Greetings from Honduras: D-Lab students in the field by OEL
D-Lab students Chelsie, Miho and Nina report from Honduras
D-Lab is an interdisciplinary program at MIT committed to working with people around the world to create and disseminate affordable technologies. This January, teams comprising a total of 35 students are working in Cambodia, Zambia, India, Ghana, Honduras, and Brazil.
Chelsie Librun (Aero Astro) ´13, Nina Jreige (Bio Engineering) ´13, and Miho Kitagawa (MechE) ´14 are blogging from Honduras where they are working with la Fundacion San Alonso Rodriguez, an NGO that provides remote communities with tools to improve their livelihood. Students, D-Lab trip leaders and the community in Miramontes are working on providing a yuca cooperative with a new mill; building a rice classifier and heat sealer for a local rice micro-enterprise in Brisas del Mar; and designing solar driers for family harvests and testing water in El Benque.
January 11, 2012
Buenas Dias Padres y Madres!
This is Chelsie, Miho, and Nina writing to you from the computer room of the Fundacion, the NGO we are working with here in Honduras. Even though we had a bumpy start coming back from the airport (our car broke down :/), the past two days have been quite exciting AKA lots of hard work! We scouted out our first villages, Miramontes and Brisas del Mar, yesterday after working on prototypes the day before. We learned a lot about the difficulties that each of the communities face and how we can better help them.
Miramontes has a 16-women cooperative that produces and sells yuca products (cassave and milano), however their methodology is outdated and tiring causing it to lose popularity with younger generations and forcing older generations to continue with the back-breaking process. Their yuca mill has been broken for 4 years, not to mention the fact that it was unsafe in its functional phase (it skinned the tips off of one women´s fingers!). One of our main projects this trip will be to try and provide the community with a new, safer, and better functioning mill for their yuca processing. As a side project we´ll be redesigning their hydraulic yuca press that has not been in use since they received the machine.
In Brisas del Mar, we are working with a rice cooperative, who are trying to start a micro-enterprise selling rice on the market. The cooperative has a very diverse group of people, from young to old, including men and women. They currently have a rice mill that has allowed them to even consider selling processed rice. There´s not much that we can do about the machine, but we are working towards helping them with other parts of the process. This includes creating an easy way to classify the different sizes of rice grains (larger pieces can sell for more on the market) and creating a heat sealer to help them package the rice in plastic bags.
Our days are long and hard, but rewarding. We are eating a lot of good (and cheap) Honduran food and trying to survive in a world of Spanish. Our next couple of days will be working on projects at la Fundacion, then we will be living in Miramontes and Brisas del Mar for a week.
Conversation with women cooperative in Miramontes, discussing the new design for a cassava mill. Photo: Benji Moncivaiz
In the back of the pickup truck. Left to right: Chelsie Librun, Miho Kitagawa, Nina Jreige Photo: Benjamin Moncivaiz