We’ve successfully completed our first full day here in El Salvador!
We woke up at 7:30 AM here in the Epilogos Volunteer house, got ourselves ready for the day, and then headed over to the main Epilogos building for breakfast. Ana, who works, with Mike & Susie, made us an awesome pancake breakfast before we made a few PB&J sandwiches and were on our way.
Mike drove us to the community of El Porvenir, which is about a 15 minute trip via car. The roads are fine until you get into the community, where they are unpaved and very rocky. We stopped before we entered the community officially at the Rio/River San Antonio, which borders the Western side of the town. We all took the time to walk across a suspended footbridge that was completed by a graduate student team from Duke this past year with a group called Bridges to Prosperity (check out the bridge here). It is a great addition to the existing infrastructure because it allows community members to get to town when the river floods over the current bridge. This allows adults to get to work and children to get to school, on days when they might not have been able to before it was built.
We headed towards Domingo’s house, which is the closest residence to the main source of water, a cement spring box. A spring box catches and collects water that is deposited by a natural spring, usually on the side of a hill or a slope. Along the way, we said hello to Don Chepe, another member of the community we have worked with before. Today our goals were to get the group acclimated to the community’s layout, examine the spring box’s condition, and start conversation with the community members.
The group spent a good deal of the day in the riverbed, which is possible since it is currently the dry season here. Roxanne, Jesse, Jake, and Rob did an awesome job with the land surveying equipment that we brought down. They were able to get the relative elevations of many different points around the spring box. This will be useful for us, as we are considering a few different projects that would require either piping or construction in this area. We also examined the geological characteristics of the river bed and the river bank, thinking about things such as soil composition, construction feasibility, and erosion.
Ariel and Luke spent a lot of time talking with Domingo and Don Chepe, two de facto leaders in the community. They have expressed to us that most of the community takes water from this source, but the amount of water in the spring box lessens severely as the dry season goes on. We have several potential projects in mind, as does the community. After eating some of those pre-made PB&Js, shaking ants out of our backpacks, and returning a few shovels, we made our way back to the volunteer house on foot. Domingo and Don Chepe accompanied us back on the walk, which had some awesome views of the Salvadoreño landscape.
Back at Epilogos, we discussed what we had done for the day, had a delicious Tilapia dinner (Thanks, Ana!), and enjoyed a post-meal conversation with Mike. As anyone who knows Mike can attest to, he is an awesome guy who does great work for San Jose Villanueva. He also has a ton of fabulous stories that we are lucky enough to hear.
Before turning in for the night, we had a Skype session with our faculty mentor, Professor John Durant of the Tufts Civil & Environmental Engineering Department. Professor Durant will be joining us on Monday, but we spoke today about what we had seen in Porvenir. It was a great discussion that generated a lot of good questions and ideas. We’re excited to take these ideas and put them into action tomorrow!
Tomorrow, we’re hoping to get up bright and early and head to El Porvenir. We want to do some more research on some of the ideas we generated today and get some more community input before our community-wide meeting on Saturday!
– Luke, Ariel, Jesse, Rob, Roxanne, and Jake