EWB Detroit Projects

Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua ~ Clean Water

EWB-Detroit is currently working with the village of Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua on two projects: a project to provide safe drinking water for all members of the community, and a project to provide a sanitation solution.

EWB-Detroit has partnered with a local non-profit located within the village. A Water Committee has also been established. This committee will serve to represent the community throughout the project and ensure that the community’s best interests are kept at heart.

Libertad, Peru ~ Water Project

On June 8th, 2019, EWB Detroit team members journeyed over 3,000 miles to Libertad, a rural community located in the Peruvian region of the Amazon basin, approximately 2 hours from Iquitos, Peru. This nutrient-rich region of the Amazon rainforest is home to a vast array of flora and fauna, whose primary water source is the Amazon River, the largest river in the world in terms of sheer volume of water, and the second longest measuring at roughly 4,000 miles.

For the communities living in the Loreto region of Peru, where Libertad lies, the Amazon River is essential to survival, providing transportation, food, and revenue.
This same freshwater river that sustains those dwelling along its banks, however, is unsafe for consumption. Uncontrolled human expansion, especially through industrial means, the destruction of fragile ecosystems, deforestation, erosion caused by plant loss, increased sedimentation, and increased use of agricultural chemicals are among the many factors contributing to water pollution of the Amazon River.

A team of 7 EWB-Detroit chapter volunteers traveled to Libertad with NGO partner, Amazon Promise (headquartered in Iquitos), to begin a needs assessment of the community regarding water supply, treatment, storage, and delivery. The goal of this trip was to meet face-to-face with both Amazon Promise and the Libertad community, assess the current situation, and determine where the strengths and challenges of the community and ecosystem lay. Working with the local leaders, we described our objectives for the week and obtained permission to interview community members about their thoughts and concerns regarding water – and we succeeded in interviewing over 95% of the community with the help of Amazon Promise!

We also mapped out the entire community, which consists of 49 residences, a tourist lodge, community center, women’s artisan center, school, and church. This may seem like a lot, but it has taken years to build up the community after moving three times over a 60-year period due to erosion of the Amazon’s riverbanks. Now, Libertad is one of the largest villages in the region, with a government-built school that even children from nearby villages will go to attend school. The growing population only further compels the need for a sustainable clean water system to allow them to continue to grow and develop.

The EWB-Detroit chapter has worked with Amazon Promise and other EWB-chapters in the region to design a rainwater catchment system that will be implemented as part of Libertad’s community center. Due to Covid-19, the rainwater catchment system has been postponed from implementation in mid-summer 2020 to November 2020, with Amazon Promise taking the reigns to ensure its completion as a result of international travel restriction. Amazon Promise has engaged with the Libertad community members, who are excited for the system to be built despite the many challenges of 2020.

  1. Butler, R.A. 2013. “Amazon River Ecosystems Being Rapidly Degraded, But Remain Neglected by Conservation Efforts.” Mongabay News & Inspiration from Nature’s Frontlines. Retrieved from https://news.mongabay.com/2013/02/amazon-river-ecosystems-being-rapidly-degraded-but-remain-neglected-by-conservation-efforts/

  2.  McLeod, S. 2018. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a project lead?

It is a very humbling experience. I’m not a water expert or water engineer, so I’ve had my own learning curve to overcome. Fortunately, our chapter has several members who are experts in water systems who are passionate about the project, and I am very lucky to have their support and expertise in the team. As cliché as it sounds, I am very blessed to have this opportunity to be part of implementing this project – the most rewarding aspect has really been the teamwork among the EWB members themselves (especially Vicky, Jacob, Kelsey, Nicole, Sabrina, Alex, Kiran, Jen, and Caroline), Amazon Promise (shoutout to Patty and José!), the Libertad community (truly everyone for letting us take time to ask all our questions), and last but not least, the other EWB chapters who have provided guidance, resources, and assistance (EWB Sonoma, Houston, and San Diego).

What surprised you the most about the Libertad Community while on the assessment trip?

I was surprised by how collectively united they were in their communal goals – in this case, bringing a safe water source to the entire community without leaving anyone out, regardless of financial capability. They were open to any solution we might propose to them so long as they understood it and agreed on it as a community. We also saw 5-7 other rainwater catchment systems in nearby communities (funded by EWB, Amazon Promise, and other NGOs), showing both an awareness and desire for safer drinking water in the region. With the education and training of proper water treatment and storage, the people of Libertad and other nearby communities will continue to work together to share their knowledge and continue to empower themselves to develop sustainable clean water systems. 

Aerial view of the community of Libertad
EWB-Detroit travel team with Amazon Promise partners in front of Libertad’s Jungle Lodge
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