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
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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Gladys outside her home
Gladys outside her home

Cooking dinner, taking a bath, ensuring that your children’s clothes are clean — there are countless basic daily tasks for which water is a necessity. For people in the small Honduran community of El Pital, these tasks become challenges when the existing water system leaves them without a drop coming from the tap. As local resident Doña Gladys explains, El Pital’s population has increased significantly in recent decades and has outgrown its old water source, and “we need a more powerful water system that will be able to bring water to everyone.” Rather than feeling discouraged, Gladys envisions a nearby future in which families in this community will not only have enough water throughout the year for daily chores but also be able to have uncontaminated, drinkable water flowing to their homes for the first time.

“The community, and especially I, feel very motivated. I’m happy and grateful because water is incredibly important for our households,” Gladys says of the Clean Water project that Un Mundo has been facilitating since 2011. This past summer, student volunteers from Duke University helped to construct a grey-water filtration system that purifies the waste water of 27 homes, and next summer this same student group will begin construction of a system that will bring clean water to as may as 90 households. “I know that, if all of us in the community join together and contribute to the water project and make the goals a reality, we’re going to be a great example for all of the surrounding communities,” Gladys says with glimmering eyes. “With a better water system, we’re going to be a much better developed community than we once were.”

Though she is consummately humble, Gladys cannot hide her pride in her six children, all of whom are kind, intelligent, and hardworking, and one of whom is the community’s only college graduate. Her commitment to helping see the water project through to fruition is for her children, she explains: “It’s for this future generation that I give my all. When these projects come to our community, I feel happy, contented, motivated, and grateful to God for giving me my children and enabling me to help them benefit from the project. This is what motivates me to move forward every day.” One of her teenaged daughters smiles shyly from the kitchen, where she’s sweeping the dirt floor in her high school uniform before sitting down to begin her homework.

El Pital’s water project is well underway but will require a mighty effort in the months to come, and it’s the support of donors like you that helps us all to keep the kind of hope that Gladys has as we strive to make the dream of clean water for the community a reality. Please help us to spread the word about our shared dream, and consider donating to the water project again if you’re able. Additionally, keep your eye out for opportunities to contribute on Giving Tuesday, December 1 — sign up for our email list on our website or Facebook if you haven’t already. From Gladys, her kids, Un Mundo, and all of the people in El Pital, thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and have a very happy Thanksgiving!

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Jensy helps set piping for the grey-water system
Jensy helps set piping for the grey-water system

In the face of great challenges, inaction is a normal response. We all know what it feels like to stare at a fearsome problem and want to save ourselves the trouble of failing. The initiative of forward-looking leaders, however, is often all that is needed to spur the rest of us into action.

Jensy Rodriguez, a 28-year-old resident of El Pital, is one such leader. The lack of a sustainable, healthy water source for the community is a problem that to many seems insurmountable, in part due to the absence of government support for constructing an effective system. But Jensy and other members of El Pital’s Water Board are ensuring that community members band together to find a reliable way of bringing drinkable water into their homes.

Since 2010, Un Mundo has been supporting the Water Board in taking steps to address this large-scale issue. Currently, thanks to the help of engineering students from Duke University in June of this year, the Board is in the process of setting up a grey-water filtration system so that wastewater from El Pital’s houses doesn’t pollute the Cangrejal River. In the upcoming years, the Board’s goals include increasing the number of dry composting toilets in the community, reforesting the site of the mountain spring that will serve as the new water source, and continuing to raise public awareness of how to prevent water-borne illnesses. Ultimately, by 2020, the group plans to have constructed a fully functional system that will bring plentiful, clean water to all houses in El Pital.

“I enjoy working on the water project because I love my community. This is where I was born, this is where I grew up, and this is where I am now, and I want to work for my community so that it can have better water service,” says Jensy, who joined the Water Board just under a year ago. The work is challenging; sometimes the Board puts long hours into organizing fundraising events, and sometimes unforeseen obstacles complicate project work. Nevertheless, Jensy says, the cooperation of the Water Board members and other people in the community is what makes it all seem doable: “One of the things I’ve learned is how important teamwork is. I think that working as a team lightens the load; having one person doing everything by themselves is tiring and just doesn’t work.”

Jensy knows that the road to completing the water project won’t be easy, but she has faith that she and her teammates will be able to achieve their common goals. Once the new water system is in place, she says, “many more houses will benefit” from a more extensive system, and  “I think we’re going to have water that’s much better for our health.”

Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, Jensy and the rest of the Water Board will be able to continue working toward their dream of a healthier, more sustainable water supply for El Pital. Please consider making another contribution to this vitally important project, and thank you for joining us in believing in this vision!

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Pablino with group
Pablino with group

This month the Water Board in El Pital is gearing up to welcome their new engineer partners, Duke Engineers for International Development (DEID) for their first visit. The Water Board with the guidance of DEID will be constructing trash receptacles throughout the community and systems to filter household waste water. The goal of these micro-projects is to help reduce contamination and standing water throughout the community. Additionally, DEID and the Water Board will be finalizing the plans for the water distribution project which will bring drinkable water to approximately 1000 people.

The El Pital water initiative is a multi-faceted effort to bring clean drinkable water to its residents, while also reducing water contamination and increasing forest conservation/reforestation efforts for the regional watershed and its surroundings.

Pablino, Vice President of the Water Board, reported that in a recent Water Board planning meeting the group discussed the challenges they face engaging the larger community given the lengthy timeline of the project, “People in our community are not used to planning for the future; they are accustomed to live day to day. For that reason, it can be hard for folks to justify investing in a project that they may not see the results of for many years."

“But we (Water Board) continue to stay involved, no matter how long it takes, because we understand the importance of planning, and we want to do this project correctly and well so that it will last for many years in the future. We learned our lesson the hard way with the potable water project that the community built back in the early 1990’s. There was no planning, no thinking about the future, and we got it done too quickly. It was not very long before the system could no longer support the growth of the community, and property owners surrounding the water source began cutting and burning trees causing the water source to be contaminated and less abundant.”

Pablino (sunglasses) with Fundacion Nombre de Dios
Pablino (sunglasses) with Fundacion Nombre de Dios
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Un Mundo

Location: Menlo Park, CA - USA
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Project Leader:
Amanda Blewitt
Mountain View, CA United States
$7,861 raised of $7,500 goal
 
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