Archive for the ‘empowering people’ Category

David Zhou, Michel Maupoux, and students from Northwestern reflect on their project of installing water pumps in the Philippines.

Over the past year, a team of students from Northwestern started working on a technology called the hydraulic ram pump.  By communicating with Green Empowerment and Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc (AIDFI), a local NGO in the Philippines, our team slowly began to build up knowledge of the pump and its system. We learned that the ram pump functioned purely as a mechanical system with two moving parts and that it used gravity from falling water to build up pressure and push water uphill. To further experiment with the pump system, we built our own model and received a full-size ram pump body from AIDFI. After learning about some of its minutiae, we began to brainstorm ways to improve the system. One of the main problems with the ram pump is that the waste valve becomes harder to open with increasing size of the pump. Hundreds of pounds of force needs to be applied in order to start a 6 inch ram pump, one of the newest models. Our team designed a lever mechanism that could be affixed to the pump and allow the user to apply the leverage necessary to manipulate a 6 inch pump. At the end of the academic year, four members from the team traveled to the island of Negros in the Philippines to help install and implement a new ram pump system.

The installation crew - tired but content

When I first arrived in the Philippines and went to the construction site, two things immediately struck me. First was the steepness of the hill that led to the source of water. The climb was over 60 meters and by the time I climbed to the top my thighs were burning, my back was drenched with sweat, and I was out of breath. I couldn’t imagine Filipinos, especially kids, having to carry heavy buckets of water up these hills. Second was the amiable nature of the workers. Each worker had to walk 30 minutes a day and needed to brave the unpredictable weather; yet, each of them was cheerful and outgoing. After a couple weeks of building, the ram pump structures near the source were completed and work moved to Tres Hermanos to build the reservoir, line, and tap stands. There, the residents had to endure a similar grueling walk in order to fetch water. During our stay, an auxiliary line was diverted for us from the pump and it soon became a gathering place for the villagers. People came to shower, to wash their clothes, and to fill their water jugs. I was seeing firsthand the impact that clean, running water was having on the community. When the distribution line was finished, tests showed that the pump was delivering twice as much water as predicted, over fifty thousand liters per day! This would provide ample water to the 48 households in Tres Hermanos. Now that I am back in the US, I am so thankful to have had a chance to work on this project with AIDFI and Green Empowerment and my Northwestern teammates. It has made me appreciate the little things in life that we in America take for granted. We will not easily forget the people we met in the Philippines nor the friendships we made.

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Francie Royce and her husband Michael are the founders of Green Empowerment. They are currently in the Philippines evaluating our past installments and documenting the wonderful progress of our partners. SIBAT, which means spear, is making strides in sustainable agriculture. Taste the story below.

Landing in Manila on February 11, after a
22 hour trip from Portland, to LA then through Seoul, Korea, we headed to our Quezon City hotel, the Fersal Inn, for a nap. A basket of sweet yellow mangoes, a bunch of bananas, raw sugar and a jar of honey sent by Shen Maglinte of SIBAT, a Green Empowerment partner, surprised us at hotel reception.The next day we met our friends from SIBAT for lunch at a near-by restaurant, The Tree House. Shen had ordered in advance, so as soon as we sat down, the food started coming. Tilapia, milk fish, sautéed greens in oyster sauce topped with tofu, stuffed lettuce rolls, roasted chicken, hot and sour flavored soup, and on it came. After a filling lunch, we all loaded into tricycles for a short ride to the SIBAT office to meet Ileene the marketing manager of the SIBAT organic foods store and for Michael to begin his interviews with Executive Director Vicki Lopez.

The next afternoon the SIBAT driver picked us up and after collecting Ileene and Vicki, then Vicki’s friends all on slower-than-planned Filipino time, we headed two hours north to TarLac to visit the SIBAT organic farm.

It was past sundown when workers at the farm greeted us with boiled cassava, (filling) and lemon grass tea (refreshing) as we chatted and got to know Vicki’s friends. Back into the van, we headed out to dinner. We were the only customers at The May Farm Restaurant, whose menu heralded organic vegetables and rare meats. Mounted on the wall, heads of small deer looked down on our table and an array of photos showed off the hunting prowess of the owner and his son. One was a photo of a younger man carrying a hoary wild boar on his back with blood dripping down his legs. A brief allusion to the mysterious death of the owner and his son and suggestion of a political murder added to the hunter’s mystic and the weirdness of the restaurant. The soup was tasty, though.

Back at the farm—- Raised beds are planted with a wide variety of rotated crops of leafy greens, peppers, tomatoes and other vegetables. Deep purple egg plants hang from their plants ready to harvest. Farm workers make sure there is enough harvest each week to provision the small organic food store in Quezon City. The farm is a teaching opportunity for surrounding farmers to learn sustainable agriculture. SIBAT’s goal is to teach the teachers to help farmers learn how to farm sustainably, without being dependent on commercial seed and fertilizers.

The main farm building is built of decorative woven palm panels over bamboo poles with a palm thatch roof. We slept soundly on a foam pad laid out under mosquito netting on a split bamboo floor. Roosters all over the country side competing with each other woke us before dawn, early enough to sit outside and watch sunlight creep over the green rice fields of the adjacent farm, shining on the farmer who was already working in his field. A farm worker showed me where hot cups of coffee sat on a counter waiting for takers. The coffee was thick and sweetened with raw sugar. After daylight I found three gently curled, soft downy feathers lying on top of our mosquito netting. Rooster noise woke us but the sparrow flying through our bedroom didn’t.

Posted by Francie Royce

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The actions of Walt Ratterman speak more clearly about his character than anything I could write. He has personally brought light to thousands of people around the world.  For example, he was the driving force behind bringing solar power to 37 clinics in Burma, serving over  170,000 internally displaced people a year. We had the honor of knowing and learning from Walt, an exemplary humanitarian dedicated to improving life around the world with renewable energy. We traveled and worked together in Thailand, Laos, Philippines, Peru and Nicaragua, while he was Program Director of Green Empowerment from 2003-2006. He worked side by side installing solar panels with Shuar natives in the jungles of Ecuador, traversed the rapids of rivers in Borneo to help on a micro-hydro project, and taught renewable energy in the highlands of Peru. He could easily make friends with people around the world, despite the language barriers, because anyone could relate to his sense of humor and down-to-earth friendliness. In 2006 he founded SunEnergy Power International , carried on his long-time work with Knightsbridge International, and continued to inspire everyone with his hard work, unwavering sense of justice and belief that everyone deserves to be treated as equals. In January, 2010, his dedication to humanity brought him to Haiti, where he was working on the installation of solar power for clinics. He was there when the earthquake hit. Friends and family searched for him in the ruins and sent their prayers.  Tragically, he did not survive, but his legacy lives on. He has taught me, and hundreds of others, that humility is a powerful force that can change the world.

-Anna Garwood and the Green Empowerment team

As a testiment to how many lives he has touched, as of writing this, there are 1882 fans of his Facebook page…


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Written by Jay Moskovitz

Lisa Adatto

Lisa Adatto

“No carbon footprint often means no hope. There is a balance, a trade-off. Energy brings hope to people. It brings possibilities and opportunities. Green Empowerment has an interesting model: through energy, you bring opportunities and possibilities: better health care, better class rooms, new local industries and businesses.” These are some of the thoughts of Lisa Adatto, a member of the Green Empowerment board.

Lisa became involved with Green Empowerment in 1997 when she mentioned her interest in environmental organizations to her friend Michael Royce, Green Empowerment’s founder. Michael knew she had valuable business experience, specifically in documenting accurate financial statements. As this is an area that often trips up a young non-profit, he requested that she join the Green Empowerment board. Since joining, Lisa has continued volunteering with Green Empowerment as board member and treasurer, and is now planning on leaving the board at the end of the year. For Lisa: “It just felt like the right time. We have a number of young board members who are terrific, who bring a lot of energy.”

As one of the original Green Empowerment board members, Lisa reflected on how she was able to see the organization grow and develop. “[At the beginning] there was no staff – Michael did everything himself. Green Empowerment was building off a very strong organization – the Linder family had formed an organization to continue the work that their son Ben Linder was involved with in Nicaragua, until he was murdered. The mission was transforming low-income, poverty communities in other countries, starting with Nicaragua, by providing ‘green energy’, pulling together social justice and environmental issues. The Ben Linder Foundation was one of the early Green Empowerment funders.”

For Lisa, one of the reasons Green Empowerment has such a strong rate of success when constructing renewable energy systems in developing countries is based on how the organization structures its projects. She states: “Green Empowerment developed a unique approach to poverty work in other countries, later touted by many people. This approach is from the bottom up: find local non-profits or community organizations that are willing to commit to make it happen and to figure out how to use it appropriately with their community. That’s what makes it work. Figure out the needs of the community, how they will administer it. Top down is not necessarily the way to go. If an installation is not maintained by the community, it is doomed to failure. Green Empowerment. takes the time to get to know the community. But there are problems: how do you distribute, how do you pay for it, who makes the decisions, who repairs things, necessary on-going administration.”

While Lisa has never been out in the field with Green Empowerment, both of her children had the opportunity to participate in Green Empowerment projects. “My daughter Suzanne, while still in high school, arranged to go on a field trip with Anna Garwood to Nicaragua. It was the first time she had seen abject poverty. They traveled to very remote villages.  The trip was transformational for Suzanne. She really got a sense of how it was to be in desperate poverty. She observed healthy, local men laying around, because they had nothing to do. My son spent a year in Thailand and afterwards went to observe a Green Empowerment project in Burma.”

While Lisa is leaving the Green Empowerment board, she still has hopes and dreams for the organization, specially having the “terrific Green Empowerment ‘model’ [be] better known and more widely used.”

Green Empowerment would like to thank you, Lisa, for all of the energy, time and expertise that you brought to this organization. It is because of people like you that Green Empowerment has been able to develop, grow and affect the lives of thousands of people all over the world. Thank you.

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Location: Nueva Libertad, District of Chirinos, Province of San Ignacio, Cajamarca region, Peru.

Don Zabaleta and the Civil Works

Don Zabaleta as he is called in his community, is an exemplary parent, one of the founders, and thus greatly respected by all its neighbors. He has become the liaison for the project and has led the coordination of different tasks. About the project being implemented he says:

Look, I’ve lived in this community for 30 years, I am one of the founders, since that time, our community never had help from the mayors and other authorities in the region, so isolated as you can see, we do not have access, we have to walk hours to reach the place where we can catch a ride in a car to go to town, we have no water service, and we never thought we’d have energy. In recent years we began to negotiate with the municipality of Chirinos to support something, at least water, just recently the current mayor has paid attention and is working.

In January last year Mr. Villanueva of ITDG visited the community, indicating that through agreement with the mayor of Chirinos, the construction of hydro for the community had been proposed, if water and height conditions are favorable. The engineer made the measurements with good results, then talked with a group of neighbors who were there that day to make agreements on the implementation. To me it is important to have energy, I have a small wood shop where I work with my children, to move the engines I use a small gasoline generator, as you could understand the cost is very high and so it doesn’t work out. The energy of the hydro falls as a blessing from God, not only for me but for the rest of the community, the truth is it’s a dream that we hope will become reality soon, thanks to ITDG and the people who are donating their money, also the mayor of Chirinos and my neighbors, all working with enthusiasm to finish as soon as possible.

To date we have completed all the works, such as intake, channel, forebay, piping and the house where the equipment will go, we’ve also installed most of the grid, we’re just waiting for the mayor to pay the invoice to the company of the equipment, so that the equipment can come, install it and conduct the tests. The mayor has said it would be any day now, we hope he complies. Thank you

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Margie Reuss

Margie Reuss

On behalf of everyone at Green Empowerment, we would like to honor a woman who has supported social justice throughout her life; who instilled a passion for advocacy in her son and our founder, Michael Royce; and who has supported Green Empowerment’s work since its creation in 1997.  Margaret Reuss passed on Sept. 30, 2008 in Chicago at the age of 88.  We hope you will take just a few moments of your day to read about the life and times of this exemplary lady.

Margaret M. Reuss; Political Activist, Professor (Washington Post, 10/7/2008)

Margie Reuss was activist, economist (JS Online, 10/5/2008)

Thanks to all who have sent notes, remembrances and donations in her memory.  Her family is grateful for your thoughts.

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Sonia Piaguaje

Sonia Piaguaje, whose native language is Secoya, has been managing the solar systems in her village of San Pablo for almost 3 years. She collects the monthly financial contributions from 67 households, deposits them in the bank, and teaches all the users how to manage the use of the battery. Her subtle yet powerful presence was respected by all.

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