed to mourn for a while and I think he’s a little bummed out about it. (His mom dying and that he can’t party.) It’s funny how Dominican’s treat death. They spend tons of money they don’t have and tons of time mourning dead family members. At the same time they tried to not connect water to this one guy’s house because they think he’s going to die soon. When he complained that that was unfair they said, “Fine but we’re not going to bury the pipes deep because when he dies we’re going to dig them up and use them somewhere else.” Now I know I have to be accepting of other people’s cultures and beliefs and all that but it seems to me that they should show a little more consideration to living people. That way they’ve already got a head start on appeasing the dead person and they don’t have to mourn for as long.

The United States is pretty cool. It’s really comfortable. I’ve been seeing a lot of people here. Some of them are people I know so I stop to talk with them. They’re all like “Hey, how’s the Peace Corps?” and so I’m like “It’s good.” And like a lot of other cool stuff has happened too.

A bunch of us volunteers are going to get together for “Campo Christmas” when I get back to the DR. They’re all coming up to my community for a camping trip. We’re going to sacrifice a turkey and some vegetables. And then we’re going to camp in tents. People in my community think it’s weird when we camp I think. They don’t really get it. They just don’t see what’s so fun about sleeping somewhere with no electricity or running water or a cement floor and cooking on an open wood fire and just hanging out with people and talking without the distractions of internet and television and iPhones. I really hope that with my guidance they’ll eventually learn how to appreciate nature like us Americans do.

And there’s your quick holiday post. Don’t say I never gave you nothin’.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TwentyOnePointGiveMeMoney!

Hi everybody! You look really nice today. Did you lose weight? I really like your haircut. Speaking of haircuts I need $2,000 to finish a water system. Oh and that shirt looks really good on you.

Yeah. It’s that time. This is the problem with knowing people who work in grassroots development. They always ask you to just give away money. They’re a bunch of frickin’ communists if you ask me. But still…..please?

(If you've never heard about the project skip to the blurb at the bottom and then come back up and begin here.)

With this Peace Corps Partnership Program I’m trying to raise $2,000 to finish the project. The other money has come from various other grants but we’ve come up $2,000 short. This money will be used to build one more tank and tapstands. The blurb on the website for donating is a little outdated. There's a joke about the local government giving us money. Didn't happen. Also I wrote it when I thought I needed $5,000. So you guys are getting a really sweet deal because now I only need $2,000. To help you decide whether you really want to donate to this project I will give you the PROs and CONs and you can decide which outweighs the other.

CONS
- There is a crapload of aid in the Dominican Republic. Every high school student and his fat friend want to come down here to help poor people for a week because it’s pretty nice for a poor place. The Dominican government loves it because tons of international money pays for the development of their country and they can continue to pay for hookers, mansions, and big signs with their faces on them.

- There’s no guarantee that I won’t take all of this money and go live at an all-inclusive resort for a month (Actually there is. I have to produce receipts and write reports on where this money goes).

- If you have 4 apples and give one apple away then you have 3 left. Three is less than 4. Money follows these same principles.

PROS
- I’m tired of getting jerked around by politicians.

- The government is never going to help them because they have no votes to offer, they add very little to the local economy, and they have no political connections. They’re nice people though.

- International aid is not going to help them because the houses are so spread out that this system is not cost effective. There are billions of people in the world that need water and aid organizations are going to choose the places based on cost efficacy. This has logic. But it still leaves my community without hope of water. Luckily I have the ability to ignore logic.

- Cost effective or not I’m still going to be able to provide water for about 200 people for $14,000. That means that $70 can provide a person with clean drinking water for the rest of their life. That’s a pretty good deal if you’re into that kind of thing.

- All of the money donated will go directly to the project. If you donate to big organizations half of the money gets lost in bureaucracy and administration. But I’m my own administration and I work for free.

- All donors will be offered an all expenses paid trip to the Dominican Republic (Does not include airfare, in-country transport, food, alcohol, or any lodging which is not my house. Also if you don’t donate you can come too.)

- It’s tax deductible. Stick it to the government!

OK well the results are in and there are 7 PROs and 3 CONs and everybody knows that 7 weighs more than 3. Looks like you’re going to have to donate. Do it here:

https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=517-406

You have to copy and paste it into your thingy because I can't figure out how to make it a link.

In all seriousness this is a very good project. The beauty of the Peace Corps is that the volunteer lives where he is working and can monitor and evaluate the project for two years. The volunteer gets to know the community and can provide them what they actually need rather than what some big name economist who has never been to their country says that they need. The result is a much more personal type of aid that, though not as grand as big aid plans from the UN or World Bank, is way more efficient and effective for the population that it serves. (If you’re interested more in this idea read White Man’s Burden by William Easterly.) But all academic, international development bullshit aside, these people could use drinking water and we can make that happen at very little expense to us.

Here’s a quick summary of the project that I did for some other proposal, for those of you who don’t know what it’s all about:

The two communities, El Brison and Las Batatas Arriba, are located high in the Cordillera Septentrional in the north of the Dominican Republic. They have neither running water nor electricity, and access to the communities is difficult or impossible by automobile depending on the weather conditions. As a result the communities have been largely neglected and remain completely without infrastructure, apart from a one-room elementary school.
The communities have determined that the most pressing concern to be addressed is the lack of access to clean drinking water. As such they have requested the help of a Peace Corps Water and Sanitation Engineer to help in the construction of a gravity-fed water system with a stream catchment to provide drinking water to 49 homes. The water system will be complemented by the formation of a community water board to govern the water system and health and hygiene promoters to teach the community how to use the water responsibly to improve their well being.
The water committee is comprised of two men and three women who meet biweekly to discuss the construction and maintenance of the water system. The committee has implemented a monthly quota to be paid by each household for the lifetime of the water system which will be used towards the operation and maintenance costs. Two plumbers will be trained to be the main caretakers of the system and will earn a small stipend for their work. All of the manual labor for the project will be provided by the community members themselves who will be divided into five work brigades. Each brigade will work one day a week on the water system until its completion.
Upon the completion of the water system seven women will be trained and certified as health and hygiene promoters. They will visit the rest of the homes in the community to teach mothers about health and hygiene practices for themselves and their families.
The project takes a multi-faceted approach towards improving the health of the community through organization, infrastructure, and education. It will serve as an example to the community for all subsequent development projects.