There is an incredible level of potential energy here. The students here are like beautiful flowers laying dormant in their seeds for rains that can bring the realization of stronger communities and a healthier future.
José greeted me with a smile, a handshake, and a dozen apples picked from his family farm. Recommended by an ebullient eccentric professor at the Instituto Tecnica industrial, José proficiently answered a series of electronics questions, had leadership experience, spoke the local Kiche, and most importantly had an intensely determined energy about him.
Eric is a third year engineering student, with extensive experience in electrical and mechanical systems, including hydroelectric and solar panel installations, engine repair, computer programming, and even speaks English quite well. During school breaks, he works in a beer factory 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
We have interviewed over 50 candidates for 12 positions (4 full-time, 8 part-time) in the last week at the two regional technical schools and an engineering department at a local university. What strikes me is the high level of experience and interest, and the few opportunities available to these qualified students. Yet this country has abundant renewable natural resources, and intense levels of inefficiency. Technology, although cannot be viewed as a panacea, can indeed be utilized as a tool to create infrastructural changes that can dramatically improve the quality of life here, and preserve the natural environment. For example, the use of high efficiency stoves can reduce the respiratory health hazards of smoke inhalation and vision impairment, while preserving the environment by requiring significantly less firewood. Further, the many hours children and women (it is they who traditionally have this responsibility) look for such firewood could be dramatically reduced, freeing time for other vital concerns, such as education.
Tomorrow, we will determine who will compose the team that will make these technologies accessible to rural communities in Guatemala. We have interviewed too many qualified people that are greatly interested in the project, and I wish we could employ about half of those interviewed. As we mentioned in all our interviews, the doors are open for interested students to utilize our workshop space for experimentation and to learn about our designs. Perhaps, someday, assuming all goes well with our workshop, we’ll be able to provide opportunities for more of them. Perhaps, the exposure to appropriate technology from our presentations and interviews will implant seeds of creativity, and some of these students will start their own workshops with these technologies, spreading the impact of sustainable development further.