School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
School Health and Hygiene for Mayan Children
Washing up with rainwater at Patzilin Ab'aj
Washing up with rainwater at Patzilin Ab'aj

Many communities in the mountainous area around Santiago Atitlán have poor or inconsistent access to running water. Patzilin Ab’aj and Panimaquip are two of these communities, where residents often don’t have running water at home or at school. When their school’s water supply runs out, kids have to carry heavy containers of water to school with them, depleting a supply that in some cases they have already had to carry from Lake Atitlán uphill to their homes.

Our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) team has been hard at work with these two communities to provide schools with alternative water supplies and relieve schoolchildren of this heavy burden. The solution? Rainwater, says Pablo Eulogio, Pueblo a Pueblo’s WASH project manager. Rainwater collection systems are known to many communities in this area as a way to take advantage of periods of heavy rain; stored water can be put to use during drier, hotter parts of the year when the need for water is even more dire. Given local average rainfall statistics, these systems can collect up to 240 liters of water per day! This water can be used in the school kitchen, for cleaning purposes, and in school bathrooms for washing hands and flushing toilets.

In May, Pablo and his team worked with Patzilin Ab’aj Primary School to install a brand new rainwater collection system. They affixed piping to the gutter on the roof of a large building, placing wire mesh over the gutter to keep out leaves and other organic debris. They then built a platform for a large water tank, attaching the piping to the tank to catch water flowing off of the roof.

“At this time, the community of Patzilin Ab’aj has no running water,” explains Pablo. “The rainwater collected with this system is now the primary school’s only source of running water.” He also notes that students at Patzilin Ab’aj recently started an organic garden on the grounds of their school—another reason they need a reliable water supply!

The situation in Panimaquip was a little different. Panimaquip Primary School already had a rainwater collection system, but it was in poor condition. The water tank had been installed on top of cinder blocks which collapsed under the weight of the full tank, leaving the tank unstable. The tank was also obstructing the proper drainage of water from school grounds, threatening flooding of classrooms and outdoor school areas.

In June, the WASH team moved quickly to correct the situation. They constructed a strong, bridgelike platform for the water tank so that water could flow under the tank and away from spaces where students learn and play. “These repairs not only improve the state of the physical water collection system,” says Pablo. “They also ensure that students' learning spaces stay safe and dry.”

These new rainwater collection systems mean cleaner, healthier schools in these two communities. Rainwater collection means that primary schoolers in Patzilin Ab’aj and Panimaquip can focus on learning, playing, and having fun!

Mesh keeps debris out of the collection tank
Mesh keeps debris out of the collection tank
Piping carries water to the tank at Patzilin Ab'aj
Piping carries water to the tank at Patzilin Ab'aj
Unstable tank before improvements at Panimaquip
Unstable tank before improvements at Panimaquip
New tank platform at Panimaquip
New tank platform at Panimaquip
New piping carries water to the tank in Panimaquip
New piping carries water to the tank in Panimaquip

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A young student drinks filtered water
A young student drinks filtered water

Our Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) in Schools Project has several goals. In addition to improving bathroom facilities and training the community on maintenance and the importance of practicing bathroom hygiene, WASH also focuses on making safe drinking water accessible to students in rural schools.

 Since WASH has initiated, we have partnered with 10 rural schools to improve sanitation facilities, provide drinking water, and train students on the importance of healthy hygiene habits.

"The high temperatures, physical education class, and the overall energy it takes to be a kid leads students to drink tap water without realizing that it is not safe to do so" said Pablo, "it’s very important to provide students with a safe source of potable water so they can  hydrate without getting sick" he added. 

Let’s celebrate the successes we’ve made towards ensuring that every child has access to safe drinking water--water that keeps them hydrated, healthy and ready to learn. We at Pueblo a Pueblo promise to continue working with rural communities to create healthy environments for students. Let’s raise a glass to clean drinking water! Thank you for your Global Giving support! 

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For many children in rural Guatemala, missing school because of a diarrheal disease is an all too common but harsh reality. Our Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) in Schools Project aims to eliminate this reality by improving bathrooms and working with communities to promote good hygiene habits. Our WASH team is partnering with the Aguas Escondidas Community to improve and expand their bathrooms and instill our WASH trainings. The biggest school we’ve ever worked with, Aguas Escondidas has only three bathrooms for more than 2,000 children. The facilities aren’t in the best shape either. They are cramped and sometimes don’t flush.

There’s more to implementing our WASH in Schools Project than just building and renovating bathroom infrastructure, though. We work with and train the school director, teachers, school children and parents on the importance of practicing proper bathroom hygiene and demonstrate how to take care of their facilities.

Projects like WASH are vital for schoolchildren and their families. Globally, diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years of age. By investing in school hygiene, we are investing in the health of students and in future generations.  We are excited to add another school to our list of beneficiaries and to work alongside their faculty and community to promote healthy life-long habits. We especially want to Thank You for your Global Giving support--without it, WASH wouldn't be possible.

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The students at Patzilin Abaj Primary School sang, danced and celbrated because for the first time in 15 years, when they pushed the lever on the toilet or twisted the faucer, water splashed out. 

Patzilin Abaj Primary School is the ninth school to implement our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools Project. Before this, each student had to carry water from their house to fill up a communal barrel, which was used to flush and wash their hands. Towards the end of the week, when the water supply dropped, flushing and washing hands was limited to only the taller students, who could reach the bottom of the barrel. This method of (sometimes) flushing and washing from the giant barrel of standing water put the students at high risk of getting diarrheal illnesses and as a result, missing school.

Implementing our WASH in Schools Project is a lot more than just building and renovating bathroom infrastructure. To create sustainable change, we work with and train the school director, teachers and students and parents on the importance of practicing proper bathroom hygiene and how to take care of the facilities. One of the trainings includes working with teachers to brainstorm ideas on how to incorporate sanitation and hygiene into their curriculum and using the facilities to encourage leadership and responsibility from the students. For example, talking about germs in science class and assigning students to be WASH Ambassadors and monitor that their classmates are washing their hands and that the soap dispenser is not empty.

The new bathrooms and WASH Project implementation were celebrated at a school wide inagruation filled with performances and gratitude. We would like to exted that gratitude to you. Your Global Giving support makes it possible for us to expand sanitation and hygiene to rural schools in Guatemala. Thank You! 

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School directors received hygiene kits
School directors received hygiene kits

Around this time last year, we celebrated the launch of the Pueblo a Pueblo and Colgate’s partnership for the “Brilliant Smiles, Brilliant Futures” campaign. Just to recap, the campaign is an initiative to equip young children with toothbrushes, toothpastes and enable healthy habits.

Our Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) team spent months meticulously creating and counting oral hygiene kits. The partnership is growing, along with the excitement around it, as well as the amount of beneficiaries. This time around we were able to provide 6,930 students from 56 schools with hygiene kits, approximately 3,000 more than last year.  

Although the purpose of this event is to make toothbrushes and toothpaste available to kids, this partnership goes beyond brushing. The partnership promotes personal hygiene as a tool for academic, personal and social success.

“When a kid feels confident in her autonomy and practices it through oral hygiene upkeep, she feels more empowered to have autonomy over other aspects of her life, including academics,” says Carlos Soberanis, Colgate Ambassador.

Directors from our beneficiary schools attended the workshop led by Colgate and Pueblo a Pueblo during which we offered tips the directors could use schools to encourage good hygiene. They also learned proper brushing techniques and explained the health consequences of not establishing an oral hygiene routine at a young age-- all with the hopes that the directors would be inspired to return to their school with the hygiene kits and the understanding of the importance of brushing.

“It’s important to collaborate with the directors of the schools because they have authority to encourage the implementation of what they learn at the workshop,” says Pablo Eulogio, the Pueblo a Pueblo WASH coordinator.

This partnership aligns with our WASH mission because it recognizes and reinforces the relationship between preventative health, hygiene and the success of our students. Thanks for your support!

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Organization Information

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Pueblo_a_Pueblo
Project Leader:
Andrew Wilson
Executive Director
Neenah, WI United States

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