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Off to Peru soon!

We’d like to thank all who showed their support for Las Vidas Mejoradas at our recent benefit! We made about $300 which will go to completing our current project in Mandorani. Thank you Sean of Cowfish! And congratulations to Leslie on winning the Peruvian weaving!

As you may recall, we are visiting the home of 20 families over the next month (3/28-4/26) who have an improved stove. Our goals in Mandorani are to complete health screening of the families, inspect the stoves for a clean chimney, as well as maintenance, and visit the centro de salud for more data on respiratory problems reported over the last two years. It is our agreement with these families should all be completed on their end (namely care and cleaning of the stove) we will return with interest their 30 soles that they paid to participate. (This approach reflecting a long held tenet of ours to not simply “gift” people assistance, but rather have participants “own” in this case, their stove.)

Following this we will begin research and visit projects underway with other Peruvian NGO’s in the vicinity of Ollantaytambo. We will also meet a family that had met with crisis where our donations were able to help the mother start a small business and get the children back in school. Our goal is to come home and report to our board what we have seen and to then decide whom we can partner with that aligns with the goals of LVM.

We will be posting here as well as sending out reports of our progress via our mailing list. Please feel free to email us at vidasmejoradas@gmail.com with any comments or questions.

Thank you all again for your support of this work.

Laurie and Steve
Las Vidas Mejoradas

Las Vidas Mejoradas benefit night at Cowfish, Tuesday March 15th 8 PM‏

Hi there! We’ve got one fundraiser coming up before we head off to Peru in April to do the followup work on 25 families that we gave stoves to in 2009.

This is a benefit at the dance club Cowfish, located at 62 West Broadway in Eugene. $0-20 sliding scale donation, no one turned away for lack of funds.

The event takes place on Tuesday, March 15th.

DJ Sleeve will be playing a wide selection of Latin American music including salsa, cumbia, chicha, reggaeton, and huaynos. Dancing attire is encouraged!

The music starts at 8 PM and goes until 11 PM. (Blog House with Michael Human will start then….)

There will be a raffle for a handmade Peruvian weaving. Come on by and show your support! We’d love to see you.


Steve and Laurie
Las Vidas Mejoradas

LVM is humming

Tickets are purchased for our trip to Peru! Both of us are busy at it, working extra and saving money so to cover our personal expenses, including airfare. We leave March 27th and return April 26th. Setting up our itinerary now. First two weeks will be in Mandorani, with daily visits, stove and chimney evaluations, as well as as many health screenings we can get done. Then it will be on to Ollantaytambo to see the folks from Paskay and to visit their projects. Our intent is to continue to support their work, as it is in sync with ours rather than to start up a new project on our own. We also hope to meet the family Carlos told us about (see below) to see how they are progressing.

Meanwhile, here at home in Oregon, we see the lawyer this week and Steve will bring in what he has done with the form 1023. We are also looking forward to a board meeting soon. There will be a shift in roles so to allow Steve do what he is best at (forms, meetings, record keeping) and for Laurie to do what she loves most, ie., continue to handle Peru communication, investigate worthwhile projects, as well as our web pages and blogs. We’ll have reports on our fundraiser and will talk about an upcoming one at Cowfish (a local dance club). These events help to support the actual work! So it should be hot! Mark your calendars: tentatively March 15th, a Tuesday night : Peruvian funk, psychedelic and reggaeton spun by our very own DJ Sleeve.


Happy New Year All!

We are happy to hear that the chocolatada was a huge success! Below a note from Carlos:

Hello my dearest.

This is a little gift for you and also it is a way to say thanks you for been part of this beautiful project, the Christmas celebration in the Andes.

My gratitude goes to all the people who help and support is some way. To MamaSharon and her constant work for the children of Peru, MeG from Spain and her big support, My Small Help organization with Leander and all her friends for their hard work in making it posible, Laura and her direct help with the children, Nelida helping in the shopping, My uncle Hector for making the bread, my friend Laura from Oregon and her Vidas Mejoradas organization, my dear friends Cindy and Charles, Christina, Donna, and all the supporters, thanks to Ruben and his small bus, My brother Eddy, Paul, Washy for help more children has their Christmas celebration, Roger and Noemi for their delicious lunch, Carmela and Sergio for making laugh the children, Sofia for her beautiful songs, Danni for the pictures , thank to the teachers, mothers and father for waiting with the hot water ready to make the chocolatada, , there are so many people who I don’t mention but been part of this celebration, my special greeting for all the children for been children of god.

Merry Christmas 2010 and happy New Year 2011

Love and light for all of you

Carlos Ismael Gibaja Tapia

(Pictures soon to follow!)

And also news of our benefit held in early December with the help of Nan Rothwell and Nancy Maxson: we made $1,043!!! Awesome!! Thank you so much to everyone!

We are wishing all far and wide the best in 2011. Thank you again for your support of our work, and that of Paskay. Let’s continue to make a difference in any way we can!

October 2010-Update to Our Supporters

Las Vidas Mejoradas

Health and Environmental Projects

LVM is an Oregon registered non-profit organization in process of attaining federal tax exempt 501(c) (3) status. We are dedicated to improving the lives of the indigenous rural people living in the Andes Mountains in Peru.
Since 2003 we have worked in small communities where people survive by subsistence farming earning less than $5 per month. Our program applies a holistic method emphasizing mutual respect, education, health and hygiene, microfinance, and utilization of local labor and materials.

The values of Las Vidas Mejoradas center on working together with families to identify and achieve their aspirations, creating better lives for themselves and their children.

1. We collaborate with other programs and colleagues to locate villages appropriate for and interested in what we have to offer.
2. We work with families that choose to participate. Depending on each project, a contract between participating parties is drawn up where we outline the project, duration, services provided, fee or local materials (such as clay or water) that are required, and time involvement. Families also agree to follow-up depending on the project.
3. We provide the funds for materials, services and other support needed. Our projects have included: improved stoves, introduction of retention cookers, support of community kitchens, greenhouses and clinics, health education, scholarships for children and small businesswomen, direct-to-source craft sales, school exchanges and collaborations with other NGO’s that share our values. Future goals include (but are not limited to): improved waste management programs and water projects for small communities.
4. We work alongside families providing education and support. We strive to reinforce new principles and techniques throughout the duration of the project. And most importantly we follow-up on the results applying lessons learned to future projects.

Our work has been predominantly self-funded with assistance from many friends and family. Now we have formed Las Vidas Mejoradas, and anticipate attaining 501(c) (3) status in mid- 2011. We maintain a presence in Mandorani, and will be returning in April 2011 to evaluate stove usage, care and condition. We are also researching the site of our next project and anticipate coordinating this when we are back in Peru.

We are accepting donations and are pleased to offer you retroactive tax exempt documentation for your contribution (upon receipt of notification that LVM has been approved as a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization).
For more information:
Las Vidas Mejoradas
PO Box 1643, Springfield, OR 97477
Email: vidasmejoradas@gmail.com


Upcoming Benefit for Las Vidas Mejoradas!

Steve Bouton and Laurie Iaccino are excited about returning to Peru in April 2011 for a month of work. They look forward to seeing cook stove smoke coming out of chimneys in the village of Mandorani, to improved health among the village residents, and to continuing their budding partnership with Peruvian NGO Casa Hogar del Sol.

Steve, who grew up in Afton, Virgina and still has family in the area, and Laurie, a nurse, work together as Las Vidas Mejoradas (Better Lives) in small poor communities in the high Andes. They go to upwards of 14,000 feet to rarely accessed villages where Quechua-speaking people live in extreme temperatures in sparsely furnished adobe shacks. All are subsistence farmers who earn less than $5 per month. Few have extras like vehicles, medical care, or even a third set of clothes. In some of these villages, even access to chlorinated water has only happened recently. People cook over an open fire pit with no chimney against a wall covered in soot. Villagers, particularly children, often have respiratory problems that persist throughout the year and progress to bronchitis and pneumonia. Although many factors contribute to poor family health, Las Vidas Mejoradas has chosen to focus on one of the simplest and easiest ways to help – introducing a basic cooking stove with a chimney that burns wood more efficiently and removes the smoke from the living space.

A hallmark of the work of Las Vidas Mejoradas is that they do not simply give the stoves away. Families who choose to participate become invested in their stove by doing their part in the construction. They sign contracts to formalize the process. Each family agrees to a survey that evaluates their basic respiratory health, cooking and fuel habits. They make the 40 adobe bricks required for the stove body, collect ash for combustion chamber insulation, and pay 30 soles or approximately $10. The money goes toward a project that benefits the community in perpetuity, such as tree nurseries or animal-raising. Steve and Laurie contract with local businesses in the nearest city to make the combustion chambers, chimneys and grates, local trucks transport the materials to the villages, and local people are employed to visit even the most remote of homes to make sure the stove is built properly.

During the last visit (2008-2009) Las Vidas Mejoradas began an intensive project involving 20 families in the village of Mandorani. It involved not only cookstoves but retention cookers and other health education. For the April 2011 visit, they will do follow-up health testing on the Mandorani families, with hopes of documenting significant improvements.

Nelson County Virginia potter Nan Rothwell and painter Nancy Maxson will be designating a portion of the proceeds from their joint Holiday Open House to Las Vidas Mejoradas. They’ll also have hand-woven bags, scarves and hangings, made by the families served by Las Vidas Mejoradas. The Holiday Open House will take place in Nan’s studio near Nellysford, Virginia in Nelson County on Saturday, December 4 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday, December 5, noon to 4 pm.

For more information on Las Vidas Mejoradas:
Afton, Virginia contact:
Ellen Bouton

For information about the Holiday Open House:
Nan Rothwell

An Announcement!

Buen dia! Thank you for all the support! We are very happy to report we have established a partnership with a Peruvian non-profit called Casa Hogar del Sol. This organzation was founded by Carlos Gibaja Tapia, a longtime colleague and friend in the Sacred Valley. They are located in Ollantaytambo, Peru, very close to the sites of our projects. What this means for LVM is that we will have support for our work in the form of home visits to families with improved stoves so to monitor their usage as well as care of the stove and chimney. We will soon be receiving reports and this excites us beyond words. We have had a difficult time maintaining contact from here. And as you know, an important part of our work is follow-up. Too often we have seen well-meaning projects be up and left without support for the participating families.

What this means for Casa Hogar del Sol is assistance and support for their work also. Their values are aligned with ours and focus on healthy families and sustainable economic development benefiting small communities surrounding Ollantaytambo high in the Andes Mountains. Right now they are in the process of organizing one of the largest traveling dental programs that will visit five different communities over approximately one week. They also are constructing Cuylandia, a large guinea pig farming cooperative and have assisted many families during the floods earlier in the year. We will keep you updated on their work as well as ours.

Here is to a long, collaborative, and mutually beneficial relationship that we hope will enable all of us to continue this very important work!


Here it is May. Where have we been? Distracted, working, deep into life here and not in Peru, moving forward with our newly formed non-profit…there are times I seriously question my ability to keep all this going. :-( I want to be there and cannot.

The intermittent news I have received from Peru has been spotty at best. Our friends, Carlos, his non-profit Hogar de los Hijos del Sol and Washi continue to work with families who lost farmland or crops due to the flooding. A dental clinic was held high in the mountains, and they, as always provide meals for children walking to school in Ollanta. Jorge, our friend in Cusco with the organization Hampy has said tourism is down, thereby affecting his program in a village in Choco, where we have a few stoves. He relies heavily on tourist volunteers.

We/Las Vidas Mejoradas are having meetings and laying the foundation for what will be our work. I hope. (From here all of that good work seems so far away!) First though, follow-up needs to be re-established in some way. My main concern has been having and maintaining contact with the folks in Mandorani, the site of our most recent project. What we planned on hasn’t happened. The phone does not always work, when I do reach someone they don’t speak Spanish very well and they cannot find the people I need to speak with. Our calendars we made to reinforce the stove project and remind them we are still involved, sat in the post office in Cusco for three months and were sent back to us. aargh. (Honestly, I have never seen a postman in the villages and have no idea of what notice Victoria at the store was even given. She gave me the address I used. And as I recall people usually have to pay something to receive a package at the post office. Who knows what happened…)

I miss having Pave down there to help with this. ;-(

So to that end, I am in touch with Jorge and Carlos and batting around ideas of how we can work together…with their help locate where we need to go or help; whether it be a stove project, health related, community kitchens, or clean water ; bringing our resources there, and then again relying on them to help with the followup which is so very important and now lacking in Mandorani.

It seems simple enough.

Meanwhile, we have been told anytime we can file papers so to gain our tax deferred status. (If we had the lawyer do it, it would cost us a couple thousand dollars. Yikes.) So we’ll try to do that ourselves. ;-) We need a computer or laptop. Used is OK. And we will need money once we establish our relationship with El Hogar de los Hijos del Sol and Hampy to get someone regularly to Mandorani. A fundraiser will be held. And the plan remains to be physically there in April of 2011.

So please keep us on your radar.

Ethos Proceedings January 2010

Here is a report of the various speakers and topics of the latest ETHOS meeting in January 2010.

ETHOS report

Well, as usual the ETHOS conference was a fascinating mix, with all sorts of people and presentations.  I was particularly interested in some of the low-tech rural electrification schemes.  A gentleman gave a talk on thermo-acoustic generators that utilize the heat of a stove to generate small but usable (1-3 watts) electricity that could then be used to run LEDs, power cell phones, etc.

The theory is that since stoves generally have low adoption rates in poor areas the electricity might be an incentive that would interest more people in efficient stoves.

There was more, but I will report it later.

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