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!

Not in my Apartment

Well, the infinite insanity continues here in La Paz.  Most comes from the external environment, but sometimes it’s self-inflicted.  The other day, I was on my way to the bank and realized that I didn’t have my house keys.  I started checking my pockets, started back-tracking my route, but couldn’t find them.  I thought to myself, “they’re gone; there’s no way I’m finding them”.  So, after a few hours of searching and getting my spare set, I was finally able to get back into my apartment.

When I went to open my door, this is what I saw…

After that eventful afternoon, I did hear some of the best news we’ve heard in a while.  Pidola received our 501(3)(c) Determination Letter from the IRS!!  That means… we’re officially a non-profit organization in the eyes of the government.  It also means that we can start, in earnest, to approach Corporate Sponsors and Foundations. We’ve made amazing progress with our supporters so far, but these “big ticket” donations will really help take us to the next level.

Other than that big piece of news, we have a few other items going on:

  • We have our October campaign starting on the 23rd, which we’re excited about.  This will provide some details into our next project locations
  • Our October Board Meeting was earlier this week, which is always productive for us.  Campaign development and Accounting were the big discussion points
  • Partnership discussions continue with the various federal-level ministries here in Bolivia
  • The Pidola Team is also developing a newsletter for both our partners and supporters.  That will be another avenue to keep everyone posted with Pidola’s progress

On a personal note, my mom and aunt will be visiting me over the next couple weeks, as well as I have a trip to Mexico City… so, I’ll be a bit quiet.  But, more to come in late October and early November!

At the Ministry of Education

We had two key meetings this week.  We were initially planned for four, but as most of us know, scheduling conflicts happen. The first was with our legal team, Guevara & Gutierrez SC, or GG Lex for short.  As I’ve mentioned previously, they have graciously provided us with pro bono work for over a year.  As those initial efforts are winding down, we’re now finalizing our official partnership with them.  It’s a long story of how we crossed their paths, but I’m sure glad we did.  They’ve been excellent to work with.

Our second meeting was with our old friends at the Ministry of Education.  As we continue to build the framework for this partnership, the more excited we’re getting about the opportunity to work with them.  This week’s conversations were surrounding how Pidola can support and compliment their efforts to provide renewable energy (and subsequently internet) to school houses all across Bolivia.  Essentially, they have 100’s of locations that may be similar to our pilot project in Pampa Jasi.  Nothing has been formalized with the Ministry, but our direction is becoming much clearer.

The picture below is of this strange dog made of chains outside of the Ministry of Education’s building… I need to ask “why?”.

Other than that, just standard operation procedure here in La Paz:

  • I’m continuing to take Spanish classes almost every day.  Is it possible the more I learn, the worse I get?  Yes, it is…
  • I found a dynamite new kind of tea, called Sultana.  Look it up, it’s incredible… I don’t believe you can find it in the States, unfortunately.
  • I attended a BBQ with some friends last weekend, and it was my first time leaving the city since I moved here.  It was nice to get some fresh air, literally.
  • Plans to return to both PA and CO for a couple weeks over the Holidays are coming together. I’m looking forward to a good slice. 🙂

As always, more to follow in the coming days.  Especially with the launch of our new fundraising campaigns, which are starting in less than two weeks!

In Class

As I’ve mentioned previously, I take Spanish classes here in La Paz.  Every day, 8-10a, (almost) religiously.  Since I was basically starting from scratch with the language, it’s been painful at times. To be honest, it’s painful all day, every day.  Even just getting a haircut is stressful.  But, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve finally been able to toggle back and forth between past and future tenses, albeit very slowly.  I’m making progress, just not as fast as I would like. Someday I’ll get it… maybe in 2022.

From the business side of things, one of the exercises that the Pidola Team is working on is called a Feasibility Study.  It is essentially up-front work to ensure our project locations are a good fit for Pidola.  For example, we wouldn’t go into an area where the average individual has the same income level as someone in Manhattan.  Not that we’d find many places across the globe like New York, but you get the idea.

In addition to my Spanish work, I also think that I need to go back to my statistics class.  I’m still consistently amazed with the brainpower that is coming from our team and Board of Directors.  One of the members came up with a formula for our Feasibility Study.  During the development of this equation, we spoke about things like z-score, which I thought I’d never hear again after grad school!

I’ve had to replace our metrics with some Greek text (we don’t want to give away the secret sauce, now do we), but it’ll give you a sense of what we’re working with.  Totally crazy/awesome, IMHO.

———-

Future Site Predictor = ((Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet* (consectetur adipiscing elit)) – (Ut sed erat vitae)) + (odio elementum tincidunt) + (Suspendisse potenti/ Ut placerat quis tellus et blandit) + (Donec condimentum sapien, or sed elit aliquam mollis) + (Maecenas a augue dolor) + (Proin ut vulputate libero) + (Etiam ut tristique neque) + (Donec fringilla lacinia tincidunt) + (Duis dolor mauris) + (vestibulum non massa ut)

————

I think I’ll just stick with my Spanish classes for now… 🙂

At Home

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been a bit constricted to my little neighborhood; Sopocachi. The reason local travel hasn’t been very feasible is El Teleferico (the gondola that runs all over La Paz) was closed for servicing.  Which is okay but hinders getting to a few key places for work.  

Also, and the most un-nerving for me personally, is that I had to give both my passports to the immigration office here.  They took them because of SOP in getting my work visa.  If there was an emergency, or I needed to travel/fly within the country, I wouldn’t have been able to.  And with no vehicle, my mobility was very limited…

The good news is that I got my passports back, I have my two-year work visa, AND I’ll be getting my official Bolivian identification card… I’m now a legal immigrant!  With the Bolivian ID, I can actually travel anywhere in South America without my US passport; it’s similar to how the European Union operates.  Most importantly, I can get back to the States if there were any emergencies. Phew, what a couple weeks…

My personal activities are coming together.  Next is to get a personal bank account, and that Bolivian driver’s license I mentioned previously (oy vey).  Professionally, a few key updates for the week:

  • We submitted our first grant proposal last week!  Fingers crossed the give us, like, 50 million dollars
  • Our visits to the Federal-level ministries are becoming fruitful.  I’ll have more on this next week, but I’m pleased with the progress with these entities.  New discussions are happening almost weekly
  • We’ve found a new private organization here that we’re thinking of partnering with.  It’ll help to support our projects, and possibly find new site locations.  Again, more on this shortly
  • We have our Board of Directors meeting on the 18th, which is always productive, and I personally enjoy.  It’s nice to hear English every so often

That’s it from La Paz, and more to follow next week!

At the Immigration Office

I have taken a few additional steps this week surrounding all of my immigration paperwork.  The first step was that I hired myself.  With my Power of Attorney and Legal Team here, I became the CEO of Accendo Solutions SRL.  Pretty exciting news, other than the fact that I’m making Bolivia’s minimum wage, which is $1.82 an hour.  I may retire early.

The following day, we went to visit the Department of Immigration here in La Paz.  After good conversations and waiting my turn for three hours, I submitted all of my paperwork (and my passports!) to get my work visa. After that, I’ll work on getting my Bolivian ID card, then my driver’s license… that will be a whopper of a story for next month.

Other than that, it’s been a quiet week in Bolivia.  The main objective for next month is to start visiting our project sites to determine feasibility.  It’s been a bit of a challenge, but we have finally found some transportation through our partner ABE, and strategic scheduling just needs to take place. It’s been a slow process, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

As with many of you in North America, I’m going to also take a long Labor Day weekend.  Sajama has finally arrived; the weather looks good, and fingers crossed my guides are in one piece.  I’ll share the trip experience with you all; wish me luck!

Since I don’t have a picture from the Immigration Office, here’s a video of my local cows, just not caring about anything…

On a Slant

The reason for the title of this post is because I have a story.  Well, I usually have a story every day.  For example, I saw my three neighborhood cows today on my way to the gym. Or yesterday, I was proud of myself since I held a 10-minute conversation, all in Spanish, with Bolivia’s Vice Minister of Rural Development.  Sure, it was only to schedule another meeting, but I’m taking the points, nonetheless.

Being on a slant happened Sunday night.  I was sleeping away, terribly as usual, and one of the support arms broke on my bed. Needless to say, I didn’t have any of the tools necessary at 11:30 at night to fix it, hence I slept on a 40% angle for the night.  The only way I can think of to share the visual was it was like the movie Blind Date, back in the early 90’s… when Bruce Willis and Kim Bassinger broke their bed and kept sliding down.  Literally, what a nightmare.

Any who, the week went on. On Tuesday, we had our 6th Board of Directors meeting.  I have to say, our Board is an impressive group of people.  The skills, expertise and overall intellect that these people bring to the table is overwhelming at times; just that strong of a group.  Our meeting went well, as they typically do, and I’m just always thankful to have them supporting us.

Some other interesting news and updates:

  • One more month until my immigration paperwork is completed (finally!)
  • We have three more meetings scheduled with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Rural Development, and the Ministry of Labor
  • We’re researching Impact Sourcing partners to help support our post-launch efforts surrounding economic development
  • Still waiting on our 5013C (non-profit) application approvals; hoping to receive that before the end of September
  • We’re also still working to find an automobile. If you know of anyone selling a 4×4 here in Bolivia, DM me

September is going to be a big month for us, especially with these potential new partnerships and site visits.  I’ll keep you posted with our progress!