Progress! – Alan Wright of SosteNica
With the arrival of Becky yesterday, our Cornell contingent has reached lucky 13 – not counting the 5 SosteNica support staff. The students have organized themselves into four working groups: communications, landscape, composting toilet and house construction.
The communications team (Kai, Camelia, Celine) has been doing outreach to media outlets, supporters, university publications and the like. Their job is critical to “getting the word out” which, in time, will give the project legs needed to walk to housing cooperatives throughout Nicaragua. They have already met the publisher of a local Nagarote newspaper, sent out press releases to publications in the US, started this blog, and set up an interview with a Nicaraguan TV channel for Saturday.
The landscape team (Becky, Celine) has begun taking soil samples and drawing maps of the two areas which they plan to design and install during their return delegation in June. They plan to develop both a model edible landscape for an urban setting, as well as a rural system that can demonstrate the production and use of compost, irrigation using waste shower water, perennial fruits and vegetables and the like. Yet another team will return to Nagarote at the start of the rainy season (June) to install their designs.
The composting toilet team (Edbert, Ethan, Gosia, Celine) has been working hard at Mario Perez’ family farm, where a demonstration composting toilet will allow for more of the organic fertility to be captured and reused without wasting or contaminating surface water or the aquifer. Yesterday they rode down to the shore of Lake Managua in a 1-horse-powered cart to collect large stones for the foundation of their edifice. The day before they visited an artisanal brick in La Paz Centro where they bought the materials needed to build their “obra d’arte”.
Finally, the house construction team (Kevin, Mandy, Christine, Mary, Allie, Mitch), under the direction of Eric Gomez, has been busy beyond words. On day one, they led the charge checking the quality of the stem wall and removing the parts that were deemed unacceptable. They have moved tons of building materials, including lumber and adobes, mixed lime putty in 50 gallon drums and lime mortar with sand so they could rebuild the stem wall they had demolished. Yesterday they completed digging the “mortar pit” which they filled with a combination of clay, sand, chopped straw and water, to be danced and massaged into adobe mortar, and organized the storage area where tools and building materials are kept.
Despite sunburns, blisters, cut fingers, sore muscles, and a few digestive challenges, the students are robust, energetic, and hard working. More importantly, they persist in showing kindness to one another, respect for their Nicaraguan counterparts, and the love of life which is undoubtedly responsible in part for their choosing to spend a part of their Christmas break doing manual labor in Nicaragua.