Washing Machines: Look Ma, No Hands!

In rural communities, appliances such as dishwashers, toilets, and washing machines are almost nonexistent. The physical demands of managing a family and maintaining a decent lifestyle requires individuals to walk miles for fresh water in cities such as Lima, Peru. Yet, these facts are not meant to sadden but inspire. Students at the Art Center College of Design put their skills and creativity to the test and accepted the challenge of transforming the lives of families in Lima through simple innovations such as the foot-powered washing machine.

While a fairly stereotypical image of rural dwellers is that they are dirty, Mario Orellana Gomez of Un Techo Para Mi Pais stresses that the poor are not exempt from the desire to live clean and sanitary lives. Washing clothes in the hillsides of Lima proves to be a much more difficult task than one could imagine. People must walk 3.5 miles and carry their water everyday. They must go up and down flights of stairs multiple times, and only then can they begin the back breaking process of washing their clothes. With clothes taking a long time to dry, mold and bacteria gather on the clothes, creating health risks such as tenosynovitis and asthma.

What needed to be done was a customer tested and approved washing machine that would alleviate all those problems. Students in the design matters programs at the Art Center founded and invented GiraDora, a human-powered washing and drying machine. After multiple prototypes and field tests with community members who would actually be the ones using the product, they came up with a functional way to alleviate the constant walking and physical stress of completing this every day task.

The machine uses a foot pedal that powers an inner drum that works similarly to the idea of a salad spinner. Two extremely useful additions is a seat cushion (which comes in multiple designs, all taking into account Peruvian art and culture) to allow the person washing clothes to relax or multitask and let their foot do all the work. There is also a drain plug so that the leftover water can be recycled or drained. The design prevents water leakage and bacteria from forming both on the clothes and on the parts. Built from lightweight materials, users can even take the ‘machine’ itself to the water containers in their village instead of carrying water long distances.

It seems these sorts of innovations are endless, and that they should be. Made from simple materials, products such as the GiraDora create a bigger impact than meets the eye. They save water which not only saves families money but also allows them to use the water for other purposes. It frees up time which in turn lets them attend to other duties or even provide a much needed period to relax.

The cost of the set is $40 and the reason why such a simple, small sum is important is because it doesn’t leave room for questioning. For donors looking for a quick and easy, yet effective way to help those in need, equating and illustrating that $40 provides one machine is the best way to raise the funds.

Social entrepreneurs thus, are truly on the rise. While many are students or come from small college programs, the idea that change does not have to come from a political movement or a legislative bill is such an important thing to remember. As Gomez puts it in the documentary Hands in the Midst, “There’s no possibility that change can come from the top to the bottom…real human change comes from the bottom to the top”.

– Deena Dulgerian
Source: Co.EXIST
Photo: BeHance