Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Los Bias Donations and Jungle Videos

I guess I should be saying that I´m on my way to Colombia but once again Mike and I have delayed our flights. We just can´t get enough of Cochabamba. This city really is one of the more chill cities in the world and with good work, great weather, and great friends its about all we can ask for. Anyway the work with our ecological cookers continues to go well and we just received a huge grant from the United States EPA for $200,000. The money will be used to scale-up production of our efficient wood burning stoves from 1,000 - 20,000/year over the next 3 years. A number of companies were competing with us and we won primarily because of our efficient stove design and ability to put out stoves on a really tight budget. No doubt that the technological experise provided by UD volunteers and the funding provided by the Bolivia Project last year played a big role in helping CEDESOL secure this grant which will help us mass produce cookers instead of hand making them like we are now. It should mean lower prices, more stoves, and a lot less people dying of indoor air pollution every year!!! Of course with 1.2 million homes in Bolivia currently cooking over smoke from wood or animal dung fires we still have a long way to go, but this is certainly a good start.

In addition to this good news Mike and I have also started a bit of a side project. Realizing that a lack of education on international humanitarian and environmental issues in the United States is a major problem we are trying to put together a set of short videos to raise awareness on some issues in Bolivia. The goal would be to have a set of 4 10-15 minute videos educating middle school students on Bolivia´s culture and some of the problems found here that so few in America currently understand. So far we´ve got material for videos on our NGO and its work with ecological cookers and indoor air pollution and just got back from a trip to the jungle where we shot 2 more videos. One is a short documentary on the Los Bias tribe of El Chapare where we went to donate 50 heavy blankets with the help of money received from family and friends before coming to Bolivia. Many of you will remember our visits to Los Bias last year and that they are a traditionally nomadic tribe of 52 families on the verge of extinction due to encroachment by loggers and farmers. They are in the middle of a rapid lifestyle change.

A second video was shot in the Animal Refuge Parque Machia which serves as a wild habitat for animals that have been captured with the intent of exportation as pets and circus animals, an illegal and lucrative market very common in a country as poor in wealth and rich in wildlife as Bolivia. Paola, a friend from last year who I´m currently dating, is a bolivian volunteer for the park and was recently in a confrontation in the market of Cochabamba while trying to recover several parrots . The perpetrators recognized her and began pushing, punching, and threatening her when 2 police arrived giving Paola and another volunteer just enough time to slip away and run from the market and lose those chasing her. She is finishing her thesis for law school and will be the first in Cochabamba to press charges against someone for animal trafficking. Things were fairly intense following the event with threats to her house and cell phone but have calmed since. Needless to say she´s a particularly strong, passionate, and intelligent person and we were fortunate enough to have her advice in filming a short film on the park as well.

So as you can tell we´ve certainly been getting some good work done. Thanks to the so many that have helped us with your prayers, encouragement, and donations in the past and I hope that everyone can keep up the good work. Over the next 2 weeks I´m hoping to tie up my work with the cookers and I´m thinking a week worth of traveling here in Bolivia might be a nice break before heading home. I´m also working with Dave and Ruth to see how best donations could be put to use for all those interested in helping out our efforts in the future. While the wood cookers have just gotten a big grant to scale up their production the solar cooker´s could certainly use a subsidy to make it more affordable to the so many families that will learn to love the CEDESOL brand name once we´re putting out a big fat 20k wood stoves per year.

Paz y Amor,