Yucatán Reverse Osmosis System (YROS) in Tekax, Mexico
Feb 1-7, 2012
Initiating Partner (IP #617): Valley Presbyterian Church (VPC), Portola Valley, CA
Operating Partner (OP $616): Iglesia Presbyteriana Monte de Sión (MdS), Tekax, Yuc.
Technical We found the water system well maintained by Fernando and Felipe and their team of operators. They had attended the LWW conferences and classes and have received a lot of advice and help from the Ticul operators. They had saved some scheduled maintenance tasks for our visit in order to do them with Gian and Ted. That included a particularly messy cleaning of the carbon and resin tanks. They had already cleaned the UV lamp tube once and are planning to replace the lamp sometime later this year. They replaced the 1µm guard filter to the R/O unit at the same time and plan to do so again this year. We inspected some of the piping downstream of the R/O unit and the purified water tank and found them to be clean.
Over the past year, they had added a third raw water tank (so they can store more raw water when it's flowing to smooth out the times when it's not), and upgraded their bottling pump (they can fill bottles faster now). They also had a well dug because they found that the municipal water supply was too sporadic during the summer, and they even had to have water trucked in once to allow them to meet their delivery commitments. However, they have not had the money for a well pump, and so the well is not functioning yet.
And they replaced their filling station pump (the old pump was overloading, and this will allow them to fill bottles more quickly) as well as a more powerful heat gun to seal bottles more quickly.
We discussed the problem of bottles being returned damaged (and/or very dirty) and that the delivery men would be trained to deal with this (by refusing to accept the damaged bottles). In this regard the initial batch of bottles supplied at system start-up turned out to be relatively flimsy and prone to breakage. For that reason many of the bottles distributed to clients have had to be replaced with new bottles of sturdier construction, frequently used bottles from other commercial water suppliers.
We were satisfied that not only had the system been well maintained and upgraded, but the level of technical knowledge of the team is high.
Formal health education has been spotty. A class was held in a nearby village last March, probably just after we left. But nothing was held again until our visit. We had asked that a class for the children be held at the church while we were visiting, and told them we'd help where needed. On Saturday, they put together a class of about 30 children, which were split into 2 age groups. We split ourselves between the two, and participated with them. The classes were enthusiastically received, and Martha, Eddy, Miki, and Carmenia are wonderful teachers.
The next day, Adult Sunday school was also a water health class. It included a little of germ theory, and some discussion on the proper care of the bottles. Again, Martha was a great teacher, and the class was lively and good.
They told us they would hold training more frequently in the future as they saw (again) how good the training materials are, how much it was enjoyed, and how there are always people (especially children) who haven't had it and could learn something.
We visited 13 households that are receiving the water from the church. We visited in 2 groups. One visited 8 homes that are buying the water, the other 3 homes that are getting free water (we think). All households clearly needed the water. Most of these houses barely had walls, but that was fortunate because the cooking was done over a wood fire in the corner of a room with no chimney. Even though no one had taken a formal water health class, they all knew the proper use of the water. Some still boiled water for cooking so as to use less of their purchased water. They all said that price was the reason they used Monte de Sión's water (versus other commercial water).
Business They produced 40,352 bottles of water in 2011 (nearly double their 2010 amount, but that had been a partial year with startup difficulties) servicing about 300 families. Their financial picture was tighter than last year, however, due to the aforementioned major expenses, plus other items such as facility and tool upgrades, additional bottles to replace broken ones and for the expected increase in production, and a new cart. They basically broke even, and there were fewer free bottles donated because of that. Thus, there is not a reserve to pay for a well pump, and so we had a discussion about a loan from VPC for that purpose. They requested a loan for 40,000 pesos ($3200) to get the new well into service.
Because we had 6 members of the Mission Committee on the trip, and two sitting Elders, we decided that we could make this loan (for a period of 18 months, with no interest). We asked only that they show us their financial plan for next year that includes how they will be able to repay the loan, that they include a plan to increase the free water, and that the first not preclude the second. And we asked that the Covenant be extended so that we could ask for future financial reports. They gave us the information and enthusiastically agreed to the extension (it means future visits from us). We signed the loan agreement on the morning of our departure. The funds were wired to them on Feb 10.
Overall, this was a wonderful trip. They seem to be well integrated into the Yucatán network, and seem to be constantly gaining proficiency. They loved having us there and commented that other water sites had their IPs disappear on them very quickly (hopefully not before 2 years after installation, but this is an advantage in doing an installation with a sister church, certainly). They implied that the other churches were a bit envious of our continuing relationship with Monte de Sión.
One of the Water Committee members, Fernando, told us that this water mission was "in his heart", and he is extremely committed to it. When we mentioned that we'd like to see more free water given away to those who need it (regardless of religious affiliation), he committed to us that he would personally work more hours (unpaid, as he already does for 4 days a week) to produce this extra free water. It made us cry (out of happiness)
We did not discuss the PCUSA / INPM split, nor did we discuss any desire to expand their work to include partnering with another OP some day. They seemed to have a lot on their plate right now, just dealing with their new well, the loan, rebuilding their reserve, and getting more free water produced.