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