This May has been spent looking to the future here in Costa Arriba, Colón. From the promotion of the charla series and design competition, unveiling of the low-profile dam, my water source hike in Nombre de Dios with Dr. Amador Goodridge, my preparation for the beginning of the 11 week long charla series in the school, and our work connecting the dam water source to the school; things are moving ever forward as we look to new projects and working on closing old ones.
The first week of May I started by going around the school talking to the students to promote and inform them about the charla series and design competition that is to begin June 14th. A Information Technology teacher was my escort as we went classroom to classroom talking to groups of Tourism and Information Technology students about the charla series and design competition. The students responded positively and their participation will allow them to accumulate 20 hours of the 80 social labor/community service hours that are required to graduate; as well as the knowledge and tools they will gain within the charlas. With the agricultural students I left the task to Wilfredo as he insisted, as he knows how to handle his students and knows which students he wanted to participate. Later that afternoon after promoting the charla series, I went up to the dam to strip off the plywood casing and finally see our handy work as it was meant to be. An assistant to Napoleón (the contractor who helped me build the dam) and I went up to the dam site with tools in hand. The plywood was pretty well stuck to the dam but after an hour or so of work the shell was stripped off and the dam stood sleek and strong, ready to withstand the winter rains. I am very proud of the work we were able to accomplish with the construction of the dam.
For a while I have been trying to organize a hike to go see the state of the water source for Nombre de Dios. The third week of May we finally were able to go see where Nombre de Dios gets its water. I was accompanied by Dr. Amador Goodridge, a board member of Future Scientist and my main support here in country. We awoke early in the morning to begin our two hour hike to the source (four hour round trip) with our guide. The guide is a main contributor to the maintenance of the source and he or another community member goes up once every two weeks to clean out the intake and check for general damage and needed repairs. We learned that the project was taken on by a community member with the support of the Ministry of Health. We saw that the system as well as the source capture structure are immense, the main line is roughly 4-5 km long with various junction boxes along the line. Once arriving to the town of Nombre de Dios it is stored in a roughly 1000+ gallon tank before being distributed to residents’ houses. We took various water samples from various points from the source itself to along the main line and the junction points. The sample taking was to test the quality of the water entering the system. Upon returning to Nombre de Dios we talked to several key contributors to the functioning and maintenance of the system in order to establish strong relationships within the community in order to expand our geographical limitations and see where more work can be done.
Near the end of May I went back up to the dam site in order to measure the distance from the dam to the old emergency source site in order to connect the two lines and create a more secure source. After measuring I went back up with a handful of students in order to lay down and connect the tubes to send the water to the school. We ran the tubes along the eastern edge of the stream with the tubes crossing the stream further down river to connect to the tubes that Wilfredo and his students had already installed. Once connected we took the cap off the intake and let the water flow. We were happy to see that everything worked well and the water flowed from the dam to the school. A final touch we made to the system was to make a rudimentary sediment filter by cutting slits into the intake cap so that water would enter the system but no leaves, rocks/pebbles, or other debris would be able to. As we start to enter the heart of the rainy season here it remains to be seen whether the the winter rains and subsequent stream floodings will cause any damage to the dam and/or the tubing.
With all this going on I also began my preparations for the charla series/design competition. I have completed half the actual charla presentations which takes me past the fifth charla which is scheduled for July 19th, with the sixth being July 26th. We have begun talks with other organizations for support in the charla series and we are hoping to collaborate with La SENACYT, which is la Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (National Secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation), in monetary support and involvement in the charla series. The first charla is Thursday, June 14th and the school and I are very excited to begin this project with the students and we hope to see positive outcomes and most importantly, great ideas by the end of the 11 week event.
With all these projects in the works for Future Scientist, it is a bright and busy horizon for us here in Panama, despite the accumulation of rain clouds. I hope to keep building and nurturing positive relationships with the people in Costa Arriba, Colón and I hope that from the seeds of these relationships, positive change will bloom.