As 2013 draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of the highlights from what has been a year of tremendous growth for our organization, as well as ask for your help to ensure that we continue to advance our mission in 2014.
We recently shared the exciting news with you that Vort Port International (VPI) is now Hatch International. The term “hatch” is significant for us in two ways: It represents our role in “hatching” innovative ideas into fully functioning startup companies, as well as our goal to help “hatch” the potential of people in developing areas of the world, a concept that I elaborated on during a TEDx talk last spring, as well as in this video.
In May of this year, I had the privilege of visiting our partners and potential pilot sites in Uganda for our Bandha Bikes project and Madagascar for our BioD project. These visits not only strengthened our international partnerships, they also gave me a glimpse into the lives of people in the communities that Hatch supports. In every village I visited I encountered the same thing: hardworking people that just want to build a better life for their children and empower their communities. It isn’t a lack of drive that hinders their efforts, but rather the lack of access to basic necessities. Simple things like walking to work, school, or the market can take hours without adequate means of transportation. Gathering fuel for cooking and heat can take up large portions of the day in areas with a shortage of natural resources. Opportunities to learn new skills and develop new ways to earn income are few and far between. The technology-based solutions that Hatch is developing will not only address some of these basic needs, but also provide the people in our partner communities with the chance to learn new skills, enabling them to earn steady livelihoods rather than scraping by from day to day.
This year our Bandha Bikes project completed and tested two prototypes in the DC area. These bicycle frames are made from bamboo, an abundant and sustainable natural material, and will eventually be available to marginalized people who otherwise might not be able to afford basic transportation. The Bandha Bikes team has been developing various training and educational programs and expects to pilot these within the next year in central Uganda. The team also anticipates providing bicycles for up to 400 people in the near future, and creating 17 jobs in our partner regions over the next two years, leveraging existing talent as well as training people on new skillsets.
The BioD team has built and is currently testing a biodigester prototype in both Washington, DC, and Antananarivo, Madagascar. The Malagasy unit was assembled and is being monitored by three graduate students at the University of Antananarivo, one of our key partners on this project. Biodigesters use organic waste to generate biogas, replacing traditional wood and charcoal-burning fuel sources which are harmful to both people and the environment. The BioD team plans to pilot the biodigester in the village of Ampefy in the summer of 2014. Team members will train local residents on setting up several units with the goal of transitioning to a full-fledged implementation that will benefit the 15,000 residents of Ampefy. This original pilot phase will create five jobs in our partner region.
And in Solaii news, the team has prototyped two new solar lamp designs and is currently testing one. The technologies our teams develop are intended to be applicable and appropriate for the regions we work in, and the latest version of the solar lamp truly showcases how simplicity and function are the backbone of Hatch’s designs. By creating a reliable source of light for communities in rural India, the Solaii project is not only increasing safety, but enabling people to work and study later into the night. The team is also working on making the lamp waterproof so it can be used through the monsoon season, a feature which reflects the integration of needs assessment results with the engineering process. The Solaii team plans to pilot the project in Southern India next year which will create almost 500 jobs in the first two years.
All three of our projects will be piloting in their respective regions by the middle of 2014 , with plans to work with local partners to execute the trials and monitor their effectiveness. These launches will represent the culmination of a combined nine years of work from more than 40 members and 12 partners in three countries, 10 prototypes that went through countless rounds of testing, and more than 10,000 volunteer hours. Our generous donors, including people like you, have donated $15,000 worth of much-needed support, which helps provide high-impact and applicable technologies, drive job creation, and empower individuals globally.
I am both humbled and grateful for the opportunity to work with volunteers who not only believe in making the world a better place, but are willing to contribute the time and effort to make it happen. We take the privilege and responsibility of our mission seriously, and are establishing a tradition of unleashing human potential to create solutions to combat the daunting but addressable problem of poverty.
As important as the time and expertise of our volunteers and partners are, none of this would be possible without your support. Just once a year we reach out to you, our amazing network, to ask for your contribution. Because we are a volunteer-run organization, 100% of your tax-deductible donation goes directly toward furthering Hatch’s mission of empowering people around the globe through sustainable technology-based solutions.
Thank you again for your support, and I hope you have a very happy holiday season!
Merry Walker, Executive Director, Hatch International
P.S. Please join us for a reception at the Hillyer Art Space in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2014. There will be a cash bar, light hors d'oeuvres, and live music from the Ready-Set-Go Jazz Trio. Click here to purchase tickets.