Transform 1,000 lives with clean water in Honduras

by Un Mundo
Transform 1,000 lives with clean water in Honduras
Transform 1,000 lives with clean water in Honduras
Transform 1,000 lives with clean water in Honduras
Transform 1,000 lives with clean water in Honduras
Transform 1,000 lives with clean water in Honduras
Transform 1,000 lives with clean water in Honduras
Transform 1,000 lives with clean water in Honduras
Transform 1,000 lives with clean water in Honduras

Among the communities in the Cangrejal Valley, El Pital has been the community with the poorest access to basic services.  Until recently, it did not have an adequate graywater system to cover the demands of the area’s rapid population growth.  For several years, diseases struck this community heavily, culminating in health crises such as dengue, zika, chikungunya and malaria epidemics.

Both, Water Board and community members consider that an adequate graywater system is not only important to avoid the outbreak of epidemic diseases, but also to avoid contamination of the aquifer.  This becomes of utmost importance since the community is located on the banks of a main river, and it is the source of properly treated drinking water for communities.  They also believe that the served population must be educated in waste management, cleaning and general maintenance of their graywater system.

Carmindo (65-years old), member of the Water Board of El Pital, commented that "…after making an evaluation of the Water and Sanitation project and applying a community survey, we decided to carry out different micro projects in sanitation training and management of graywater systems, dry baths, ecological stoves, and reforestation of the basin”.  In the first weeks of March 2017, preparations began for the implementation of the "School and Healthy Home" program (ESCASAL) - a comprehensive program that covers all areas around a water project (management, health, and environmental health, law, sustainability, and others).  The training is offered to the Water Board, community’s residents, and schoolchildren.

Carmindo continues to explain that, "This year we have many challenges, ahead since we have already completed the design of the drinking water project for the village, and we are looking for more support to conclude it.  We are also strengthening the leadership of our Water Board with training and sharing of experiences.  Our communities will have the necessary knowledge to maintain environmental sanitation in their homes, schools, churches, and in the community in general”.

“Thanks to the collaboration of volunteers and donors, we have been able to build and rehabilitate the graywater system in the community of El Pital, which is an eco-friendly graywater system, and is a model for other communities in the area.  This makes us feel very proud.  We are sharing our experience and knowledge with other communities that want and need to build a system like ours.  We hope they continue to support us so our children, young people and women have a better standard of living", concludes Carmindo ”.

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Nicolasa at her backyard
Nicolasa at her backyard

Nicolasa Cruz is a member of the El Pital community, which lies in the Cangrejal river valley. Her house is directly in front of the community clinic. Nicolasa tells how, for years, she has had problems with sewage water accumulating around of her home, due to its location in a low-lying area. Bad odors and mosquito hatcheries were an everyday problem. A community plumbing system was supposed to take sewage from point A to point B, but the plumbing itself was very old, was not adequately maintained, and did not meet the demands of the entire population of El Pital. The clinic in front of Nicolasa’s house found a quick solution to this problem:  they built a perimeter wall around the clinic.  But their solution only made the problem worse for Nicolasa and other residents:  it caused the sewage system pipes to rupture more often and with greater severity each time.

The constant sewage system pipe ruptures ended in more sewage water accumulation at Nicola’s yard which inside in the community outbreaks of dengue, chikungunya, and malaria, overcrowding clinics and hospitals nearby.   Nicolasa was very worried about the community’s wellbeing.  She felt personally, to blame, in a way, for what was happing in the community, even though she could do nothing about it, at least, not by her efforts alone. Every member of her household fell ill during that time and lived with the fear that they could fall ill at any given moment.

The residents of El Pital met to find a solution for the sewage problem.  They reactivated the community’s Water and Sewage Board, which, together with Un Mundo, managed the rehabilitation and extension of the sewage system.  With the support of engineers from Duke University,the system was replaced with new plumbing connecting all houses in the community.  Now the system adequately serves each house, transporting sewage out of the community.  

Nicolasa tells us, the community saw no health crises from mosquito-borne-disease epidemics as it was before. And now  she can even plant banana for her family consumption.

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Antonio working to delineate the catchment area
Antonio working to delineate the catchment area

It’s been predicted that the third world war won’t be for political conflicts, nor for oil, but for the fight for water, a substance that gets destroyed each day by humans themselves.

Water is indispensable in our homes, and without it we are exposed to many illnesses. Since 1993, when the water system in El Pital was originally constructed, we’ve been consuming contaminated water. With the new system, I’m sure that the quality of our lives will be better.

This new water system is so important that I don’t mind walking three hours to be able to work in delineating the catchment area and compiling all of the necessary information for the system design and budget. We continue to dream in a better future for our children, and if we don’t do something now to have a more sustainable infrastructure, we’re offering an uncertain outlook to the future generations. It’s for this reason that I work until I’m exhausted.

El Pital’s water project holds great promise, and we’re already seeing some of its benefits, since the greywater filtration system has reduced the number of mosquitos around our homes, which reduces the risk of contracting dengue, malaria, chikungunya, zika, and other diseases.

I’m confident that, together, we can create a path that will significantly change our lives.

The Water Project Board taking measurements
The Water Project Board taking measurements
Antonio and other board members taking GPS points
Antonio and other board members taking GPS points
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Tonito celebrating water project successes
Tonito celebrating water project successes

When the odds are against you, it can be difficult to find motivation. In the community of El Pital, people have grappled for decades with insufficient, undrinkable water as well as poor sanitation. Everyone wants to improve sanitary conditions for themselves and their families, but many struggle to see how they can do so. What recent accomplishments in Un Mundo’s Clean Water project have shown, however, is that teamwork can generate ample motivation and mobilize people around the common vision of a healthy community.

This summer, teamwork has been the name of the game as the people of El Pital have joined forces with international volunteers. In late May, a group of 10 enthusiastic students representing Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID) came to El Pital to construct a large-scale greywater filtration system, and it didn’t take long after their arrival for people to become reenergized in imagining a cleaner El Pital.The DEID students got things rolling during their first days, and local folks soon began to volunteer their time and elbow grease to make the project a success.

Take Tonito, a recent high school graduate who has lived in El Pital all his life. The first day that he volunteered to help DEID, he didn’t know what to expect. Certainly he didn’t expect to work so hard digging a very large pit, putting in a full day of labor and testing the limits of his physical strength. He didn’t expect to see so much of this work-in-progress from the inside, grasping the design of the environmentally friendly system. Nor did he expect to have so much fun working with volunteers from other countries, laughing and sweating alongside them and becoming part of a strong crew.

“I really enjoyed spending time with people from other countries — learning from their different customs and building friendships,” Tonito says. He notes that he learned a great deal from the students’ work ethic and sense of responsibility. “They finish what they set out to do,” he comments, and realized that following their responsible example will serve him well in whatever he does as an adult.

Not only that, but Tonito has discovered that he loves to help others and to work as part of a team. After donating two days of labor to the greywater filtration project, he volunteered for two days assisting international public health volunteers in carrying out community surveys, and he spent two days helping to administer reading and writing evaluations to children in remote communities, as well. While he doesn’t know yet what the future holds in store for him, he’s been invigorated by these recent opportunities to serve, collaborate, and practice English, and he thinks that what he’s learned will open doors for him going forward.

Tonito is just one of many community members who volunteered their efforts to ensure the successful completion of the greywater filtration system, which now connects El Pital’s houses to filters that prevent household pollutants from reaching the Cangrejal River. As the community prepares to take the next necessary steps to begin construction of a clean water system, perhaps the greatest achievement is that neighbors have joined together, putting in hard work to ensure that their dreams of a cleaner, healthier community become reality.

It’s thanks not only to the hard work of the community members and the DEID students but also to the generosity of donors like you that the people of El Pital continue making strides toward the goal of bringing potable water to their homes. In the upcoming months, the DEID students will use data they collected on-site to support El Pital’s Water Board in finalizing the water system design, with hopes of beginning construction in early 2017. We know that we wouldn’t be able to achieve such goals without you. From the more than 500 residents of El Pital, thank you sincerely for your support of this collaborative effort, and please consider making another gift towards the community’s health and well-being!

DEID students collaborating with local volunteers
DEID students collaborating with local volunteers
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Don Pedro (center), El Pital Water Board President
Don Pedro (center), El Pital Water Board President

We all know what it is to dream. We dream of making a difference, of finding love, of creating beauty, of giving back. What we don’t all know, however, is what it means not to have basic services available in our hometowns and what it requires to realize a dream of finding something as fundamental as clean water.

In El Pital, thanks to the ingenuity of local leaders years ago, a simple water system brings H2O to people’s homes – sometimes. But the town has grown and the current water source doesn’t have the capacity to bring water to all families’ houses every day; what’s more, the water it delivers is contaminated and unable to be safely consumed. Rather than give up, move out, or blame others for their challenges, however, the residents of El Pital have banded together to strive to make the dream of bringing potable water to all families’ homes a reality.

Pedro is a strong community leader and is currently the president of El Pital’s Water Board, the group of local men and women who are leading the efforts to design and construct a new water system. Pedro has been a rock throughout multiple stages of the project – partnering with Engineers Without Borders of Santa Clara University to conduct a topographical study, working with the Nombre de Dios Foundation to gain legal rights to land containing a clean water source, and, more recently, collaborating with Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID) to construct a greywater management system that prevents pollutants from reaching the Cangrejal River. He knows that the work of the new system is far from over, but he could not be more hopeful and determined. Pedro smiles as he states, “My dream remains to have a new water system, through the effort of the community and the support of the organization Un Mundo. This is the dream that I have.”

Pedro is consummately humble, giving credit to others for the work that has been accomplished thus far. “The experience that I’ve had through Un Mundo has been a real step forward for me – I’ve learned many things,” he says. What he doesn’t mention is what an exemplary leader, worker, and dreamer he’s been, ensuring that other community members continue to strive for a brighter future right alongside him.

In one short month, a talented DEID team will travel to El Pital to collaborate with the Water Board and a local engineer and technicians in completing designs for a new water system, and they will work with the community to make plans to construct the system within the upcoming year. Like Pedro, we are excited and confident about moving forward with this project and bringing the people of El Pital the clean water in their homes that they deserve. We thank you sincerely for your support of this project and ask you to please consider making another contribution to help Pedro and the Water Board realize their dream!

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Un Mundo

Location: Menlo Park, CA - USA
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Project Leader:
Amanda Blewitt
Mountain View, CA United States
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