These past six months have been some of the most productive in our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Project’s history.
In February we brought WASH facilities to over 80 students and teachers in the Nueva Providencia Elementary School; in May we installed biosand filters in two schools to provide 375 students with clean water; and now, this past month, we inaugurated hand-washing stations and child-friendly, gender-segregated bathrooms in the Totolya and Panimaquip Elementary schools, reaching an additional 330 students.
As always, there’s a lot left to be done: countless students, schools, and communities without access to the basic facilities and information that are so important in preventing sickness and malnutrition.
But for now we’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have helped make our work over the past six months possible.
Sometimes your support might feel small, even insignificant in light of the enormity of the problems these children in this region face.
We can tell you that it’s not. Because you’ve decided to help us, 785 students are growing up stronger, healthier, and happier than before. That’s not small; that’s not insignificant.
Thank you so much for your support and best wishes for a safe and joyful summer.
This past month, Washington and Lee University physics professor Jon Erickson led 17 engineering students on a joint project with Pueblo a Pueblo to install biosand water filters in two of our partner schools as part of our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene project.
Panabaj and La Cumbre Elementary Schools were selected due to unusually high levels of E. coli and low levels of chlorine in their water supplies, as well as high rates of water-borne diseases within the student population.
If this is your first time hearing about biosand filters, here’s some quick background:
They came about in the early 1990s as a way to bring cheap, effective, and easy to use water purification systems to the developing world. Rather than going directly from water source to distribution tank, water is diverted into a plastic or cement mold, where it then passes through a number of biological and physical stages, each one intended to either trap or consume potentially harmful material. After it passes through the filter, water is rerouted back into the distribution tank and then out to the community. Since biosand filters have become a common part of international WASH practice, a number of studies have shown correlation between their use and decrease in diarrheal diseases in recipient communities.
According to Professor Erickson, biosand filters are particularly well suited to communities around Santiago because the filters require minimal initial investment and are capable of removing pathogens and solids quickly enough to meet the daily needs of an entire school.
Better still, upkeep is minimal. Once flow from the filter begins to slow down, teachers only have to open the plastic top, pour in a gallon of unpurified water, and swirl the filter’s top layer in a circular motion. It takes a maximum of five minutes.
From our end, it was a pleasure to work with such a competent and well-intentioned group of people. Because of them, students in Panabaj and La Cumbre won’t have to struggle nearly as much with the waterborne illnesses that afflict so many other students around Santiago.
Now it’s time to think about potential projects for next year. As always, we'll be sure to keep you in the loop!
Pueblo a Pueblo is proud to have added a new school partner to its Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools Project! Nueva Providencia Elementary School is now equipped with a brand new set of bathrooms and hand-washing stations, as well as a state-of-the-art septic system.
We started work late last year to construct facilities for more than 80 children from grades K - 6. We inaugurated the new bathrooms and hand-washing stations at a recent celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony that was attended by the Pueblo a Pueblo board of directors on a visit from the USA.
Sandy Mendoza, the WASH Project Assistant, said about the new development, “This project is important because it finally helps cover the needs of the school in Nueva Providencia. Before there was a poor sanitary facility open to the entire community, and with so many people from the school and outside community using the bathrooms, maintenance was nearly impossible. Some days the kids would come to school and find their bathrooms completely unusable.”
“And it’s not just about construction,” Sandy continued. “We’re trying to promote good health habits in other sustainable ways. By giving hygiene classes to students in partner schools, we’re giving them knowledge they can use to lead healthy, happy lives. Our hope is that these hygiene habits will spread from the students to their families, and eventually to the entire community.”
Of course, this project wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity and support of people like you. Now that it is complete, please consider donating to support future WASH projects in other school communities where we work!
The school year ended in Guatemala in mid-October, but our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) and Organic Gardens project teams have been hard at work running summer camp in several of our partners schools. The first two sessions were held in early November in elementary schools in Tzanchaj and Pacoc.
To help organize a series of WASH activities, we enlisted the generous guidance of several local health professionals. Dr. Jose Contreras Alegria, a local dentist, gave a wonderful presentation on the importance of dental health and hygiene. He talked about how to brush your teeth properly, the basics of mouth anatomy, and why eating well and brushing your teeth regularly contribute to a healthy body and mind. At the end of his presentation, Dr. Contreras gave every student two toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Psychologist Danila Salvador talked with the children about the importance of self-esteem. Together they listed the characteristics of a person with good self-esteem and a person with poor self-esteem, and then the children separated into groups and talked to each other about why self-esteem was important in school. At the end of the session they presented their ideas and questions to the rest of the group.
After both presentations the children played health and hygiene-related games and prepared to bring this new, healthy knowledge home to their siblings and parents.
The third and fourth sessions of camp are taking place now in elementary schools in La Cumbre and Totolya. For WASH activities, we have invited psychologist Ruth Juracán from Santiago’s Health Center to discuss self-esteem and school bullying, and nurse Araceli Rodriguez from San Lucas Health Center to present on basic health and hygiene and common illnesses around Lake Atitlan.
We are so excited that our students are learning AND having fun this summer vacation. Stay tuned for updates and, as always, thank you for helping Pueblo a Pueblo make these summer programs possible!
This past week we completed our third and final round of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) teacher trainings! Sandy and Misa, two of our local education coordinators, designed the trainings to help instill healthy WASH practices in student’s daily lives.
Over the past year, with your support, they have traveled regularly to five participating schools to present teachers with strategies to create healthy classroom environments. Topics have included water contamination, bolstering student self-esteem, and preventing disease transmission.
Our WASH program doesn’t stop there, though. As part of our monitoring and evaluation program, we are now reviewing teacher evaluations of our trainings to guarantee that next year’s curriculum is even stronger. One of our focus areas for the upcoming year will be to train teachers on how to garner parental support for and involvement in WASH activities – an evolution that will lead to healthier behaviors at home as well as at school.
Beyond teacher trainings, we are currently working with a new partner school, Nueva Providencia Primary School, to develop sustainable, child-friendly sanitation and hygiene facilities for students. The construction project will break ground in November 2013, while the children are on school break. Be sure to check back for pictures of the new facilities!
Finally, please join us on October 15th in celebrating Global Hand Washing Day! As always, your contributions will directly improve student’s exposure to and awareness of proper hygiene and sanitation practices.
It’s a long process, but together we have begun to change fundamentally the way our partner schools approach WASH-related health topics. Thanks for all you do, and we look forward to working together to extend our impact to new schools and children.
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