Category Archives: Weekly Update

Final Update– Panama

It is finally time for my last Water for Panama internship update!Bittersweet as though it may be, the trip to Panama was an amazing experience, and I’ll recap it for you here:
We started the trip on Saturday August 9. We flew from St. Louis to Panama City with a layover in Atlanta. We were supposed to catch a plane from Panama City to David Saturday, but due to the fight being in a different airport and our plane landing late, we were unable to make the flight, despite our cab driver weaving at top speed through rush hour traffic in Panama City. We had to stay the night in Panama City, asking our cab driver to take us to a hotel close to the airport. The disappointment of the first day of the trip not going as planned was tempered slightly by meeting an awesome american who was working in a ministry in Costa Rica, Neil, who kindly joined us for dinner, and by the hotel’s rooftop pool.
The next day we departed from Panama City and flew 45 min to David (a 6-8 hr drive). Once we arrived, Yolanda, Juan’s daughter picked us up from the airport, and took us to Juan’s church for Sunday morning service. It was entirely in spanish, so I didn’t get much out of it, but there was a lot of singing. Near the end Juan came up to give a sermon that was translated for us.

Rachael and I waiting for the plane that will take us to David

Rachael and I waiting for the plane that will take us to David

Boarding the plane

Boarding the plane

Flying over Panama

Flying over Panama

Juan's Church

Juan’s Church

After church we planned to visit a village in the mountains. We checked into our hotel, dropped off our luggage, then popped back into the car for more travel! The village we were supposed to visit is two hours outside of David. When we were about 30 min away, it started raining with a ferocity rarely seen in the states. Juan informed us the road to the village is impassible in the rain; it goes though a creek. We were unable to see the village, so as not to have waisted our time, we visited a beach nearby for a few moments to touch the Pacific Ocean before heading back.

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

Rachael, me, and Josh

Rachael, me, and Josh

The beach in Las Lajas

The beach in Las Lajas

That night we wondered around the city near our hotel looking for an open restaurant. We saw the warm neon glow that read “Pio Pio”, and we knew it was finally time to try the foreign fast food joint. Pio Pio is a fast food restaurant that serves chicken, similar to a KFC. We had seen them all over the cities on other trips, but now was our opportunity to actually try the food. My meal of fried chicken, chicken soup, and chicken fried rice, was fairly delicious, although I’d take taco bell over Pio Pio any day.
Tuesday morning we embarked to the island villages. We (Ken, Rachael, Josh, Juan, Yolanda, the translator Betsy, and I) piled into a bus and began the 2 hr drive from David to the port of Chiriqui Grande. The drive took us through the mountains, past waterfalls and spectacular views. At the Port we touched the Atlantic ocean; we touched both the atlantic and the pacific ocean in less than 24 hours! From the port it’s an hour and a half boat ride to the islands in a tiny open boat. We spent the day traveling to different villages around the bay. Some, like Urari and Catavela, were sites of previous water projects. Others, like Kenani and Palma, are being considered as future sites for water projects.

We wandered around David for a bit before heading to the port. This is a shop where we got coffee and breakfast.

We wandered around David for a bit before heading to the port. This is a shop where we got coffee and breakfast.

Where we launched in Chiriqui Grande

Where we launched in Chiriqui Grande

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Rachael and I about to head to the Islands

Rachael and I about to head to the Islands

Rambutan or mamón chino is a delicious fruit sold in the streets of Panama

Rambutan or mamón chino is a delicious fruit sold in the streets of Panama

At each village we visited we viewed where the people were getting their water from, whether it be a windmill aqueduct or a hand dug well, asked them questions about the water, and took a sample of it. We used the sample to do petrifilm tests. The petrifilm tests use a few drops of water, and grow e coli colonies. If the water is contaminated, colonies will grow in little dots. If the water is clean there will be no dots. For this test to be successful, the tests need to be incubated for 24 hours. Luckily, they need to be incubated at body temperature, so we were able to properly incubate them by making a pouch that would sit around someones waist. We also did a patoscreen test. We use 100 mL of sample water, and added the PathoScreen Medium powder pillow, and allowed it to sit for 24 hours. If the color of the water changes from yellow to black of black precipitate forms, then the test is positive. If the test remains yellow the test is negative. A positive test indicates the presence of hydrogen sulfide-producing bacteria, including Salmonella, citrobacter, proteus, edwardsiella, etc. They showed contamination by coliforms and e coli, which normally indicates fecal contamination of the water. We kept the pathoscreen tests in a cooler to reduce the fluctuations in temperature, and shield them from contamination.

the pathoscreen tests

the pathoscreen tests

The petrifilm tests

The petrifilm tests

on

on

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Me being the incubator

Me being the incubator

A teacher in Urari helps Rachael collect a sample of the water from the village's well.

A teacher in Urari helps Rachael collect a sample of the water from the village’s well.

One of Kenani's wells. Uphill is a bathroom and a garbage pile. The hole is the well children from the school get their water from.

One of Kenani’s wells. Uphill is a bathroom and a garbage pile. The hole is the well children from the school get their water from.

We had to do most of the pathoscreen tests in the boat in-between villages because we couldn't keep the samples cold for very long

We had to do most of the pathoscreen tests in the boat in-between villages because we couldn’t keep the samples cold for very long

Rachael and Ken talking to Juan in one of the villages with Betsy translating.

Rachael and Ken talking to Juan in one of the villages with Betsy translating.

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Me drinking coconut water straight from the coconut

Me drinking coconut water straight from the coconut

We spent the night on Patterson Island, the island we stayed at last year. I got to see some familiar faces. I spend most of the evening hiking around the island. After it got dark I went down to the dock and splashed around in the water. The movement stimulated the bioluminescent algae, and the water looked like there were stars in it.
Wednesday morning we took the boat back to the port. Before we headed back to David, we took a detour to a village close to the port in the mountain. The village was planning to get a gravity aqueduct, and was one of the largest villages I had seen.
We then took the 2 hr drive back to David, that almost everyone slept through this time around. Rachael, Josh, and I then headed to Las Lajas to meet with Danny, a minister from Panama who served in the US Navy for 20 years. He contacted us to help bring clean water to a couple of schools he works with in the Comarca. We visited Oma, a school on the side of a mountain. We had to slide down the steep path from the road to see the school. They have a gravity aqueduct, but the water is often contaminated by other people that use the system and the spring runs dry during the summer. We think the best corse of action would be to get an inline chlorinator installed into the system before it reaches the school to clean the water they get from the spring in the winter. The in line chlorinators are cheep, and the chlorine tablets they require are supposed to be free to people in the comarcas from MINSA. As for the problem of it drying up in the summer, we are looking in to drilling a well at the school.

Rachael, Josh, and I being lead to a spring by a local

Rachael, Josh, and I being lead to a spring by a local

The view behind Oma

The view behind Oma

Oma

Oma

Rachael and Danny in front of Oma's water storage tank

Rachael and Danny in front of Oma’s water storage tank

The road to Oma

The road to Oma

As we were leaving a boy from the village approached us, and told us his grandmother was gravely ill, and needed to go to the hospital. We told him we would take her if they could get her up to the road. The family put her in a hammock attached to a pole, and carried her up the hill. Josh, Rachael, her son, and I sat on benches in the open back of the truck while we sped toward the hospital. Racing at 60+ mph through the mountainous jungles of Panama at dusk was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
We dropped the woman off at the hospital, then headed back to David. We told Danny to let us know what happened to her, but so far we haven’t been updated.
Wednesday morning we flew from David to Panama City. We had a meeting with a woman from the US embassy in Panama at a restaurant in the mall near the airport. While we were waiting for it to be time for the meeting (our flight landed at 9:30 am and the meeting was at 1pm), we had Yosimar, a translator from our last trip, meet us at the mall, and go shopping with us. He showed us all the shops Panamanians traditionally shop at, and told us stories of the blatant racism that plagues places like the mall. People with lighter skin are presumed to be rich, and are welcome in all stores. People with darker skin, like him, were presumed to be poor and are often asked to leave or are kicked our of higher end stores.
The meeting with our embassy contact went spectacularly. While we were talking she came up with a list of organizations and people she could put us in contact with to help our cause.
After the meeting we headed to old panama, part of the city from when it was under the control of the spanish. This part of the city is very european looking, and consists mostly of tourist stands and shops. We walked around, and bought our tourist junk to take back.

Old Panama City

Old Panama City

Josh and Rachael perusing the stands in Old Panama

Josh and Rachael perusing the stands in Old Panama

We then headed to our hotel near the airport for the night.
Thursday morning we left for the airport at 6 am, flew to Atlanta, and finally returned to St. Louis around 4 pm.

Bike Ride

I’m back! Having a week off from the office was nice (even if I did spend most of it working at Evangeline’s). Saturday was the launch of our bike ride. We originally planned to ride for 139 miles. Quite early into the trip we realized that a few of our bikers were not going to be able to make it all 139. We proudly made it 80 miles before we decided we couldn’t go any further.
Even though we didn’t go the distance we had planned, the trip was a great success. Everyone who rode had an amazing time, and we raised money and awareness for Water for Panama.
I’ll be in the office for the next few days getting ready for our trip to Panama and wrapping up my internship. Saturday we leave for Panama! The following Thursday we will return to the States, and I will officially be done with my internship for the summer. I probably won’t update the blog again until I return from Panama. Look foreword an extremely long post with lots of pictures of panamanian children, villages, and water!
Here are some pics from the bike ride:

Ready to hit the trail!

Ready to hit the trail!

The Crew: (Left) Wes, William, Anthony, Rachael, Ashley, Josh (Right)

The Crew: (Left) Wes, William, Anthony, Rachael, Ashley, Josh (Right)

My gear strapped to the back of my bike.

My gear strapped to the back of my bike.

On the trail!

On the trail!

Week 9

Week 9 of my internship is coming to a close. This marks the beginning of the end of a great summer experience. I remember the first time I went into the Water for Panama office. It was a few days before my internship started. I was moving into my apartment, and had to pick up my house key from Rachael at the office. I sat in the chair that was going to be my home-base for the next 10 weeks, and looked around our tiny office. Back then it was hard to imagine spending 10 weeks hidden away in a small office with just one other person, but now it is hard to imagine not coming in to the office every day.
This last week I’ve been working on a “To Do” list Rachael made me. I purchased the testing supplies for our upcoming trip, created a new contact database for Water for Panama, and made a new map of the Katy trail. We are biking the Katy trail to end our summer fundraising campaign. We didn’t like any of the maps on the website, so I made a new one that includes where things like bathrooms, water fountains, restaurants, and picnic tables are.
I also spent a lot of time this week trying to get into contact with the Hatch distributors. Hatch is the company that produces the Pathoscreen tests that we want to use while we are in Panama. I did some research a couple weeks ago to see if the Pathoscreen would be safe to transport in our checked luggage. The TSA said it would probably be fine if we kept the product information sheet with it, as it detail the chemicals it contains. We wanted to see if we could avoid the potential hassle of someone confiscating our tests anyway by having them shipped directly to the church. Unfortunately,the US Hatch cannot ship to Panama because they have a Panamanian distributor that we had to communicate with directly. Also unfortunately, it appears the Panama Hatch distributors do not speak very good english; however, I speak no spanish so there was not a better way to communicate. The emails were slow coming, taking three or four days for them to respond. Today we decided that we ran out of time to get the tests from the panamanian distributor, and just ordered them form the US distributor. So we’re taking our chances transporting the tests in our checked luggage. Keep your fingers crossed for us (although it really shouldn’t be a problem).
We’re getting ready for our bike ride. We found a bike rack that will hold all four bikes, so now we only need to drive one car to St Charles. We’re all going to drive to St Charles together early Saturday morning, and start our journey there. We’ll bike all day, and set up camp in Marthasville. Rachael’s mom has volunteered to drive out and drop off food for us, but we’ll have to carry all our personal supplies, sleeping equipment, and tents with us. The next day we’ll bike to Tebbetts and stay in a hostel. The last day we’ll bike to Columbia where Rachael’s mom will pick us and our bikes up and drive us back to St Charles.
We’re continuing to plan our trip to Panama. We’ve got all of our testing supplies ordered or in the office. We’ve made up assessment sheets. We’re hoping to have our international flights finalized today, and our domestic travel plans finished soon.
Next week Rachael is going to well drilling training, so I’ll have the week off from Water for Panama. Then Saturday we leave for the bike ride, and get back on Monday. SO my next update will probably be Tuesday when I’m back in the office after the bike ride. Then we have four days in the office, then off to Panama! I’ve got some exciting stuff going on in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for updates on my awesome adventures.
Here are a few pictures from this week:

The "To Do" list Rachael made me

The “To Do” list Rachael made me

All our testing supplies!!!

All our testing supplies!!!

Rachael organizing our testing supplies

Rachael organizing our testing supplies

The interpretation guide for the petrifilm tests

The interpretation guide for the petrifilm tests

Week 8

Wow. I can’t believe there are only two more weeks of my internship left. Although, after those two weeks I’m doing a three day bike ride, then a week long trip to Panama, so WFP won’t quite be done with me at the end of the next two weeks.
This week has really flown by. This week my focus was on well drilling research. I looked into the process of drilling a well, researched the water cycle and aquifers, and learned quite a bit about sustainable water use. I used this research to create a worksheet that we will use while we are in Panama at the end of August. We will use the questions I came up with from my research to gather information essential to determining if a well would be appropriate in a given village, and where in the village the well would best go. The sheet is now completed, and it will be used in conjunction with similar sheets, so we can collect all the necessary information from the villages we visit. The places WFP works are isolated for the most part, so getting information like population size, number of houses, village layout, school attendance rates, etc is extremely difficult when we’re not in the villages. Therefore, we have created a packet that contains all the questions we would like answered so we can accurately evaluate the villages for future water projects, and the impact of those projects.
I’m also trying to figure out the best way to get our testing kits to Panama. We have concerns with trying to transport the tests through the airlines, as we are worried that TSA or customs will confiscate them. Therefore, we’re looking for another way to get them to David. Luckily, the company we’re ordering the tests from has a distributor in Panama. I’ve been in contact with them (which is made a bit more difficult as I speak very very little spanish). It looks like they will be able to deliver the tests to David for us, so we will be able to pick them up once we’re in the country.
In the next two weeks I’ll be doing a lot of little projects to prepare for our end of the summer events.
The bike ride fundraising campaign is going excellently. We have raised $1,200 ($200 over our goal). I got a free crowd rise shirt because we achieved our fundraising goal!I’m going to pick up the biking tanks we designed/ ordered for the event later today.
We’ve still got a lot of planning to do to pull of our Carnival fundraiser at the end of August.
And of corse we’ve got a lot of prep work to do before we go to Panama. We’re going to be extremely busy, and traveling all over the country, so it’s going to be important everyone is on the same page as to what we want to accomplish.
I don’t really have any pictures from this week, as it’s just been me sitting in the office staring at a computer. Don’t worry, I’ll make up for the lack of pictures this week with a billion pictures from the bike ride, trip to Panama, and the Carnival Fundraiser.

 

Me, sitting at my desk. Basically, what I did all week.

Me, sitting at my desk. Basically, what I did all week.

Week 7

Finishing off the seventh week of my internship!

I don’t really know what to write about this week.

I started off the week researching the TSA’s policy on chemicals in checked baggage. We’re planning on printing field test kits, pathoscreen, and we wanted to bring them to Panama ing our checked baggage; however, we were concerned the TSA would take them away, as they’re little plastic pouches of white powder. After contacting airlines, the TSA, and the Office for Hazardous Materials Safety, it looks like the pouches will be fine to transport on the airplane as long as we keep the safety sheet with it. Now I need to check custom’s policies and determine if we’ll have any problems there.

Now I’m focusing my research on well drilling, and specifically well drilling in Panama. I will be creating an evaluation form to decide where a well should go (physical features, assessing aquifers), and what the questions to consider are. I will research drilling close to the shoreline: what restrictions we have, how far away we should go, etc, and if there are any geologic & topographic maps of the Ngobe Bugle comarca or the Bisira township specifically, and Las Lajas (to get an idea of aquifers/surface features). Right now I’m in the preliminary stages of the research; familiarizing myself with the basics and terminology, etc. More on this next week!
In other news, the article I submitted to the Journal of Water and Health has been assigned a manuscript number and is under review. Hopefully I will hear more soon.

Yesterday, Rachael and Josh went to Indianapolis to have an important meeting with Juan. I wanted to go, but I couldn’t get off work at Evangeline’s, so unfortunately, I could not tag along. Juan is our main contact in Panama. He has a church in David, and often travels to the comarca. Working with and having a good relationship with Juan and David’s Well is essential, at this point in time, to the success of our projects in Panama. The meeting went really well! We got the go ahead for our trip in August. I don’t have any more details yet, but that means we can start booking flights and arranging transportation, and planning the trip in detail!

A lot of really exciting stuff is happening with Water for Panama. Unfortunately, I cannot share most of it with you because the information is extremely confidential or it’s not official yet. So, look out we’ll have some very exciting announcements in the near future.

Our bike fundraising campaign is going extremely well. We are only $150 away from our goal of raising $1,000! We’re continuing training, as the ride is only three weeks away.
Link to the fundraiser: https://www.crowdrise.com/BikeforCleanWater

Rachael got a kitten. She brought him to the office monday because he cries if you leave him alone.

Rachael got a kitten. She brought him to the office monday because he cries if you leave him alone.

His name is Toulouse, and he is crazy adorable. Just look at that little bow.

His name is Toulouse, and he is crazy adorable. Just look at that little bow.

Rachael showing off our Sawyer hollow fiber membrane filter

Rachael showing off our Sawyer hollow fiber membrane filter

Me, enjoying some of the awesome filtered water

Me, enjoying some of the awesome filtered water

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Week 6

Week six of my internship has been like the other five weeks for the most part. I don’t have anything extraordinarily exciting to report.

I spent monday making a contact database for Rachael. It really is extraordinary how many people come out of the woodwork and want to help in a myriad of different ways. Basically I just entered their name, phone, email, company, what they do, and how we know them into a spreadsheet. I spent the rest of the week finishing the article I’m writing. I just have to finish some final revisions. Then I’m going to submit it to the Journal of Water and Health. Which is exciting. I’m not too hopeful that it will get published, but it would be extremely cool for both me and Water for Panama. So, keep your fingers crossed.

On tuesday Josh, our CFO, came in to the office. We fundraise through CrowdRise, a fundraising hosting website. CrowdRise does a bunch of fun little giveaways. For example, if you yell I’m cute then email them they’ll give you points on your account. On tuesday we got an email that the first 100 people to email them a picture of them spilling water on themselves would be awarded $25 to the charity of their choice. So, we convinced Josh to spill water all over himself. It was worth it; we got $25 for our summer fundraising campaign!

Steve, who works in another office in TechArtista developing a beer-keurig device, revealed to us that he knows two people involved in water work. One is a guy who drove down north america in a van distributing water filters to areas that need them. The other is Scott Harrison, the founder of charity water. Scott Harrison is basically Rachael’s idol, so she fangirled at that piece of info. Steve promised to introduce us/ connect us with Scott! Yet another perk of working in a co-working space.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been planning and fundraising for our charity bike ride. We’re making team tank tops, so we’ll look official. To prep I’ve been riding my bike around Forrest Park after work. Right now we’ve got about 8 people who are going to do the ride, and we’ve raised $710! Our goal is to raise $1,000, so we’re not done yet. If you want to donate/ learn more here’s a link to the fundraising page: https://www.crowdrise.com/bikeforcleanwater/fundraiser/ashleyjunger

We’ve also been planning our big fundraising event for the end of the summer. It’s going to be a carnival themed cocktail event. We’re going to have games, raffles, food, and drinks. We’re going to sell tickets, and take donations. This event will cap off our summer fundraising campaign, and will hopefully raise lots of money to bring clean water to the people of Panama. If you’re going to be in St. Louis at the end of August, and want to come to this event email me at ashleyjunger_2016@depauw.edu.

That’s everything even remotely new over the last week. Stay tuned for the next update!

As always here are some pictures:

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Josh, spilling water on himself, but mostly the floor.

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Our poor wet floor

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Meetings!

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Rachael and I went to Fair STL to watch the fireworks!

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We went down the street to Coffee Cartel to work one afternoon.

Week 5

One of the side effects of being on summer break from college is that everyone asks what you’re doing. Normally it’s kind of a rude question to ask what someone is doing with their life, what their achievements are, but for some reason when you’re in college it’s okay for someone to ask what your deepest hopes and dreams are, and how you’re going to accomplish them in the next few years. Luckily, I have a pretty decent response to this question. This summer I have had to recited this reply so many times I basically have a monologue memorized:

“Oh well I’m interning for a non-profit that rents an office space in the Central West End from TechArtista. The non-profit is called Water for Panama. We work to bring clean water solutions to indigenous villages in Panama. I’m working as the organization’s Chief Science Officer this summer. I conduct research, and collect data for them, allowing them to go forward in their work better informed and more targeted in their efforts to combat the water crisis.”

More often than not people respond that they’re amazed by this work, that they wish they had done something like that when they were younger/ in college/ didn’t have kids. I also get people who respond that they wish they had chosen jobs/ careers/ life paths that helped people like I am during my internship. They wish they had realized the value of having higher meaning in their work before they had chosen their career path. They depress themselves contemplating the deep meaninglessness that comes out of their toil at their 9 to 5, or the 9 to 5 they plan to have after they have their degree.

I have two reoccurring responses to these reactions to my summer work. I usually keep them to myself since I try to make a point of not moralistically lecturing strangers on a daily basis (despite the many many times I think I would be completely justified in doing so). I plan to share them here, so if you’re not interested in sage advice from a twenty year old college intern then skip the next few paragraphs.

Firstly, meaning comes from whatever you personally value. Having a meaningful life means spending the time to sit down and figure out what is meaningful to you, why, and how to achieve that meaning. Most people unthinkingly value volunteer work because it’s selfless, it’s important, it’s altruistic, and morally right. People aren’t wrong when they find value in volunteer work and working for non-profits. There’s a deep well of meaning in dedicating time and/ or money to serving people less fortunate than you, in helping manually correct the cosmic injustices that riddle the world. However, people mistake this type of meaning as the only meaning anyone can hope to achieve. Just because there is meaning in this type of work doesn’t mean there isn’t any in any other type of work. It all boils down to doing what you believe in, and what moves you. As long as you can be excited by your career, it sparks your soul, it gets your brain firing, it makes you feel like what you’re doing has real consequences and importance, you have found meaning in your work. Don’t be afraid or ashamed that you aren’t dedicating your life to saving rain forests, battling poverty, or correcting social injustices. There is meaning and value in whatever you invest meaning or value in. The important thing is to decide what it is that gives you personally a sense of achievement and meaning before deciding what you are going to dedicate your life to.

Secondly, it is never too late to achieve meaning in your life. If correcting these social and political injustices is what you find meaning in, but you are only just realizing it, and think that it’s too late to do anything about it, you’re wrong. Just because you haven’t flown to Africa to personally pour clean water into the mouth of a dying child doesn’t mean that you’re not moved by or dedicated to the cause. We don’t need thousands of people leaping on planes and handing out water and medicine; we need people who are dedicated to helping us do the grunt work. We need people who can raise money and awareness. We need people willing to give up a birthday for clean water, to get people to sponsor them to ride their bike, or only eat rice and beans for a month, or whatever else they think people will give them money to do. We need people who will spread the cause like wildfire, and make other people aware that there are problems that need to be fixed, and can be fixed.

(if you are one of these people, and looking for a cause to give your life some meaning, then follow this link: http://www.waterforpanama.org)


 

Anyway, for the last week I’ve been working on putting together a lab report of the data I spent the last four weeks collecting. Compiling the citations took an entire day, but now I’m focused on the paper, and it’s almost halfway done.

This week we received our MVP water filter! The MVP water filter is a hollow fiber membrane filter that attaches to any 5 gallon plastic bucket, and eliminates bacteria, viruses, parasites, and turbidity. We set it up in our office, tested it out, and demonstrated it to everyone who has visited us for the last few days.

Here are some pictures:

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Josh, Chief Financial Officer, cuts a hole in the bucket for the filter.

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Me, holding the filter in the WFP office.

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On the left is the unfiltered water. On the right is filtered water. This is the power of our work. This is the difference we are trying to achieve in people’s lives.

 

 

 

 

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Week 4

Part 1: Reflection

Having an internship is like you’re learning to ride a bike and you’ve taken the training wheels off, but your dad is still holding on to the back of your seat to make sure you don’t fall on your face. You’ve got the adult career, you’re working with people who have the same goals and interests as you, and you’ve got your own house. You do all the little pedantic adult things that you don’t dream about when you imagine being on your own; You deal with the tediousness of grocery shopping, having a landlord, rush hour traffic, paying bills, etc. At the same time, however, you experience highs you never imagined; successfully being able to feed yourself for an extended period of time without anyone else helping you is surprisingly fulfilling. Creating a graph of data you researched, compiled and analyzed is a personal achievement whose unique high cannot be achieved artificially by completing assignments in a classroom.

Working an internship gives you a unique window into the world beyond school, yet you aren’t being thrown to the sharks. If you hate your job, if you find it tedious, uninteresting, unethical, or humiliating, you aren’t stuck with it; you can fall gracefully back into the gentle safety net created by your parents and education. It doesn’t matter if you love the experience you have, or if you decide on the 3rd day that having this career would send you down a rabbit hole of depression and existential crises because either way you’re going back to school at the end of the summer. The experience will either inspire you to work harder for what you already want, or will help you to realize the path you’re on now is not where you want to end up. Either way you come out smarter, and more in touch with what whom you are, what you want, and what you need in order to get there. Basically an internship can only help you in your pursuit of a career that you can find fulfilling after school.

Luckily, I couldn’t be happier with the experience I am having at Water for Panama. This experience has helped me to realize that I really do have a passion for data and research. In the classroom, it is easy to forget the passion that sparked you to pursue the path in the first place. Getting to work with data and information that has real life implications, that will influence policy and people’s lives, help make the world better, has reinvigorated my appetite for research, for data, for numbers and statistics.

I have spent the last two weeks working on a graph that represents a comprehensive overview of the detriments and advantages of all viable water purification methods. This project has required me to do lots of research, read copious articles, and make countless charts. I had to learn how an inline PVC chlorinator works, and how to calculate the contact time of a system. I learned about the chemistry of flocculants. I discovered the intricacies that actually go in to having “clean water”. I am in love with this graph now. I want to carry around a print out of the graph and show it to everyone. Not only am I effecting the world in a positive, productive, and lasting way, but I’m also doing it in a way that I find fulfilling and exciting. This experience is helping me to clarify and focus the hazy picture I have of where I’ll be in 5 years.

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This is the graph I’ve been working on.

 

Part 2: Summary

Okay, now I’m going to be a lot less introspective and insightful, and just give an overview of what I’ve been up to. This week has been a lot like the last two in that I’ve just been working on my graphs and tables. I finally finished the graph, so right now I’m working on compiling the citations, and then I’ll start writing a full report on it, which Water for Panama can use it on their website and I can try to get it published by someone.

This week we ordered one of the filters that won in my metrics, the MVP filter from Waves for Water. We’ll get the filter on Monday, and then we can test it out and play around with it!IMG_1292

I realized I haven’t put in a lot about the city, and what I’ve been doing outside of my office hours, so here are some pictures of the city etc.

 

 

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This is an abandoned church that I pass every day on my way to work.

 

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This is Evangeline’s where I waitress a couple of nights a week.

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Cafe Osage is a combination cafe and plant nursery. Rachael and I had brunch there last weekend, and picked up some plants for our apartment!

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Trinity is a church across the street from TechArtista with a cute little courtyard.

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The first building is the entrance to TechArtista. The building with the red detailing and umbrellas is Evangeline’s, so my jobs are neighbors.

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These are the plants I’m growing on the porch of my apartment.

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On the job at Evangeline’s

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Epiphytes! I made the holders myself, and I bought the plants form Cafe Osage

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I pass the arch every day on my way to work!

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Week 2 + Week 3

I would like to open this post by saying I could not be happier with the experiences I am having not only at Water for Panama, but at TechArtista, and the city surrounding us. Being involved in such a small ecosystem of people my age who are working to create new ideas, and better the community is an invaluable experience that will benefit me infinitely in the future.

For the last two weeks I have been working to create spread sheets that offer a comprehensive overview of specific water purification systems, as well as general techniques for household purification. I recently finished these spread sheets after lots of articles, websites, and videos. Now that these spread sheets are as complete as current scientific data can allow them to be I am working to create a metrics system that will allow us to accurately determine the merits of each general system, and determine which method deserves to be focused on as the organization moves forward. Creating this metrics system is more challenging than I thought. I have to make sure the differences in the systems don’t give one system an advantage when none is deserved. For example, the speed of the flow rate is taken into consideration in my metrics system; however, not all systems have a flow rate (sedimentation, chlorination, aeration, etc). Therefore, I need to be able to rank their “flow rate” in a way that doesn’t give systems that have a flow an advantage, as one system may have a flow rate higher than 0, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it generates clean water faster than a method that does not have a flow rate. I hadn’t considered these nuances when I started the system, so now I will have to go back through and change the system I created.

I’m excited to finish these metrics, and complete an accurate representation of the merits of the different systems, as Rachael and I have discussed turning this research into a scientific article, which I would be the main author of. We are also considering using the data we will collect when we travel to Panama in August to create another scientific article. I don’t know if we will be able to get these published, but I am excited at the chance to write a lab report about data that didn’t come from a class lab.

This last week we launched our summer fundraising campaign. Using Lifestraw community systems we can bring clean water to 1 student for 1 year for just 25 cents. This statistic is the basis of our campaign, encouraging people that even giving a little means a lot. As a part of this campaign we are launching a “Bike for Clean Water” project. We are encouraging people to donate money, and in August I and some other WFP employees and friends will bike 139 miles from St Charles MO to Columbia MO. I am extremely excited about this prospect. As I wrote in the fundraiser description on CrowdRise “This bike ride will mirror the endurance that millions of people must have in their daily struggle for clean water. In donating our time, effort, and energy, we hope to create a better understanding of the urgency of the water crisis. We undertake this battle in the hopes they soon won’t have to.” 100% of the money from the bike ride will go to buying water purification systems to be implemented in communities in Panama.

Here’s a link to the fundraising campaign in case anyone who reads this wants to donate:

https://www.crowdrise.com/bikeforcleanwater

And here are some pictures I took in the last two weeks:

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Here’s the board room where we had a meeting with John, an engineer that knows a crazy amount about water purification systems. He helped us plan out some possible systems, and gave us advice about what kind of tests we should do on the water to determine what kinds of systems we need.

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Rachael and I meet with Eric to start planning a fundraising event for WFP in August. In addition to running TechArtista, Eric has an event planning business, Bazaar Boy.

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Rachael and I decided to work from the board room one afternoon for some more natural light, and a change of scenery. It doesn’t hurt that this room also has amazing speakers.

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Remy decided he wanted to help us work

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Wednesday morning the art gallery next door had a meet and greet. A group of TechArtista people went, and we mingled with some of the other professionals in the area among some stellar art. I meet a lot of interesting people, including a web designer who offered to help make some videos for WFP!

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Josh, our Chief Financial Officer, came in and we had a meeting about our goals, concerns, and hopes for the next couple of months.

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Week One

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View of the inside of our office

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Left to right: Josh, Chief Financial Officer. Me, Chief Science officer. Rachael, Chief Executive Officer.

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The entrance of Tech Artista

I have officially completed my first full week of my internship at Water for Panama!

The last week I’ve spent working at Water for Panama has been extraordinary. The organization is completely focused on creating meaningful and lasting change in an area that sorely needs it. I feel like I’m making a real and important impact with the work I’ve started to do here, and I’m excited to continue this work for the rest of the summer.

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Me on my first day at the office

My favorite part of working at Water for Panama so far is the collaboration and intimacy of the organization. Water for Panama is a very small non-profit that’s just getting started with all of the projects and impacts it’s going to have in the future. I work directly with the CEO, and I know the work I’m doing is crucial to creating a detailed knowledge base for the organization to operate from.

I spent my first few days familiarizing myself with the systems that WFP is interested in researching, the goals, and the rhythm of the organization.  As Chief Science Officer for the organization I will be spending the summer conducting scientific and environmental research on water systems and their implementations. I will be working to identify the most cost effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly systems that should be implemented. I am currently working to complete spreadsheets that organize information about different water purification systems and the different household systems. I will be searching for scientific articles that have studied the uses and effectiveness of these different systems to gather information on their ability to reduce the risk of diarrhea and their acceptance by the people in the communities.

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The men that run Tech Artista often bring their dog, Remi, to work; he likes to jump in laps and get attention.

The WFP office is part of a collaborative work space recently started in the Central West End of St. Louis. The WFP office is just one of many that make up the building. While working here I’ve met many other young people working on achieving their unique dreams. Many of the other offices are small start up businesses and other non-profits.

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CEO, Rachael Pace, gets some work done in the hammock hanging in the office. The hammock is from one of her previous trips to the country, and attracts a lot of passerby to come in and see what our organization is all about.

 

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Tech Artista has a beautiful roof, and Rachael and I often sit up there while we eat lunch. We hope to be able to host a fundraiser there before the end of the summer.

 

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To welcome everyone to the office, one of the Tech Artista founders, Eric (above), put on an apron and hosted a smoothie happy hour on the third floor of the office. He made me a strawberry, banana, and mango smoothie.

 

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As I write this post I’m sitting in the hammock in the office, enjoying a cup of coffee. Working at WFP has been an incredible and unique experience so far, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me the rest of the summer.