Hey folks. I'm sorry we haven't blogged much lately. Ironically, I last wrote to you to say that I have trouble finding material to write about. Since then, a whole lot has happened, and I've been too busy to tell you about it. I sat down to blog twice in the last week, but only wrote two paragraphs each time before being interrupted. Let's hope the third time's the charm.
Actually, today's post has already been written. I recently received an email from somebody interested in starting their own water project. They asked me the following questions:
What is a typical day like for your organization? Is it more managerial, physical, traveling? Or a little of everything? Do you get your hands 'dirty' building clean water stations?
As I was responding, it occurred to me that you might be interested to read my reply:
I manage a staff of 3 full time employees and one part time employee. In fact, perhaps 'manage' isn't the right word for my role. I'm kind of the visionary, and the face of the organization. Because of my wife's schedule and our new baby, I only work part time; perhaps 30 hours a week.
So a typical day in our organization is as follows:
We have 2 full time (Jun and Boyet) and one part time staff (Marlon) that build 8 bio-sand water filters six days a week. We have 8 steel molds, each of which can form one concrete filter in an 18 hour period. These staff members are also responsible to prepare the filters for delivery. The filters need to be checked for leaks, and patched if necessary; they need a wooden lid and a diffuser plate; and each filter is accompanied by a bag of prepared sand that will serve as the filtration medium. We have a 2000 square foot shop where the men work on these tasks.
The third full time employee is my assistant director, Toti Ambulo. Part of Toti's job is to manage the work done in the shop, making sure that everything is moving ahead smoothly. Another part of his job is purchasing the materials needed to build the filters. He is also on the road regularly, traveling to various communities to introduce the filter technology. He is often training volunteers to install the filters so that we can be as efficient as possible—we have around 40 volunteers working all over Mindanao.
Toti is currently concentrating his efforts on marketing. We are beginning to sell filters for a premium price in communities that can afford it. We then take those profits and use them to build water filters for the poor. Toti is also trying to market the filters to local governments, both at the barangay and the municipal level. As you can imagine, Toti is a very busy guy. He is often traveling for hours during the day in order to do demonstrations. Some of Toti's job description is similar to mine, as we are both always engaged in networking.
I serve as the director of the Philippines branch of Impact Nations, which is a fancy way of saying that I have a lighter workload. My typical day is spent setting up new initiatives for Toti. I am regularly meeting with the directors of other NGOs to introduce the filter technology and to set up a partnership agreement. From there, we will make plans to go into their targeted communities, where Toti will begin to train people to implement the bio-sand water filters. As we build relationships with these organizations, they become excited about the possibilities and soon they are asking for large amounts of filters on a monthly basis. Each week we have large trucks come to our shop from organizations or governments around Mindanao. A truck may pick up anywhere from 10 to 40 filters at a time. Toti coordinates those shipments, ensuring that we always have enough stock.
Toti and I cross paths several times throughout the week, but we have a regularly scheduled meeting every Saturday morning. He submits the week's receipts, we discuss the accomplishments of the week, and we set an agenda for the following week. He and I often spend this time brainstorming on how to best approach a particular challenge.
These days, a big part of my job is planning for the future. We are beginning to see massive demand for our product. Who doesn't want safe drinking water? I'm doing my best to put together a plan to handle the tidal wave of demand that is coming. This means writing contracts to ensure we don't get ripped off by corrupt governments.
As the demand grows, we need to spread out the workload. We are trying to open several other manufacturing sites (both big and small) in numerous locations around Mindanao. I'm drafting contracts and organizational structure that will ensure that all of the manufacturers are adhering to strict quality standards. Some of these manufacturing sites will be managed by other NGOs, while others will be run by entrepreneurs who wish to start their own small business. I am really excited about the micro-enterprise opportunities that we are looking at, but it's important for us to set up the structure now, so that we can keep a handle on all of the small businesses we wish to start in '09. Quality control is imperative.
I'm also responsible for the basic admin. I liaison with our head office in Vancouver, informing them of our progress, communicating with our donors, and planning for the future. I send weekly expense reports to the Vancouver office, and keep the financial records in order here in Davao. The Bureau of Internal Revenue has a whole bunch of hoops for us to jump through, so it's my job to make sure that we're following all the rules. We are registered with the SEC as a non-stock corporation, which means there are a number of other regulations to be concerned about. As a foreigner, I don't know enough about the red tape, so I have a lawyer, an accountant, and a book keeper that help me to stay on friendly terms with all the government departments that seek to make my life complicated.
You asked if I get my hands dirty. Sadly, I find myself spending less and less time in the field. I haven't built a filter in about nine months. I don't think I've even installed one since the summer. The reality is that, though I am the one that trained our staff, they have since built a thousand filters. They have installed hundreds of those filters themselves. They are now the experts, while I have become the slow guy that gets in the way. If I was to get my hands dirty, it would be for my amusement alone.
It also has a lot to do with my personal schedule. When Bethany and I came to the Philippines, our purpose was to see her complete the two year midwifery training program. It remains our top priority to see her complete that mission. When we added a baby to the family, it certainly complicated matters as far as scheduling is concerned. So I limit the number of hours I work each week to ensure that Bethany is successful in her endeavors. She, in turn, remains flexible so that I am still able to get my work done, though it does mean less time out in the field. But that's okay! To everything there is a season, and right now I am in a season of building the frameworks of our organization. As my daughter grows older, and as Bethany completes her studies, I'm sure there will be more time for me to be in the field.