Friday, March 25, 2011

If you are checking here for our updates please see our new website at Thank you! Laurie and Steve, cofounders of Las Vidas Mejoradas.

Friday, July 23, 2010

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!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Here it is May. Where have we been? Distracted, working, deep into life here and not in Peru, trying to move 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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

We have been receiving news of the flooding in the Cuzco area. Below are updates from colleagues in Ollanta, and a way for you to make donations should you be inclined. If you read this and know anything of the Mandorani/C'orao area please let me know. I will also post news here I am able to locate.



The heavy rain and the river in the Sacred Valley destroyed many people’s homes in Cusco area. the river in the sacred valley is growing and growing every day, slowly and slowly people are losing everything, homes, farming products, animals, also my brother Washy lost his house and his beautiful building by the river last day, my other brother Wilfredo got stalled in Machupicchu, part of the train rail is been destroying by the river, the houses, roads and bridges are collapsing, and the worst part is, this is just the beginning and there is not too much to do.

This river, the sacred river as the Incas used call it, is giving us a lesson, many people has been losing the respect to this river, no people use to honoring him as the used to do any more, people where throwing garbage on its water, people taking its land more and more, putting their drainage directly his water, overfishing, and taking over otters homes.

The sacred river even when it has been destroying by the people used to still showed the people its beauty, giving water for the irrigating, breeding trout for the hungry people, now even it is enraged, he didn’t take any bodies life, as he is loving people he is advising people to run away, that way I believe that river was sacred and will be sacred.

Please take a time to ask the Mother Nature to calm dawn, people are changing.

1/28/2010 Thank you very much for keeping the people of the sacred valley in your prays and to ask the Mother Earth to calm down. Thank God the water stopped growing and flooding, it makes the people calmed themselves. My brother Eddy is still stopped up in Aguas Calientes of Machupicchu, the helicopters are taking out first the old and sick people. In Ollantaytambo the food is skimpy; they need food, tents, mattress, and blankets.

Please for the person who wants to do the contributions there are 3 chooses, also you can help sending this letter to your friends:

Bank: Banco de crédito del Perú


Type of account: Asoc. Sin fines de lucro (non profit organization)

Number of the bank account (donate in dollars): 285-17299567-1-75

Swirt code: BCPLPEPL

Address: Av: El sol 189

Cusco – Peru


Here is a link in English for updated news.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

2009 Review/ Update

las Vidas Mejoradas

I want to take this opportunity to write and update all who have followed our efforts in Peru.

Our first few months of 2009 were spent again in the region of Cusco, Peru. As you may recall, we first returned to Sipascancha to see how our previous project had done in our absence and to see how the stoves were working for the villagers. We were very disappointed to discover they had "de-constructed" the stoves, making a larger burn chamber for both heat as well as to improve heat received to the second pot that is customary for this culture to use. Thankfully the chimney was recognized to be very important and they remained! We were knocked off our pedestals, so to speak, seeing the work we had done the previous year needed to be reevaluated. We realized that it took more to improve the lives of these folks than to just provide a stove. (A cocina mejorada does not make a vida mejorada.) We needed to remember they also needed the stove for warmth and to listen to the people who would be using the stoves rather than assume we knew more about what they needed than they did.

Our project was in a community called Mandorani, a short distance out of Cusco. We and the wonderful families of this community successfully constructed 20 stoves. Tomas, a friend and former participant helped us to design a stove folks would actually use. The burn chamber was a bit longer allowing a flame beneath each pot. He designed a way to collect the ash so it could be recycled for the garden or pit toilet. Again we used local materials and workers. And he assisted us with each stove, building each model the same, and he is there now to help care for them.

Each participant opened their homes to us and we were able to use the stove together demonstrating how a lesser amount of wood produced a clean effective fire beneath each pot. We taught families how to use a retention cooker in combination with their stoves in order to save even more wood. Our time spent with each family included a conversation on how to avoid common illnesses. Discussions ranged from how diarrhea can be spread through a family, to ways to use a simple bleach solution to clean plates and vegies, and what was possible to better manage their waste. Our success here was totally due to the lessons we learned in Sipascancha and Soncco, not to mention an incredible group of families to work with. And future successes will hinge on our willingness to learn from the people we help.

Since returning in March of this year we have set our sights on forming a 501c-3 non-profit so to better continue our work. We have hired David Atkin, a lawyer in Eugene who specializes in helping non profits to get set up. Much of the progress in this is both due to my son, who made a donation to this cause, as well as David, for charging us a bit less. We have formed our group and named it Las Vidas Mejoradas (The Better Lives). We have our board which includes Elayne Quirin, myself, Steve Bouton, and his mother Ellen Bouton. We have with David's assistance written our bylaws and begun!! At our next meeting we have three other folks interested in joining, which is a relief as you can see many of us are related!

Our goals now include maintaining a presence in Mandorani, despite our being here. We do get phone calls in spite of the system I thought would work where a resident was to visit each home and then send on to us a follow-up report. So, what we have heard is that the stoves are working fine. We are always asked when we are returning! A Canadian friend did visit and agreed we had made quite an impact on the community. We've made a calendar with photos of various folks involved with the project as well as aspects of the project. Messages on each month reinforce in Spanish principles on using the stove, the retention cooker and hygiene. They are being sent out next week. We are beginning research on where to take our work next, consulting with people we have met along the way doing similar work in Peru. We will return to Mandorani in early 2011 to evaluate the stoves, and their appropriate use and care, and to complete our agreement with the good folks of that community, which includes giving them 35 soles each for working with us. It is at that time we will visit other communities. Finally, we will continue to support local Peruvians involved in this work in Peru. We'll be attending the January 2010 ETHOS conference to share experiences. We are making a web page! Currently it has a placeholder and will be at

Long term goals are to successfully see this non-profit formation through. What this means is submitting our documents to the IRS in early 2011. All of this will be with David's help. It will be at that time, should we be approved, that we will have those privileges to give our donors documentation for their taxes. We're happy to add that anyone donating from the time of our formation (4/20o9) until we submit our documents will have retroactive receipts from us.

Always feel free to contact us. Your support through our trials and successes is very important to us, whether you are a donator or not. While we are not physically in Peru doing this very important work, we are here doing our best to establish a foundation to continue this work for a long time to come. Best wishes to all this holiday season and for the new year.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Below is an invite to our party~
I am trying to figure out how to send this out via Facebook! But if you can see it here, please consider yourself invited.
Halloween Party 375 River Road Saturday. Oct 31st 2009 Laurie & Sleeve's 4-year Anniversary Party! Beer Tasting: Bring 1-6 bottles of unusual beer Potluck Dinner at 7 PM DJ set at 10 PM, live late night music from Onomatopoeia Costumes Encouraged Door Prizes

Saturday, September 19, 2009

We had a wonderful trip to Virginia. It's pretty where Steve's family lives. Out in the country, rolling hills, lovely gardens, a creek and one of the coolest things is to hear all the birds that sing such sweet songs far different than ours here. We saw our family and got the chance to meet more people who have followed and supported our work in Peru. We visited North Branch School and did a slide show for the children about Sipascancha and Mandorani. And on Sunday we enjoyed a celebration of our wedding with everyone.

Now, if I were anything of a computer-blogger-facebook-y person lickety split I would post photos. This old computer of mine does not enjoy posting photos. It just takes too-too-too long and before I realize it I have shot away a day accomplishing very little besides a few photos.

Now that I think about it, I could do it to the flickr site...maybe later. It's a lovely grey as it can only be here in Oregon and I want to get outside and diddle about the yard. The heat is said to be returning next week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

May this message be like a packet of smiles for you… specially delivered from the heart of someone who wants to send so much happiness and encouragement your way…May this help to deliver a little prayer to you… a precious thought that everywhere you go, people will always lovingly know how much there is to appreciate about you......May the year you are about to enter grant you the promise of success that knows no bounds: friendship and love, blessings from above, and dreams you never imagined would come true.....May you have a truly beautiful day! And may the hopes and wishes of each new day grace your life with a special, gentle touch…Because someone so wonderful, so special and so good, is deserving of so much. You are wished a very happy day with lots of love!
(a transposed message sent to me for my birthday (and now to you) written by my friend Sharon.)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Here's something for September 1.

"What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?"
--William Henry Davies

"....souls like animals and plants , need air. Do our lives have enough space in them to nourish our spirit? Living in cities, plugged into networks of jobs, friends, and projects, we sometimes neglect our standing-and-staring needs.
They're quite specific: we need to be outside, in pleasant weather, with nothing much to do. We need to let the world go on its way without us for awhile. We need to have things pass before our eyes: clouds, or boats, or waving grass.
Blessed idleness! Blessed inattention! When we slip back into the groove, we're refreshed by our passive interlude. Let's remember the recipe and find sometime to stand aside and stare...."
(from The Promise of a New Day)

And another from Sharon:

"Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime, therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love." --Reinhold Niebuhr

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's nice to have a few days off without a whole bunch of stuff on my schedule. I was supposed to be camping but due to my girlfriend Shelley's first grandchild's birth, we postponed our trip. (Welcome to Earth Ares Alexander!)

And congratulations to Steve! He's being considered over the next month as the new pastry chef at Belly's! We celebrated over dinner at you guessed it---Belly's!

So, yeah, I've been looking forward to a sort of renewal for these particular days off. I've felt scattered and haven't accomplished much lately. Physically I feel like i'm dragging regardless of doing my hikes or other exercise. I need to get my glasses fixed. The house and yard take daily attention. Now i'm whining. It always seems there is so much piddley stuff to do, that i have difficulty tackling the bigger things that are really important also. What I am talking about here is organizing slides for a presentation at North Branch School and doing a six hour on-line pain seminar. Finding board members and thinking about the future of our non-profit. Taking better care of my things. Is it because i just need more time or is it a question of my commitment? Does it matter? Or is it just what one chooses to make their day about?

So, anyway, nothing was really scheduled as i was supposed to be away. Given the above, it's feeling just perfect to have this time for me and my priorities! and with just yesterday and today, i already feel better focusing on what's been dangling incomplete. Better yet i've had an "aha" moment or two, when i realize, ah...that's what been missing---that feeling of completing something a bit beyond my usual activities of daily living. so its six glorious days of focusing on other important things beside my paid work, or keeping up with the housework or yardwork. (except for picking our bounty, that is!) admittedly i did waste some time right in front of my computer updating my facebook page. Yikes, what's up with that? i joined to see photos and now i have entered my life on my wall! I wonder what folks out of my past will be brought to my attention by way of facebooks' mysterious workings? hmm.

More importantly the plan for these next few days is to work on our non-profit and to think about all we would like to include in our work in preparation for the meeting with David next week. he advised to aim high. we'll be writing the bylaws so to present at the first board meeting which is not yet scheduled. Elayne and hopefully Ellen (will) have stepped up to the plate as far as folks committed to being on our board. we could also begin with Steve and I, and may end up doing just that. Regardless, we're still looking for good folks interested in being on our board.

I have written a few folks in Peru to maintain our connections there. Carlos has been working on a blanket project in the highlands. He's found a village that would want to do a stove project. the question next is to find out where this place is and what materials they have to work with. We've written to Jorge to ask him a favor and call the phone at the Victoria's store to see where are the reports she was to have mailed us. She had told me she had trouble catching folks home, but now two reports have been delayed. I also wrote Hermana Nelly about another matter as well as keeping her eyes open for villages suitable for the types of projects we do.

now its time to write that little presentation for North Branch School i mentioned about the villages and people we work with in Peru, including a little Quechua lesson. we want to include a folk tale but geez, those quechua folks can a perverse sense of humor and we need to select a story suitable for kids!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello friends!

It's been a while! We have a couple of updates for you.

We are continuing on our path to get 501(c)3 status with the help of Eugene lawyer David Atkin handling the process. We are looking for people who would be interested in being on our board (quarterly meetings required, one year terms), on our advisory board (maybe one meeting a year) or voting members who in rare cases can hire or recall board members.

Obviously being a board member would be easier for people in our area, but distance is not an obstacle as we can easily arrange conference calls. We need three full board members to move along with our process at this point. The advisory board and the voting members will be needed later on. Please contact us if you have any interest in these positions.

Laurie spoke to Victoria (our contact person in C'orao) on the phone recently and even she has been having trouble catching people at home - she was quite apologetic - so it wasn't just us! Nonetheless, the people she talked to are happy and daily using the stoves. Another friend, Richard, visited Tomas and saw several of the stoves. He had opportunities to talk with a few residents that had worked with us and was impressed in regards to their conversations regarding the other aspects of our work, i.e., proper use of the stove and it's relationship to respiratory illness; home and property hygiene addressing common health problems like diarrhea; and improved waste management in the community. So our initial reports are positive!

If anybody can provide hosting space for our website that can handle a page built in Dreamweaver, let me know.

Thanks to everybody for your support on these projects.

Laurie & Steve

Friday, June 19, 2009

A while back, earlier in the month I had heard from my special Peruvian friend Carlos Gibaja Tapia. It was a quote of a caption from a Peruvian cartoon but without the cartoon. i looked it up (finally) yesterday and here it is. you can also go here: to read more in English. This is from a blog called An American in Lima, and is now on my favorites list.

Some Peruvians are outraged at the country’s indifference to the preventable deaths of children in the Andes, as this widely circulated cartoon shows. Others shrug their shoulders and say, “That’s Peru.”

Here is what Carlos sent me in regards to this cartoon: 'This year alone, 144 children under age 5 have died of respiratory disease brought on extreme cold in the high sierra, reported El Comercio. Thirty-five of the young victims were from Puno, where temperatures plummeted to -15 degrees C in the last 21 days. (Note that temperature extremes — winter getting colder, summer getting hotter and drier — are an expression of climate change, says Peru glacier expert Cesar Portocarrera.)'

And he asks: " There are many people in Peru (who) would like to do something to help and the world has plenty second use blanket and clothes that (they) would like to send them to Peru, but ironically our government doesn’t let them do that, it is just because those are second use. God, what we can do? "
Well, this is what he's doing:

Hola Laurita.
Gracias por interesarte en los niños de Perú y yo sé que tu eres una persona que le interesa mucho este tema.
Bueno ahora estamos en una nueva aventura, estamos recolectando fondos para comprar frazadas y ropas para los niños que están muriendo en las comunidades altas, esto es por el cambio de temperatura que esta pasando aquí, el frio es muy intenso.
Por favor reza por que todo salga bien, y si tú conoces a personas que estarían interesadas en este proyecto por favor contáctenos. Gracias.
(in English: "Hi Laurie, Thanks for your interest in the Peruvian children. You are a person who is very interested in this topic. So good, now I am involved in a new adventure, I am collecting funds to buy blankets and clothes for the children that are dying in the high communitieis and this is because temperature changes are happening now and the cold very intense. Please pray that all will go well. I know you will be interested in this. Please contact me. Thank you.")

Blankets for the villagers, to support the cold weather.
We want to (give) gratitude to all of you for your support on rescue lives from the cold weather in the Andes. With this help we cover of warm blankets to the people of Socma. Also with the support of my spiritual sister Shannon we make hot Chocolate, to make feel them loved. But this is going to be the just beginning, we want to provide with warm blankets more villages, so we can stop the death. Please share this email with the people who would like support this project.

So today I am going to Western Union and sending some money from our las Vidas Mejoradas bank account to Carlos to help buy blankets. If you would like to contribute money to this cause please email me. (below more about the status of our 501c-3)

Other good news: Over the weekend Steve and I went to Portland to meet a fellow we became acquainted with by way of the Bioenergy list. His name is Richard and he is from Alberta, Canada. He too went to a Peruvian community (on the coast) to do a small stove project. and we had responded to an inquiry of his, hence the connection. it was great to meet him. he had just been to Mandorani to visit Tomas and he met some of our stove families! just a week or two before! it was heartwarming to hear of what Tomas had told him of us and our work there. we apparently left a foot print!

With our EIN number in hand, and name Las Vidas Mejoradas, it is now time to select board members. We want to employ Steve, one day a week to manage the paperwork and work with our attorney to set our nonprofit up correctly. So our first step is for me to write our attorney and inquire if we need the board and bylaws in existence before we can hire Steve.

Our garden grows. You can see new pictures of the progress on our flickr site.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our foxglove! More pictures (as Ron requested) are on the flickr site here: