Social Impact Design

Monday, April 22, 2013


Quality control, this stuff is so tasty!
My journey to the world of bamboo came unexpectedly. It started with a visit to CepiCafe, a coffee co-operative in our department’s capital, Piura. My socio (community counterpart) was the president of the organization for 3 years, so we used his influence to learn about all of the work CapiCafe does to help the coffee producers improve their yield. We even got an impromptu tour of the panela factory!Next, we went next door to the father NGO of Cepicafe, called Progreso. My socio was interested in developing the use of bamboo in his community and introduced me to Rocio Leon, my new mejor amiga. She is the project coordinator of the NGO and is in charge of three different initiatives:
Rocio teaching about proper bamboo forest management
High school creations
Key chains!
S I bought a necklace and earring set from her.
When these have cushions on them, they are wrapped in local woven designs.
Bus stop designed and built by community

Healthy school project (Escuelas Saludables) –
Progresso, Cuerpo de Paz, y Emilio Espinoza (high school)
Eco-recreational high school center. Not in use, but to be developed soon!
Soccer field with 4 new bathrooms in the distance. We hope to build bamboo kiosks and bleachers.
The high school's "auditorium". Planning on building benches and adaptable shading structure. 
Municipality Tourism development- 
  • Changing rooms – the main tourist destination is a group of waterfalls and pools called “Los Peroles”. Many tourists like to swim in them, but do not have anywhere to change their clothes. Our stalls will not only provide a place to change, but we may even build a lookout area on top of the stalls to offer a place to take in the amazing views of the waterfalls.
  • Bathrooms – there are not any latrines near the waterfalls, which is a half an hour walk from the town center. In the future, we are talking about building a few bathroom or latrines to offer a restroom for the tourists. 
Regional Designs-
  • Bus stops: The regional government has build one bus stop out of bamboo, but at certain times of the day, the seats are in the full force of the Piura sun. The have asked for me to help with a shading study for the following bus stops. I explained to them that each stop needs to be designed to the site (solar orientation, street orientation ect.) as opposed to designing something that looks nice. 
  • Single family housing: The ministry de housing, construction, and sanitation from Lima asked Progresso to give them an affordable design for a single family house with 2 bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and dining room. I do not have a lot of time to develop the design, but after 3 days, I passed to them a model that is easy to build, with skylights for natural lighting and all the water services housed in one wall.
  • It is important to have a design where the walls can be built on the ground, then lifted up into place, because the construction workers do not have much experience with the bamboo joints.
  • Sierra Exportadora: A national based NGO also asked Progresso to help them out with some “face-lift” projects to promote tourism in Ayabaca, an area in the northern Andes of Piura that the regional government is developing. Basically they want to install veneer facades made out of bamboo to give the restaurants and the town a universal “eco-feel”.
  • Bamboo window frames look awesome during sunset
This past week I was in Lima for an English Teaching workshop that was hosted by the US Embassy. I took advantage of my time in Lima by visiting the architecture department of San Martin de Porres. There I met with two French architects, Yann and Faouzi, who have been working in Peru for the past 5 years.
French Architects Yann Barnet and Faouzi Jabrane. In front of a shading structure at San Martin de Pores, Lima, Peru
Transitional housing
2-story bamboo house

PS: Also working on an Eco-park! Its hard to remember it all. If I accomplish 30% of these dreams, I'll be very happy. PS: Also working on an Eco-park! Its hard to remember it all. If I accomplish 30% of these dreams, I'll be very happy. Noticias (News)1) Teaching villagers how to properly grow, cut and process bamboo2) Developing local small business through artisan workshops (jewelry, furniture)

3) Leading workshops with construction workers to teach them how to build with bamboo (nickname vegetable steel)So I have fallen in love with this line of work. To the point where I have almost signed up for so much that my Peace Corps work took a back seat for a little while. I have pulled back from my bamboo craze (a bit) and incorporated it in my PC projects. How so you ask? Well let me tell you!I am working with two high schools to implement treated water, soap in the bathrooms, and a number or other initiatives that the teachers and parents prioritized. In one high school, they want to develop a small business selling organic banana marmalade and chifles (fried banana chips). In order to develop the local market, we are going to build a bamboo kiosk, which they can sell their products during special events (holidays, soccer and volleyball games) and during the peak tourist season (June-September). The other high school wants to install a bamboo-shading device to cover their courtyard that they use for many different events (graduations, volleyball, school-wide presentations).In addition to shade, we hope to train the local carpenters how to build bamboo furniture so that we can have benches, chairs, and tables to facilitate a space the community can use throughout the year. The municipality has been searching for someone to help improve their tourism. After a few conversations with a motivated socio in the municipality, we are going to install various bamboo projects to promote their tourism.So clearly I am up to my ears with opportunities, BUT I have to turn a lot of them down because I am not volunteering my 2 years in Peru to be a free source of design services. I am having trouble saying no at the moment because I really want to improve my design skills, especially in regard to bamboo.
They were very receptive to my impromptu visit and reinforced my already budding appreciation for the “vegetative steel”. After a devastating earthquake in 2009, they offered their design services to the various NGOs that rushed to the disaster area of Ica, southern Peru.They designed a simple bamboo home that could be built with a tight budget and little technical training. They also designed a beautiful bamboo church, and a 2 story bamboo house, all of which I hope to visit in my next trip down to Lima.
I am very fortunate to work in an area that has so much support from an amazing NGO (Progresso), and I hope to have more photos and stories to share in the future!


  1. You indeed are in love with bamboo.

  2. My new mejor amiga? haha que amable David, thank you so much

    Pienso que eres muy creativo, así que espero en el futuro poder ver tus lindos diseños con bambú!