In La Paz

Well, it was a great four+ weeks back in the States.  My top priority was seeing family and friends, and it was great across the board.  Plus, I was able to get in some ice and rock climbing, a visit to New York City, a tourist day in our backyard (Philly), and LOTS of food… re-gained nine (yes, 9!) pounds, too.  Still have some work to do on that front.

Now, we’re back to it here in La Paz.  As most know, the first six months were not smooth sailing for me; lots of struggles.  But, it’s good to be back in the city.  Some of the things I experienced were not all a challenge.  I think the kids in Bolivia are adorable (they always crack me up), the street performers are good fun, you can’t beat the weather, the scenery is second to none, and the bakeries!  Yes, my sweet tooth is in full swing again.

Most importantly, we’re back here to do the work… that’s always #1.

We had a good Pidola Board of Directors meeting last week (as always) and Q1 will be busy.  With site visits back to either Villa Tunari or Torotoro, it’s going to be productive from a project standpoint.  We also have a bunch of fundraising opportunities that are in the proverbial “hopper”.  As always, I’ll keep everyone posted with the key highlights.

Also, please keep your eyes open for an email about 2018 taxes… it’s that time of year again! 😉

In New York City

I was in New York City this week, and two things really caught my attention.  First, was my trip up the Empire State Building.  I’ve never been up to the Observation Deck before, and it was a great experience… see one of the pictures below.  The second was that there are SO MANY different types of foods you can get in the city!  Pakistani, Korean, Indian, Japanese, you name it.  I think people (including myself!) take that variety for granted.  That’s something I’m definitely going to miss later this week.

View south from the Empire State Building

We have a lot going on the Pidola front.  Thanks to all who joined us last week to catch up in Denver, and review some of our progress over the last seven months.  Hopefully everyone knows that we couldn’t have gotten this far without our supporters, and we are forever grateful for the support.  It was awesome to see you!

Surrounding what’s coming up here in the next week or so:

  • Pidola has our monthly board meeting this week, where there are always productive conversations.  
  • Regarding our Villa Tunari visit in early December, we have to: 1) schedule time with community leaders to start the conversations around our projects, and 2) continue to work with the Ministry of Education regarding what sites to visit next!
  • Speaking of the Ministry of Education, we have to finalize our partner agreement; hopefully here in January.
  • Pidola is also working to establish a non-profit entity in Bolivia.  This will provide incremental benefits while doing work in Bolivia, versus being a for-profit organization.

We have a big month coming up here in January, so come back next week check in on the progress!

In Ouray

It’s become a bit of a tradition of ours to head to Ouray for New Years.  For those who aren’t aware, Ouray has the largest ice climbing park in the world.  It’s an amazing place, where a group of friends head down to get in some laps, catch up with good conversations, and just enjoy bringing in the new year.  For me, it’s especially important since I get a chance to hear about my friends’ last six months.  Boy, everyone is busy!

It’s been quiet on the Pidola front, since we’ve been focused on the Holidays with family and friends.  BUT, we’re getting back to it this week!  With all of the activity from early December down in Villa Tunari, and planning for 2019, there’s lots to get accomplished.  Accountants, lawyers, budgeting, oh my.

More to follow next week, where I’ll be coming at you from New York City.  Until then, have a great start to the new year!

In Philadelphia

As most of us this week, I’ve come back from Bolivia to spend some quality time with the family for the Holidays.  It’s going to be a whirlwind few weeks while I’m back in the States, with time planned in Philadelphia, Denver and also in New York City.  Plus, some ice climbing in Ouray, which I have to say, I’m very excited about. 🙂

It’s been great the last few days since I touched down.  Being so far away from home, it really makes you appreciate the time you get with family and friends.  I even got in a Philadelphia Eagles game last weekend, which was a blast.  The video below was after one of the Eagles touchdowns…. never a dull moment at the Birds game.

Nothing very new from the Pidola side of things, since we’re focused on the Holidays.  BUT, we’ll be back at it right after the New Years, with a presentation that will be available to all of our sponsors and donors. We’ll get you information surrounding the date and time shortly.  

I’ll also have some updates surrounding Villa Tunari, which our next steps include:

  • Schedule time with the local community leaders to talk about our projects
  • Finalize our feasibility studies for each location to ensure they are an appropriate for Pidola
  • Develop specifications for each location to determine budget required
  • Outline procurement and project management responsibilities for all parties
  • Raise funds to establish each project location

I hope this blog post finds everyone doing well, and that each of you has had a great Holiday season so far! 

Villa Tunari

We had a chance to visit our next potential project locations earlier this week.  It was very exciting to continue to build on the progress we’ve made over the last six (6) months!  And personally, it was an interesting change of scenery for me going from La Paz to a town called Villa Tunari… which is effectively within the Amazon River Basin.  Holy Toledo, it was hot!

The trip started with an early morning wake-up call, and a couple hours’ drive from Cochabamba to Villa Tunari.  It’s a beautiful drive, and I would recommend it (or something similar) to any visitor to Bolivia.  We arrived mid-morning and started our search for about a dozen different schools in the area. 

Using information we were provided by the Ministry of Education, we located nine (9) of the 12 schools (i.e. educational units) near Villa Tunari.  These schools varied in size, having anywhere between 10-500 kids in each school.  I’ve included some pictures below of a couple of them.  Unfortunately, all schools in Bolivia are on their Christmas and Summer Breaks, so they’re closed until early February.

For a peek behind the curtain, our trips entail a lot of data gathering.  Typically, we prefer to speak with the community leaders to start project conversations.  But with this specific trip, our information gathering only included, but was not limited to:

  • Using latitude and longitude coordinates, we have to actually FIND the school… easier said than done.  One of the schools from our list is a two (2) day boat ride to get there
  • Gathering information surrounding the structures (how sound is the roof, which way the roof is facing, etc.)
  • Proximity of the school to a paved road, banks, and other economic indicators
  • Determining power requirements for each location, and other community challenges that our projects may help solve
  • As always, determine next steps and the correct people to continue our conversation surrounding our projects

We have over 180 potential schoolhouse projects just in the Villa Tunari municipality alone, so this is just the start.  Of course, I’ll keep everyone posted in the coming weeks.

Happy Holidays!

School – Villa Gral. Roman
School – Villa Gral. Roman
School – San Mateo Bajo
School – Santa Elena de Los Yuracares
Landscape – Villa Tunari
Landscape – Villa Tunari

At the Protests

Over the last six (6) months, I’ve tried to learn as much as possible while being in a foreign country.  Bolivia is a totally different place, with different cultures, languages, socio-economic backgrounds… you name it.  Growing up and being from Bolivia, the experiences and perspectives can be much different from that of people who’ve grown up in suburban Philadelphia.  Most days I try to embrace and enjoy the craziness and those “learning opportunities”.

One of the biggest eye-openers and experiences that I’ve had surrounds Bolivia’s presidential election coming up in January 2019.  There are multiple elements to this election, and one of the biggest is how their current president, Evo Morales, has changed the constitution that allows him to run past his term limits.  51% of the country does not like this (based on a popular vote in 2016), hence the large-scale protests that occurred throughout the country.

Some pictures of the protests in La Paz against the president extending his term limits are at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, outside of the standard insanity here in La Paz, here are some of the latest and greatest from Pidola!

  • We had some wonderful contributions from our efforts during Giving Tuesday and Colorado Gives Day. Thank you again for all of your support!
  • Our plans for a presentation to our supporters on January 8th are coming together. More to be shared in the coming days.
  • We’re finalizing our partnership with the Ministry of Education, hopefully in the next couple of weeks. I’ll make sure to grab a photo with the minister!
  • Last but not least, I’m planning on our initial site visits to Villa Tunari and (hopefully) Chimore December 17thand 18th. That will be a good update for later in the week.

More to be shared next week, and I hope everyone is have a good Holiday season so far!

 

 

Looking for Water

In the “just another experience” department, it’s been an eventful last couple of weeks.  The first experience is how La Paz was out of water for two (2) days.  Somewhere in the system a pipe broke, and many neighborhoods didn’t have water.  This type of situation sure makes things difficult: showers, washing dishes, making coffee… using the bathroom.  Yes, good times.

At least the water outage wasn’t last week, when I found myself with a bit of food poisoning.  The main reason for not sharing an update or post was because of being sick, which of course everyone experiences at some point. I’m glad to report that I’m feeling much better, just two (2) kilos lighter.

Ok, moving on from the “woe is me” updates, we do have some very good news.  Pidola has won our first grant from Namaste Solar!  We submitted our application back in September and received an update about our award a couple weeks ago.  This is great news, since it starts to reveal the availability and opportunity with corporate sponsors.  We won’t bat 1.000 forever, but it’s a great first win for the Pidola Team.

Some other smaller updates for this week:

  • Pidola is a strong supporter of both Giving Tuesday and Colorado Gives Day. Make sure you “give back” in some shape or form, whether it’s to Pidola or not.  It’s always so important.
  • Michelle and I had a great conversation with our Legal Team here in Bolivia, and we’ve decided to change our for-profit entity here, to a non-profit. This will be Pidola’s best, and most beneficial long-term formation direction.
  • We’re finalizing our November newsletter this week, so keep your eyes peeled for larger notes and updates here shortly.

That’s it from South America this week.  Please keep us in mind for any corporate sponsor opportunities!  DM Michelle or I anytime… even if it’s just to say hello!

 

 

 

In the Board Room

Well, to be honest, I wasn’t literally in a Board Room this week; I’m still here in La Paz.  BUT, we did have our monthly Board of Directors meeting this past Tuesday, which those meetings are always productive.  I’ve really come to appreciate the people on Pidola’s Board, both professionally and personally.  They have a ton of great experience, and I’m always amazed with how smart everyone is!  We’re very fortunate to have them on “board”.  Get it?

Anyway, the main topic of discussion this month was surrounding our fundraising activities and campaign development.  For a peek behind the curtain, we have a multi-pronged approach to our fundraising efforts. They include, but are not limited to: individual donors, corporate sponsors, and grants.  With these three (3) key areas of focus, we’re hopeful that Pidola can generate the funds required for both projects here in Bolivia and to cover all our operational expenses.

Ideally, we’d like to keep large percentage of our raised funds going to projects and the actual work here in Bolivia (i.e. 90%).  Most non-profits split their proceeds between those two (2) main categories, and similarly try to push as much towards their “good works” as possible.  As I’m sure you’ve heard some of those nightmare stories of skewed percentages going towards operations, and we’re going to do our best not to become one of those stories!

We have a good plan for both the rest of this year and 2019, and we’ll keep everyone posted with our progress.  As always, we appreciate the individual donations, and please keep Pidola top-of-mind for any potential corporate opportunities that you may know of!  DM either Michelle or I anytime.

Since I don’t have any pictures of our Board meeting this week, here are some mummies we saw in Uyuni a couple weeks back…

At Salar de Uyuni

Well, it’s been another busy, but good week down here in Bolivia.  As I mentioned last week, I had my mom and aunt here to visit me for a couple weeks.  We checked off Lake Titicaca, and we visited Salar de Uyuni (aka Salt Flats) this week. I have to say, if you ever have the chance to visit Bolivia, this is an absolute must see.  I was impressed with Lake Titicaca, but I was blown away by the Salt Flats.

Here’s just one picture of us in Uyuni… really amazing place.

On the business front, we made some good progress in a number of different areas.  Many of you probably received our first monthly newsletter, which provides more robust progress updates from Pidola.  We’re also putting the final touches on our November fundraising campaign, which we’ll be sharing with everyone very soon!  Please, pass along to all your friends… 🙂

Michelle posted this a couple days ago on Facebook, but here’s another note about our next five (5) project sites.  I’ve included some links below, just so you can get a sense of these places and learn a bit more about the areas we are entering.

We are very excited about scheduling our initial visits to these places, and hopeful each community will be receptive to our projects and approach.  As always, we’ll keep you posted with our progress!

In Mexico City

It’s been a busy week, both from a personal and professional standpoint.  First, my mom and aunt are in Bolivia to visit me and are here until next week. It’s always great to see family, no matter where in the world you are.  But, for me, it was especially nice to have them visit; it’s been hard being away from family and friends.  Also, with them around, it forces me to use my Spanish!  Albeit, it’s still terrible.

Here’s a picture of us from the ferry crossing at Lake Titicaca.  What a great experience with them… left to right: mom, me and my aunt.

After that, they went to Peru to take a tour of Cuzco and Machu Pichu… I went to Mexico City.  As most of you know, I work a 2nd job that’s within the e-Commerce industry.  We had a conference in Mexico City, which we went to for networking and training purposes.  The conference went well for everyone, and I even got myself a burrito!  Yes, the little things in life…

For Pidola, we’ve made a lot of progress on the Marketing front.  We’re still finalizing our October fundraising campaign, which should be going out any day now.  We’ve also established a proper CRM tool, and we’ll be sending monthly newsletters starting in November!  Our “Where’s Lou?” updates are fine, but we want to make sure all our progress updates are shared with you.

My mom, aunt and I will be traveling to the Salar de Uyuni next week, which we’re all excited about. Hopefully we’ll have some fun stories to share.  Keep an eye out for our campaign, and make sure you share with your friends!