Phase 1: Pilas. Ya Estuvo.

January 31, 2011 at 10:52 am 2 comments

I told you my next blog would be work related, so it will be informative and not too funny or sarcastic. I have been hard at work *cough* the past month getting this project up and running. Thanks to my awesome community partner, Tito, it has been a success. Turns out he knows more that I do, and they really only needed the gringa for her money (go figure). Tito is every NGOs dream: an enthusiastic, forward-thinking, innovative host-country national ready to learn and then train his fellow citizens. I have been staying at his modest adobe house while working on the project. Aside from being terrified of getting bit by a chinche picuda bug and contracting the Chagas disease (google that), it has been wonderful. I get fed every 2 hours, then work on some pilas, harvest sweet potatoes in Tito’s garden, consume unimaginable amounts of sugary coffee every day, make tamales, and al fin,  lay in his hammock.

The idea of the project was to provide the community with most of the construction materials, and then train them on how to build their own pilas. Of course, it didn’t really work like that, as they chose to hire a local mason, but no matter. The beneficiaries provided sand, gravel, rock, and manual labor as their contribution. Sustainable? Not really. But at least these families don’t have to bend over and wash their clothes on rocks and wood.

Below I will demonstrate the steps of building a pila. It takes a total of 2 days to complete one.


This is what a woman was using to wash her clothes before. Hug your washing machines right now


Adelso, the local mason, placing the PVC pipe for drainage


His brother mixing the concrete


Making the foundation


Starting the masonry


This kid was mad


Finishing the 10th layer of bricks


Repellar(you actually throw a sand/water/cement mixture on the walls to make it stick)


Me looking like an idiot attempting to work. Yes they did laugh at me


Finished repellando

Finished repellando 2


Day 2, Pulir (makes a water-tight seal with a cement/water mixture)


Make-shift form for the lavadora

Placing rebar on the lavadora

Placing the washboard and filling the sides


Smoothing the pulir job out using a sponge


Finished product, with Tito and daughter Sumy pretending to wash clothes


Another washing area complete with rocks to wash your clothes on


Tune in next time for Phase 2: Improved stoves. We will be replacing these stoves with ones that are more energy efficient and have chimneys, so that people’s lungs don’t look like this ceiling. . .


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

It’s been awhile. Phase 2: Fogónes Mejorados; not even close to the end

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. El Ez  |  February 2, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Kathryn – the Mason / engineer…..and I thought the coin laundromat was horrid. At least at the coin laundromat the maquinas do the work; though you still have to deal with rude-ass latinos and their 100lbs of laundry.

  • 2. Lillian  |  February 4, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Great to see the project come to life and compare before and after options for washing clothes. Photos filled in the holes in my idea of what you are trying to achieve. Miss you much.


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