Monday, January 5, 2015

African Adventures As Seen Through the Eyes of a River Steward

This is an excerpt from my journal while I was in Zambia this past summer. This particular day, we visited a community well-digging project in another village:

Wednesday, July 2

“In the morning, we got up and prepared to go to Chicumshile to help with the borehole site. We all tightly crammed into a van and drove an hour on a long bumpy road. At the borehole site, Carmin taught us the basic process of digging while the  workers demonstrated. It consisted of a simple pulley system, with 4-6 men using 2-3 rows of tree branches tied to the string and pulling simultaneously to produce force. Above the hole they were digging, about 4-5 men pushed long pipes into the hole with each downward force of the pulley. At the end of the 15-meter pipe was a sharp end to break through the rock and clay. After some time, they would “flush” the system, by pouring water down into the hole and using the force of the pipes to flush out the excess clay or dirt. The clay water would shoot out the top of the pipe and into a small pool that they had previously dug. The goal of the wells being built manually was to reach 15-20 meters underground. This was the distance to the groundwater aquifer, which would supply the local village with clean water for many years.

Throughout the morning/afternoon, our group helped their team in shifts. After my total of 3 times helping with the digging process, I already developed pretty big blisters. But the diggers made me smile when they would yell, “MORE POWER! MORE POWER!”, “2 Hours!”, and “Dig A Well!” It was cool to be a part of this digging process because we helped the team dig from 7m to 11.5m in only a couple hours!”

Bryan Westerlund - 2016 Cohort

Monday, December 29, 2014

Water in Our World

Today wasn’t our typical adventurous River Stewards mini-course. This particular Friday afternoon, my peers and I sat down together and watched a documentary about global water issues. This was a great experience to get a chance to relax and learn a little bit more about the history of people and their water.



The film, called “Blue Gold”, informed us on the necessity of having access to clean drinking water. It touched on an organization called “Ryan’s Well”.  “Ryan’s Well” is a charity organization that helps provide clean drinking water to those who don’t have access to it, especially focusing on the communities suffering from this problem in developing countries.



“Those who have the ability to pay for water will have water, those who don’t, won’t. Therefore, it is a life or death situation.” - Blue Gold

Sarah B. - 2017 Cohort

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12 Days of River Stewards

On the twelfth day of Christmas, River Stewards gave to me:

12 kayakers kayaking,



Eleven flyers floating,

Ten years of paddling,

Nine stews a touring,

Eight months of mini-course,

Seven stewards downtown,



Six stews a climbing,



Five Dayton dry dams,

Four stewards volunteering,



Three steward cohorts,

Two days of MOX

And one amazing semester!


Abbi Kuhn - 2017 Cohort

Friday, December 19, 2014

Learning to Live with the Earth

October 24-26, 2014

This weekend I went on an ETHOS club breakout to Blue Rock Station in Philo, Ohio. There were a total of eight UD students that went along on the trip with there being two River Stewards present, myself and senior Hailey Kwon. 


The trip was a great experience, and the focus was on renewable solar energy. The place we went to was called an “Earth Ship,” and was the first of its kind in Ohio. The house is built with dirt packed tires serving as the exterior foundation which act as great insulation. The roof has the purpose of collecting the water for the house, because it is slanted to direct all the water into two large cisterns on either side. The entire house was built on the concept of almost complete sustainability and it certainly was one of the most interesting places I have visited. There are many other aspects that were equally impressive like the multiple compostable toilets and straw bale housing. Our hosts Jay and Annie Warmke were very great and warmly welcomed us into their home. They told us all about the house and how their journey through life took them up to this point. We got a glimpse into the type of life that is entirely in harmony with the Earth. 


Even beyond their choice of home, their lifestyle was very simple and green. They are vegetarians, and rely entirely on produce that is grown locally and sold at a farmer’s market. They raise their own chickens, llamas, and goats for their other dietary needs. The way they live is very admirable and what makes it even better is the fact that they extend their home to others. They give tours every Saturday morning, often have weekend classes, and regularly take in interns for long periods of time.


When we visited we got to experience the daily aspects of their lives, and learn new things about sustainability. The whole way of life is something that everyone should at try least once, even eating just vegetarian for a short period of time, which, surprisingly, isn't a terrible lifestyle.

The whole point of the visit was to learn about solar energy and how to implement it in different aspects. Their house is hooked up to a large solar array that provides a larger percentage of their energy use.


Jay was the one who installed this solar system, and is certified to teach others how to do the same for their homes. He taught us over the weekend about the different variables and factors that go into solar panels and their use. We then got a chance to make our own solar electricity generators by using what we had learned from Jay. We broke up into two teams and each created our own generators, and by the end of the weekend we had created two generators that worked entirely off of the power of the sun. 



It was a very interesting weekend in which we all learned a lot and made new friends. I would recommend a trip like this to anyone who wants to learn about sustainable living and has a passion for renewable energy.

George - 2017 Cohort



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sunwatch Service and Exploration

Our cohort visited the Sunwatch Indian Village earlier this year to expand our understanding of the land on which we live. Sunwatch is a reconstructed Native American village from the Fort Ancient Period. While there, we learned that though prehistoric items were discovered on the site in the 1960s, a full excavation of the site was not begun until the '70s. The city had designated the area for a sewage treatment plant and needed to salvage it prior to construction. After discovering several ancient artifacts, the city instead decided to preserve the site. Excavations were considered completed in the late 80s, and now the site is now enjoyed by the public as a celebration of our country's rich Native American history. It is called "Sunwatch" because of the purpose of the central pole as an astronomical event indicator. 



While there, we were given the chance to not only learn all about its history, but also tour the reconstructed huts. It was so interesting to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of the people who lived there hundreds of years ago. 




While we were able to gain a lot of knowledge about the site, we were also able to help out, moving picnic tables to prepare for the fall school field trip season. In this way, we felt that we were able to help the community while the community, in turn, helped us. 
It was a great learning experience, and I would recommend anyone living in the Greater Miami Valley should try to make time to visit Sunwatch in their spare time!

Katy - 2017 Cohort

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gems of the Grand Canyon

This September I went to the Grand Canyon out in Arizona for a hike with my family. We flew out from all around the country and immediately were awestruck at the sight of what the river had carved out over the last few millennia. We spent the first night sitting atop the gorge preparing ourselves for the 13 mile hike down switchback after switch back.


Amidst the people taking pictures along the edge, I heard language after language being spoken. Within ten minutes I’d heard Chinese, Korean, French, German, English, Arabic, and a few others that I couldn’t recognize. People were drawn to the landmark and ultimately the water that carved it.


After walking for most of the day, we finally came to the source that exposed all these beautiful layers of earth. The Colorado River in all its glory, murky from the deposits it was carrying downstream, still carving out more.


I’d like to say I was captured by the expansiveness and sheer size of the Grand Canyon but I hope that’s not all I remember about it when I grow old. My favorite part, and the part that I hope people get the chance to truly experience, is the small paradise down there. Amidst the arid climate, cliffs, and tourists, are these thriving little pockets that house all sorts of life. These hidden gems between the rocks that take hours of walking to get to, but once found, you never want to give up. I leave you with a picture of my uncle taken as we left one of these gems and the hope that you’ll take a small bit of time to find a gem by you.


Take a new route to work, walk those extra fifteen minutes, and experience everything you can.

Sebastian Kessler
2016 Cohort

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New York Climate March

This Septemeber I went to New York City for the NY Climate Change March. A small group of us from UD drove up for the day to take part in this huge and important event. It was an unbelievabel experince being able to walk along side 400 thousand other like-minded people through the streets of the city. It was impressive to see such a large number of people collected in one place, voicing their desire for change.

There were so many people, each representing different issues—from bee diversity and GMOs to fracking and fossil fuels. It became obvious that climate change is no small issue. All things are interrelated and thousands of separate issues contribute to the larger problem. The climate march brought people together to collaborate and discuss different issues and solutions, sending a message to those in power that they care about the future of our planet.


It was also nice to see the large variety of people and ages that came out to the the march. There were children, college students, families, business owners, and politicians all marching side by side. Climate change, sustainability, and the condition of our planet affects everyone worldwide. It was important therefore that all types were present. Of all the people there I appreciated the number of college age students that made the trip. There were groups from many different colleges across the nation. As a college student I see all too often our generation being complacent or uninterested in the problems around us. Often students think that they don’t need to get involved because there are other people out there that will do it instead. There will be others solving the problems, others to get involved, and others to voice opinions. But the only way we were able to see such a large turnout at the march was by that many people finding the need to show that they care. Things only change when people make an effort and ask for it. 

Léa Dolimier, 2016 Cohort