Amit Ghandi, D-Lab Brazil trip leader reports as the team they wrap up their part in Sao Paulo:
It has been a while since our last trip update, but it's because we've all been working so hard that we haven't really had the time to stop and take a break. We are wrapping up the Sao Paulo portion of our trip this weekend, and after getting some rest, we are flying out to Manaus for the second part of our trip. It's hard to even start talking about all that we've done over the past week because so much has happened. We have gone from a team of strangers from MIT, USP (Universidade de Sao Paulo), UFSCAR (Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos), Familia Ines (our NGO community partner), and Caos Focado (a design group) to a close-knit family in such a short amount of time.
Over the past week and a half our teams have been working on four projects: a soccer field shelter, a water pump, a well cover/chlorination educational workshop, and a chlidren's playground. Each team consisted of MIT students, a couple Brazilian students, and a community member who worked together to tackle the challenges of implementing projects in Brazil. The two construction teams worked in Santo Antonio, a favela near Embu whereas the two water teams worked in Ze Mineiro, a slightly more remote community that was about 2 miles of dirt roads away from Santo Antonio.
The soccer field shelter team consisting of Marcel, Patrick, Camila, and Fernando tried to solve the problem of inadequate rain protection for people who want to watch the community soccer matches. The solution the team came up with was a self-supported structure using cement filled tires as supports. It was amazing to see the enthusiasm in the community when we started the building phase of the project: community members who saw the small group working rushed over to give their opinions on the project and help build it.
The playground team was Donna, Murilo, Wesley, and Felipe. They tried to solve the problem of not having a safe public place for children to gather and enjoy themselves, which a lot of families had identified as a problem. With the help of the community, they put together a full children's playground by fixing up junkyard materials such as tires and toys (and literally dragged logs out of the forest to play on). It was amazing to see how excited the children in the area were as the project was being put together and were trying to help in any way the could, from filling in dirt to painting to telling the team what they thought. The adults in the community were also engaged, saying that the team made a full playground from materials they had never considered for use as toys.
The water treatment team was Dorothy, Anne, James, Lin, Sadam, Kelly, Adriano, and Diego and they approached the problem from an educational and technological perspective. The team identified that while the water was not potable, a nearby hospital provided free chlorine to the community. However, the hospital did not really provide guidance on how to chlorinate water, so the team decided to tackle the problem through an educational workshop that was held in the local church. Further, they noticed that a large percentage of people in the community had uncovered wells for water and built a prototype well cover.
The final group was the water pumping group: Sarah, Edgar, Adriano, and Marcelo. The group noticed that while a lot of the households in Ze Mineiro had wells, they did not all have pumping mechanisms for their wells. They presented a specific pump and how the key elements of the pump work to allow for the community members to build a PVC pump at a later date if they wanted.
After our presentations we had an amazing closing ceremony where we recognized that though our projects for this trip had concluded, our partnership with the community had just begun and celebrated our success with a churrasco (barbecue) filled with live samba music from community members. We're all really excited to go to the Amazon on Monday and you can expect an email from us telling you we got there safely, though we may not have internet access right away.