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NOTE: Many more details and stories from each phase of the project can be found on Kendra’s Blog

January 2006: How it all got started

In January of 2006, two freshman MIT students: Froylan Sifuentes and Kendra Johnson began searching for a community empowerment project. With the help of an Ecuadorian organization called Ecuador Volunteer,  Froylan and Kendra found out about Santa Ana, a small community in the Ecuadorian Amazon with concerns about their potable water system. They were funded by the Fellowships Program at MIT’s Public Service Center.

Summer 2006: First trip to Santa Ana (photos)

Froylan and Kendra spent 10 weeks in Santa Ana during the summer of 2006. They found a water system abandoned by the local government, and worked with the community to fill in the missing components,  set up a simplified administrative system and train the relevant members of the community. At the end of the 10 weeks water still wasn’t flowing in Santa Ana because some key components that the contractor was responsible for were still missing.

January 2007: New illustrated technical and administrative manuals (photos)

In January of 2007, Froylan and Kendra went back to Santa Ana for 4 weeks, bringing newly illustrated and improved versions of the technical and administrative manuals they had made on their first trip. These manuals are provided download here on this website and you may use them for your own purposes – we only as that you credit the source. (Both are only available in Spanish).

Technial manual

Administrative manual

On their first day back in the community they were able to use an indoor toilet and wash their hands at a sink with running water! However, this success of the water system was short lived and the focus of the trip quickly shifted from a capacitating program for other communities to fixing the immediate technical problems with the water system in Santa Ana. These included initiating the chlorination system, sanding and painting the elevated water tower with anti-corrosive paint, fixing up the shoddy plumbing in the bathrooms, and hunting out and repairing leaks in the distribution system. At the end of the 3 weeks, the community had intermittent water supply because serious technical issues still remained

Fall 2007: The idea of Sacha Yaku is born

The organization Sacha Yaku was born in the fall of 2007 as a mechanism for long-term assistance to the families of Santa Ana and to the water system. By linking the water system to the opportunity to earn money by selling their traditional ceramics and jewelry we hope to galvanize a community push to make both of these projects succeed.

January 2008: Sacha Yaku is launched (photos)

During January of 2008, two MIT students, Kendra Johnson and Fernando Funakoshi spent a month in Santa Ana. They helped the water board overcome the ongoing technical and administrative challenges with the water system, and mentored the women’s association, called “Sinchi Warmi” meaning strong women in preparation for the first Sacha Yaku purchase of traditional art. The women organized an amazing art fair, and decided to each contribute a portion of their earnings to the women’s association and another portion to the water board.

June 2008: Santa Ana become local water testing experts (photos)

During June of 2008, three MIT students: Fatima Hussain, Cassie Liu, and Kendra Johnson traveled to Santa Ana with two objectives. First: to resolve a long-standing problem with frequent clogging of the slow sand filter by installing an extra connection to fill the filter from the bottom. Second: to give the water board their very own coliform testing kit and train as many people in the community as possible how to test water for coliform bacteria and how they can use the test kit to make sure their water is clean. Not only that, but by leaving the coliform test kit [a Test-Water-Cheap kit developed at MIT's d-lab for inexpensive coliform testing] means that Santa Ana can be a tremendous resource to other communities

August 2008: Sacha Yaku provides a new pump for Santa Ana

During the summer of 2008, the pump broke in Santa Ana. Sacha Yaku was able to fund the replacement of the pump and the repair  of the sensor system that allows the pump to turn off and on automatically. Thanks to these repairs and the community’s ongoing maintenance  efforts, Santa Ana can now have piped water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

January 2009: Clean water for a new community (photos)

During January of 2009, a team of five US students worked with Santa Ana to form a new ‘water technical team’ made up of six members of the community of Santa Ana who were interested in working to spread access to clean water to other communities. The water technical team went to a neighboring community called La Encañada where they conducted a house to hous survey, did water quality testing, installed rain water systems at all nine houses, and conducted water and health workshops with the community members and school children of La Encañada.

The water technical team has now received funding from the local municipal government to repeat the process in a second community, and Sacha Yaku will be providing the supplemental administrative funds necessary to make this a reality.

December 2009: A quick check-in and project evaluation (photos)

During December 2009, Kendra went back to Santa Ana and Encañada for a few days to check in on the water system in Santa Ana and the individual rain water tanks in La Encañada. After 1 year, all of the systems in La Encañada are still working and in good shape, and the families were very happy with them. We found mixed results in the coliform test kits of the water from the rain water tanks, probably due to difference in maintenance and storage of the water after the tanks, but we do know that it is possible to have very clean water with this system if families are careful about these issues. We also repeated a house to house health survey and found that the reported number of times a child had diarrhea in a year dropped from an average of 6.9 to 1.9 times per year from before our intervention, which is quite promising! Most exciting of all, Santa Ana has helped two other communities successfully apply for funding for rain water tanks and is now helping them with the installations.

2010: what will the new year bring for the Sacha Yaku and these communities in Ecuador?

Sacha Yaku is currently looking for an MIT student to spend the summer of 2010 working with Santa Ana and the local government to develop a robust implementation model for the family rain water tanks. Interested? Contact

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