The Appropriate Technology Collaborative was just on the radio talking about their global top 100 sustainable solutions award from Sustainia and the United Nations Sustainability Program. I went to their fundraiser (2016) and their Guatemala Director was inspiring!
Photo from their Flickr page
ATC is a great organization! I’ve worked with them as a volunteer for over a year. The work they do is life-changing and fascinating.
As an engineer, I’ve been able to get involved with designing and optimizing solutions for poor people in developing countries – treadle pumps, clean stoves, solar vaccine refrigerators. Technology that makes a real difference to people’s lives AND allows some to create their own income-generating situation, a key opportunity to take them out of poverty.
As a volunteer, I’ve been able to travel to Guatemala and work on natural building projects to help communities at their schools and, in the future, a medical clinic. It’s been amazing to be able to make a concrete difference with my own hands and effort.
As a donor, I have seen the workings of the organization and feel confident giving money where so much of it is being used for its mission and not absorbed as too much overhead. Further, the designs that ATC develop are kept as open-source information so that the lessons learned in Guatemala can not only be spread to Africa, Asia, South America, etc., but can also be locally built and maintained, another key element in helping people by giving opportunity and employment rather than just charity. This principle allows ATC to make an even wider difference in the world.
I will continue to stay involved in this organization and to support them.
A few years ago I saw an inspiring presentation about the Appropriate Technology Collaborative (ATC) and how it was leveraging student brainpower in the US in collaboration with input from very low income people in Central America to design solutions that would improve lives while being truly affordable. But my real introduction to what that all means was on an 11-day trip to Guatemala in early 2012 to help on two ATC projects along with 16 other volunteers, including adults and university students.
The first project involved installing solar panels on the roof of a vocational high school on the north shore of Lake Atitlan to provide reliable backup electricity, since the grid power was rather unreliable. As a retired engineer I had a great time working with the other ATC volunteers and a couple local craftsmen (electrician and welder) to overcome interesting design obstacles and get the job done in our limited time. We also provided training materials so the school could start teaching classes in basic electricity and solar power.
The second project was at the other end of the technology spectrum: helping to preserve a traditional technology -- a building technique named "bajareque" taught to us by Mayan elders who still know how to build walls that are more earthquake resistant than adobe or even typical Guatemalan concrete, using bamboo, mud, stone, and twine made from dried local plants. We built a courtyard wall at an elementary school to help keep the young students from venturing off during recess. Besides helping with the construction, I created video documentation of the material preparations and the building technique.
The trip was incredibly fun and rewarding, not to mention being very well organized and managed by the ATC Director, John Barrie. As a result of that experience, I ended up joining the ATC board of directors, and as Treasurer I have moved us from spreadsheet accounting onto Quickbooks and filed our first 990EZ tax return, since our revenue increased across the $50K threshold in 2012.
Review from Guidestar