Can You Really Have 7 Flat Tires in 5 Days?


Thank you so much for sharing your love and resources with the children and communities we are serving in Toro Toro. It means so much to them and you are helping them achieve a better quality of life.

I know it’s been a while since I provided you with an update on our Clean Stoves project and though you might appreciate getting filled in on our latest activities.

In July of 2015 a CEDESOL team traveled to Toro Toro to visit with the new Mayor and the new Educational Director, have a better understanding of the project needs and challenges from the stand point of the teachers and students for the educational component and to begin the field test to help establish a project baseline so that we can compare the results after installing the new stoves and actually measure the benefits we have achieved with your help.

The team was composed of:

  • Guadalupe Torrico – Training and demonstration Coordinator –
  • Ing. Juan Victor Villarroel – Driver and experienced with Toro Toro area
  • Pierre Poirier – French Volunteer – Completing a credit course supervised by CEDESOL, with ECAM Graduate School of Engineering Lyon France
  • Wendy Roldan – USA Volunteer – Northwestern University – Chicago Il.
  • Caroline Olsen – USA Volunteer – Northwestern University – Chicago Il

The team spent the weekend in Toro Toro, taking advantage of an agricultural fair and at the invitation of the Mayor, put up a booth to demonstrate the ecological cookers that would be installed in the schools.

On Monday they met with the Mayor and he and Guadalupe our team leader agreed to modifications to our original project plan. The Mayor felt that it was wiser to include less schools, since some of the schools we had planned to cover were not accessible by roads and could present excessive logistical problems at the beginning of the project.

The Mayor also determined that the boarding housing should be counted as separate units from the schools themselves since they prepare and serve meals completely independent of the school lunch program. Students that have to walk to school from over 2 hours away are housed in the boarding schools Monday through Friday afternoon. Then they walk home and return on Monday morning.

The new plan also takes into account a better understanding of the distances between the schools and the municipal capital, the logistics of doing the field-tests, stove installations, surveys and executing the environmental training at each school.

In consensus with the Mayor and telephone consultations with David Whitfield, it was determined that 11 schools would take part in the first phase of the program, and that 7 additional boarding units would be counted. This means that you will be helping supply 18 institutional stoves with 80 liter pots and 18 normal sized 2 burner rocket stoves. Both stove sizes have chimneys to evacuate the smoke from the cooking areas.

The Mayor insisted that the stoves be housed in appropriate and adequate structures to assure their security and that the cooking could be done in cleaner conditions. To this end he offered to acquire the construction materials from different organizations and would require the villagers to provide the labor and adobe bricks necessary to build the structures.

Here is a link so that you can access the whole revised project and understand more of the details and see the costs involved.

With a new picture of what was ahead, the team set out to begin the surveys and tests as planned.

After measuring fuel and surveying in the first schools, and spending the night in one of them, the team was moving to another area when a series of flat tires from thick thorns and sharp rocks stranded them beside the road for the night at an altitude of around 3,000 meters. Having experience with rural Bolivia we always carry 2 spare tires on our trips and a portable air compressor, but this time even that was not enough.

Using rustic tools, they were able to unmounts part of one tire and at the suggestion of a campesino, used wet gobs of toilet paper and water to seal some small holes and the compressor to refill the tire. This happened to them twice and then on the way out of town they had two tires go down causing them to leave the Expedition in the care of a townsperson while they returned by bus until we could buy some used tires and send out to be mounted in Toro Toro and bring the truck home to Cochabamba.

I bet you know what it’s like when everything does not go according to planned. Can you imagine how it is here for us?

Recently we entered into an agreement with an optometrist group who will come in with testing equipment, measure the student’s eyes for glasses and provide the glasses at a reduced cost.  We plan to “piggyback” this as much as possible for transportation and other logistics but may look for separate funds to help cover some the cost to the students for glasses, once we have a better understanding of what that will mean.

During the last 3 months we have been working with Pedro Dominguez who is a masters student doing credit work under CEDESOL supervision with Arizona State University. He has taken the information and profiles gather by Wendy and Caroline and with CEDESOL’s team, developed the educational modules for the schools.

The teachers expressed how they lacked audio-visual materials so we are packing 2 DVDs for each school along with the printed material and teaching guides. We expect to share this info with some of the teachers and the Director of Education on our next trip this coming week.

We are excited that we will be presenting the revised project with a new Memorandum of Understanding to the Mayor and that we will be able to get feed back from the teachers before finalizing the educational components.

But we need your help and participation more than ever now, so that we can begin to have the stoves manufactured, schedule delivery to Toro Toro, and keep a team in the rural area for two weeks (programmed for May) to do the baseline and field-test studies before the stoves are installed.

Be sure to look the project over at the link above and if you have any questions or ideas that you want to share, please reach out directly to me at

We are so grateful for your participation because none of this could be possible if you were not on board as much as you are.




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