2012 in Review

Season’s greetings to our members, friends, families, and all of our supporters. Thank you for your continued support through this eventful year. We understand that with the global economic uncertainty, natural disasters, and other world events, that giving may be difficult; we appreciate your support that much more.

This year has also been one of learning and growth for Vort Port International (VPI). It is easy to get caught up in our day-to-day tasks that we often forget to step back and look at how much ground we’ve covered. Let’s re-visit all that VPI  has accomplished in 2012, towards our mission of improving the lives of those who lack access to basic necessities.

In late January, the India Solar Lamp project (ISL) project director, Chandni Shah, technical lead, Nick Imbriglia, and I visited India to conduct a feasibility assessment. We traveled through the streets of New Delhi, across the country and ultimately, ended in southern India, where we met with an amazing organization, the South Central Indian Network for Development Alternatives (SCINDeA). Their council, as well as input from village members significantly improved ISL’s solar lamp design. The local community shed light on how light translates directly into safety, education, and the opportunity to earn a living after the sunlit hours of the day. Beyond the technology, the ISL team is developing curriculum geared toward women.  ISL will impart new skills on how to build, sell, and maintain this project’s solar lamps. They will also teach women solar technology works. Knowing many close friends who lost power after Hurricane Sandy, we have greater appreciation for a product like VPI’s solar lamp — an affordable lamp that can be operated without an electrical grid, and in tough weather conditions.

In June, the Bandha Bikes project director, Song Nguyen, visited rural Uganda, where she showcased the project’s first bicycle frame (built with the help of Justin Moyer and other undergraduate students at the University of Michigan) to potential pilot villages and community partners. The bicycle, made from locally-sourced bamboo, represents the potential for improved transportation and job-creation in the region. The bamboo prototype elicited immense interest from our various partners including Arise and Shine Uganda, Nansana Children’s Center, and Real Partners Uganda. The team is also developing curriculum to teach individuals to build, repair, and sell the bikes. As such, these bicycles provide an entrepreneurial opportunity to our partners, and allow those without access to transportation to benefit from increased economic opportunity, mobility, and productivity. With our developing partnerships, and the completion of a second prototype, Bandha Bikes plans to pilot this project in 2013.

Our Madagascar Biodigesters project completed two additional prototypes this year, and increased its partnership base, including collaborations with the University of Antananarivo, the Rotaract Club AVANA, and the Peace Corps Madagascar. The team is working with a talented group of student engineers at the University of Antananarivo to conduct a full-scale test in Madagascar of their most recent prototype. Baseline data from testing abroad will help gain further insight on the performance of these biodigesters, and provide further direction for the next design iteration. The team is also developing its educational, outreach, and business plans this coming year, and plans to pilot these biodigesters in various Malagasy communities. The biotechnology will help reduce the amount of indigenous deforestation that occurs so rapidly in Madagascar from those who burn their local forests for fire fuel for food preparation.

VPI has grown this last year. Our organization is now 40 members strong, who have collectively contributed over 10,000 hours toward project development, various media efforts, fundraising, and legal support in 2012. Through careful spending of less than $4,000 this year, the projects built a total of 6 new prototypes, sent 4 people overseas for research, hosted 2 fundraising events, developed 6 international partnerships, and established our first student chapter at the University of Michigan. I thank all of our members and our student help, for putting so much time and energy into our organization’s development, as well as maintaining their focus on empowering those who need it the most.

In 2013, VPI will concentrate on moving all projects from the prototype phase to piloting. This will be a big year for action as we continue to develop our educational and training programs, perfect our technologies, and grow as an organization. We hope to keep you informed with our progress.

As Hurricane Sandy ripped through our backyards this fall, leaving so many without homes, it reminds us that we are all human. We are susceptible to the cold, and we all need food and love to fill our bellies and hearts. It is in these times of adversity that we are reminded how very connected we are, by the thread of our existence and our need to survive and protect those around us. I am so honored to be working with extraordinary people who understand the importance of our basic needs, and our inherent need to do our part in this global community.

Think of a time when someone said or did something that brought you to action, and you were empowered to make a change in your life or for your loved ones. As no act is too small, we ask you today to think of how to be that positive force for someone else. Please follow the link below and help empower your world today.


The ambitious and worthy goals we have set for 2013 require your belief in what we strive to do. From the bottom of our hears, we thank you for your sustained encouragement and support.
Wishing you hope, happiness, and fulfillment in 2013!

Merry Walker

Executive Director, Vort Port International


One response to “2012 in Review”

  1. Ruth Bird says :

    Can I buy a Bandha Bike? I am poor in America.

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