Social Impact Design

Friday, August 3, 2012

Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves- H. D. Thoreau

Well I have been lost for the past month. I lost someone close to me recently who was a huge part of my support system. A support system is very important during a volunteers service, because we often are critical of our work, doubtful of our skills and struggling with the various obstacles that come with living in a foreign country.

Losing this person has been a challenge I did not foresee and I very nearly decided to end my service. Luckily, I took the time to talk to my fellow volunteers in Piura and throughout the past month I realized that there are many people who care about me HERE in Perú.

Unfortunately, I allowed my projects to stall while I dealt with my personal issues. I took a much-needed vacation with a group of volunteers to Huancabamba, a city 4 hours further into the mountains. After we arrived in the city, we traveled another 2 hours by car to a small town (around 3000 meters above sea level). 

On the trip up the mountain. Very skinny roads...

The clouds were swirling around us as we drove up.

Our destination was a large lake. But what was so special about this lake? Well it is known for its properties to cleanse the soul of its woes and maladies. Brujos/shaman (witches) perform a spiritual ritual, after which one must dunk themselves into the freezing waters 7 times, purging their soul of the bad within. It was a very serious affair and as ridiculous as I looked and felt, I kept a solemn demeanor to respect the shamans beliefs. It was a very cool (pun intended) experience, and definitely worth the 5 hours of hiking. 

A friendly farmer we met on the way up
They told us it takes 8 days to weave the fabric. Very vibrant colors

This woman showed us a short cut. Very beautiful photo (credit to Brice)

A rest and a view
Almost there!

Laguna Shimbe

The brujos at work
Video of Ritual
SUPER cold. And I did it without clothes (better spiritual cleansing)
I also recently went to the beach. The mud baths were a lot of fun! We floated like corks, so much fun.

Mudbath: Video

But it hasnt been only vacation, I promise. At the end of June, I participated in a Improved Cookstove training exercise. 10 volunteers brought people from their community and together we were taught how to build the stoves ourselves. The two Peruvians who ran the workshop did an excellent job and I now feel confident with my adobe stove building skills. We built 9 stoves in 2 days. Its very simple once you have all the materials at hand. Now my trouble is finding the funding to pay for the supplies!
Making the concrete top
Adding some rebar support
Adding a little flair to the top
The old stove. No ventilation tube. The black walls show how bad their lungs are. 
The kids wanted to help too!
Adobe base
Combustion chamber 

The completed stove! 

A little model I made to show the families in my community


  1. looks like an amazing trip!!! Dunking yourself in all kinds of liquids seems to be a theme lately :) I hope you feel cleansed.

  2. There was a huge article on Peruvian cuisine in Food and Wine Magazine this month. Made me think of you and the fact that you probably get to try even better and more homey things than all the fancy stuff in the magazine.
    Miss you and can't wait to see you!

  3. I'm finally seizing the opportunity to check out this blog. Love it! It's great to be able to see what you've been up to - the pictures are beautiful. What a great thing you're doing, Dave! I want to dip in the lake and that mud bath.
    -Beth Hill