Since you last heard from us, our team has been working hard to bring you new and exciting developments! As we had reported, two of our members traveled to our India site to accomplish the set goals. They visited the pilot village of Achinakom, examining each tank individually. With the help of MGU’s School of Environmental Sciences facilities, water quality tests were performed on all 13 systems, revealing a high quality standard with low contaminants. Surveys were also gathered from participating villagers, and responses remained consistently positive.
Perhaps more significantly, we have forged a partnership with the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) through local connections. Moving away from the academic focus our previous university partner (MGU) brought, we believe this step will bring us closer to implementing a self-sustaining business model and attaining large-scale social impact. As an established NGO, MSSRF will share organizational infrastructure with R4H—providing office space and regular project account audits that are essential to success, but difficult to come by for smaller groups like ours. The collaboration will be the first in MSSRF’s new Water Development Program (initiated September 2013). With the leadership and overhead support of the program’s director, Deepak Depanshandi, we expect frequent communication and mutual success. Details of the agreement are currently being discussed, and the final version will be signed by both R4H and MSSRF in January 2014.
We are also happy to report the hiring of our first, full-time Program Manager. His name is Jibin Thomas and he is a local resident of Kuttanad region of Kerala, where our operations take place. Our US project leaders were able to interview him for the position in August and were impressed with his passion for the community and experience in other social projects. Jibin was still attending law school in the state capital then, but has since graduated and is ready to begin working under the new R4H-MSSRF partnership. At the moment he is now learning the ins-and-outs of the R4H culture and is expected to be fully trained by the end of November. He will be leading project implementation and system construction by December, working directly with village residents to expand the R4H program. We are very excited to have him on board!
Under Jibin’s management, this spring’s dry season will see our most extensive construction yet. With funding we received from the Ford Motor Company, we plan to build 20 new rainwater harvesting systems—supplying water for 60 more families. Most of these systems will be built outside of our pilot community, Achinakom—marking another new development in our program. Given our close established relationship with the people of Achinakom, that area will continue as a test bed for new system designs and business model ideas.
Things are the ground are moving quickly and at R4H we're very excited.None of this, however, would have been possible without the help of those who've supported us along the way--for that we thank you.
Last time you heard from us in May we were preparing to send our US team members to the field in pursuit of three main goals: to increase management capacity, to re-assess financials, and to re-engineer tank construction and design. Since then, two of our leaders have spent a month and a half at our partner university in India to accomplish these tasks. Through community meetings and partnership building, potential candidates are being recruited to manage operations in the field. Reviewing records and receipts, comprehensive cash flow statements and third-party auditing are in progress. Finally, engineering research is being carried out to test vegi-fiber technology in our tank designs, a more cost-effective and local alternative to our current methods.
Our efforts to find leadership in the field have relied on networking with established local organizations. Conversations with the Screwpine Society and M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), both local NGO's working in the Kuttanad, have resulted in qualified applicants looking to join our team. These discussions have also helped us envision a management model. With this in mind, R4H is beginning to take shape as an organization, growing from the project phase to larger-scale implementation. Establishing a dedicated field team will also ensure that the work being done to revise financials and maintain transparency is continued in the absence of our US members.This is one of our highest priorities as we endeavor to maintain a high level of accountability with donations and new funds.
Research continues on tank design, this time beginning phase two of testing on the field. If successful, usage of this new material could pioneer an environmentally-minded solution to reducing construction costs.
Interactions with beneficiaries suggest that they remain satisfied with the R4H program. Field visits also reveal a high demand for rainwater harvesting, not just from R4H but from organizations similar to our own. We hope to tap into this need in the future, after internal organization has been established and expansion begins.
Water quality testing has also been conducted on all existing tanks, reaffirming that our water is the healthier alternative to all other tested sources.
As our team members near the end of their summer visit, we expect contingency in all actions that have been taken. R4H forges forward on the path to growth, and we foresee the new connections that have been made this summer will help strengthen community involvement, demand, and impact.
To read more about our summer experiences, please visit our Blog (linked below)!
The past months have seen motivating action from our group members. Funded by the Obama Singh Initiative and hosted by Mahatma Gandhi University, we will be sending two students from the Brown team to perform on-site research in Kerala this summer. We hope to accomplish various goals throughout this trip, including the hiring of a Program Director to oversee all field operations, the streamlining of our tank construction process to facilitate large-scale expansion, and the revision of the management and financial systems currently in place.
Continuing the 2012 alternative construction material research and following up on the prototype, the plans for this summer include the evaluation of a pilot tank built using coconut fibers. Additionally, we plan to explore simpler construction techniques that can be more easily replicated.
Together with the new Program Director, we plan to train all employees on frequent monitoring of financial data. We will be training our management team in India on basic computer literacy to digitize records, making them more accessible. Further, we will reinforce communication systems between the Brown team and the India team to strengthen our partnership.
Both teams are continuing efforts to improve the project’s sustainability. The Brown team has met with new mentors that have served as financial advisors and networking connections. The India team has scouted new locations where residents are eager for the project to be implemented. Together, this will bring allow our group to impact a larger population while maintaining a sustainable business model.
Finally, fundraising continues to be a priority as we approach larger scale impact. The Brown team has applied to a number of grants and kindly thanks all donors over the past year. Monies raised have allowed for 6 new tanks and will soon serve as capital for another round of construction. By the end of next year we hope to complete construction in the Achinakom village, totaling 40 tanks servicing 150 households.
Once again, we thank you for your support and will continue delivering exciting updates from our summer activities on our website.
The last round of construction is officially over leaving 14 tanks on the ground now collecting water! And as a continuation of the successful engineering research done over the summer of 2012, we have started the prototyping process in India. By using a systematic test of metrics, our team in India is currently in the process of determining whether our new construction materials will be suitable for a new tank model.
The team at Brown has been working hard to prepare its internal structure for a scalable future. We have overhauled and revamped our website (www.rainwaterforhumanity.org ), and will now be posting weekly blog updates on our day to day work. The ultimate goal of the work done at Brown is to succeed in bringing Rainwater for Humanity into non-profit status under a fiscally sustainable business model. At this stage we would be able to sustain permanent positions in India, and expand our impact to other villages.
One of our major successes in the attempt to expand our network, was a request to present our work at the Unite for Sight conference in Yale in April. We are so excited for the opportunity to present our team and get our name out!
Our India team also has exciting news: Mahatma Gandhi University was a winner in the Obama-Singh initiative (Obama-Singh Initiative). They were awarded $80,000 to facilitate international student research exchange. We plan on using the additional financial support to integrate our Brown and Indian teams through more frequent student trips.
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