Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Coffee Community Schools
Contact name: Rosemary Trent
Project URL: www.puebloapueblo.org
Organization Name: Pueblo a Pueblo
Project: Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Coffee Community Schools
Project location: Guatemala
Projected Impact: 1,500
At spectacular Lake Atitlan in the highlands of Guatemala, water is truly at the heart of this large, indigenous coffee-growing community. And yet, this community is in lack of clean water and sanitation services, which is a basic human right. What this means is that coffee farmers and their children continuously face infectious pathogens, resulting in gastrointestinal illnesses, and sometimes even death. When children are afflicted, their ability to absorb enough nutrients is compromised. In return, this then contributes to chronic malnourishment and leads to insufficient physical and cognitive development.
With its Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Schools (WASH) project, Pueblo a Pueblo is making a difference. While working with local community organizations, we are helping ensure access to clean water and sanitary facilities to improve the children’s health, such as water filtration systems, toilets, and soaps. The key to this project is helping establish community ownership to make sure that the water and sanitation facilities are kept in working order and conditions. By doing it this way, each community will be able to maintain its WASH facilities, education programs, and healthy behaviors without our support.
Since its inception in 2011, WASH has grown to serve over 850 students and teachers at six different elementary schools. The Situation Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful places imaginable. Three large volcanoes loom over a huge crater lake that is surrounded by the indigenous Maya villages. Encircling these villages are vast rows of coffee plants intermingled with avocado trees, papaya trees, and banana trees. This landscape certainly resembles utopia, which is why it is internationally renowned for yielding great tasting high-quality coffee. Although Guatemalan coffee is in high demand all around the world, unfortunately, little of the coffee’s profit finds its way back to the average coffee farmer. In return, it then results in widespread poverty.
Daily access to a consistent clean water supply, which is at least five liters per person per day, is imperative to human health and learning. Drinking untreated or unfiltered water can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, such as diarrhea, dehydration, and in some cases, fatalities. The magnitude of the clean water problem in rural Guatemala can be discouraging. However, the good news is that water-related illnesses are entirely preventable. Pueblo a Pueblo’s WASH project focuses on the public elementary schools to improve the health of the most vulnerable individuals, and also because school water and sanitary facilities are often at the center of a village and are used by the entire community.
Who Will Benefit from this Project?
The project has three parts, which are often implemented at the same time. First, we help schools and communities gain access to clean water and sanitary facilities. Second, Pueblo a Pueblo helps to educate adults and children on healthy behaviors, such as hand washing before food consumption and after bathroom use, as a means of prevention. We work with teachers and school administrators to reinforce these behaviors until they become a habit for the children. Third, we work closely with community groups, school administrators, and local municipalities to establish the funding, supplies, and community ownership needed to keep the water and sanitation facilities in working order.
Sustainability of these programs is key to the continuation of disease prevention and good health maintenance. It is vital that each community be able to maintain its WASH facilities, education programs, and healthy behaviors without relying on us.
What You Can Do to Help
What will help make the project successful are cash donations, in-kind donations of books, clothes, and supplies. You can even volunteer your time to aid in the cause. There are several ways to help Pueblo a Pueblo expand water, sanitation, and hygiene access to other Guatemalan coffee communities.
You can donate money for a locally made water filter, sponsor a school or community WASH project, or volunteer your time, effort, and skills. For more information visit Pueblo a Pueblo’s website at http://www.puebloapueblo.org/.