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  • Writer's pictureBruce Clemens

The Magical Mystery Tour picks up where we left off last year

Welcome to Agua del Pueblo’s (AdP’s) 2023 Course on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) blog. We’re coming to you from Guatemala City. I hope to cajole our students and my co-instructor, Ron S

kalko, into daily blogs, so you won’t have to read too many of my long-winded diatribes. Please check here for updates.

I want to first thank Cornell’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Alumni Association for making our adventure financially possible. Yes, believe it or not, fraternities are more than “Animal House” fun and games. We are blessed with four excellent students and SAE brothers, Patrick Jennings, Peter McManus, Tyler Forstrom, and Cameron Nejat. Peter and Cam are studying engineering and computer science. Patrick and Tyler are pre-med - the perfect backgrounds for WASH studies. More about each later.

Ron arrived yesterday, I’ll catch up with him later today. We’re looking forward to meeting the students tomorrow morning. One of Agua del Pueblo’s (AdP’s) senior engineers, Carla Cua, will be meeting us at the airport when the students arrive. Female engineers are a rare breed in Latin America, especially in Guatemala, and even more rare in rural Guatemala. Carla was responsible for all of our arrangements. As a young yet extremely experienced civil engineer, she will be invaluable for our studies of water and sanitation programs. Carla’s colleague, Ruben Xoyon, will be joining us later in the trip. Ruben is also an important addition. Ruben is a former mayor of Chimaltenango, one of Guatemala’s largest cities. Ruben is also one of AdP’s first rural water technician, and has led AdP’s community organizational effort for decades. As engineers, Carla and I realize that the community organization is FAR more important than any technical aspects of a sustainable WASH project.

If all our luggage arrives, we’ll load up and embark on a five-hour ride to Quetzaltenango. Quetzaltenango, known to Guatemalans as “Xela”, is the de-facto capital of the Guatemala’s Maya population. We will stop by Iximche, one of the last, largest and most important Mayan ruin in the highlands. Check out the photo.

We will visit Agua del Pueblo headquarters and meet the staff. We plan to attend a class at Guatemala’s public university: San Carlos University in Xela. San Carlos is the fourth oldest university in the western hemisphere with an enrollment of over 100,000!

The following day we’ll get back on the road to visit one of AdP’s pilot mini-wastewater treatment plants in Chocol, Santa Lucia Utatlan. Check out the photo of our Rotary partner, Joe Wakely, during the construction of our pilot ‘mini-wastewater treatment plant. We’ll then head for ‘my home town’ - San Lucas Toliman. AdP was born in San Lucas in 1972. San Lucas is on the shores of the incredibly beautiful Lake Atitlan. Check out a photo of our first office in San Lucas and the lake. On the far right in the office photo is our SAE brother, Bill Copacino (rip). We set up this course to honor Billy. Indeed, the course is based on what Billy learned while leading AdP.

We’ll spend the next ten days in San Lucas. We will learn the topography and engineering design necessary for a rural potable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) project. Three rural communities have asked our host, the San Lucas Mission, for help improving their water and sanitation systems. As part of the course, we plan to begin community assessments, preliminary engineering design, and budgets for one or more of the communities. We’re committed to finishing what we start. Indeed, one of our past donors, John Meserve, the international committee chairman of the Rotary Club of Glen Ellen-Kenwood, in northern California is considering the opening ante. I hope to get the Cornell community and our incredibly generous previous donors involved. So you guessed it, look out for our next funding pleas for your hard-earned cash😎.

I don’t want to spoil all the news, so I’ll end here for now. Stay tuned. Ron and I are really looking forward to our adventure. Please drop me a line if I can answer any questions or provide any additional information -

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