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.
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