COMMUNITY FOCUS: MONTELLANO
Clinging to the hills and nestled into the few somewhat level places just two kilometers north of the municipality of San Andres Itzapa are houses of boards and corrugated metal that are home to 50 families; the neighborhood Montellano. Seven families are headed by single mothers.
Everyone works here; all 214 community residents. Work is agricultural in nearby fields owned by others. Laborers, men women and children, earn about $2.10 per day. Some families own small plots for subsistence agriculture, primarily corn and beans which provide more than 70% of the people’s calories.
The problem is WATER.
Ample food is grown in the subsistence farms tilled my community residents. The typcial high malnutrition rate here, about 74%, is caused by lack of pure water and basic sanitation infrastructure and practices. Children are stunted due to chronic diarrhea.
Water source for animals and people is from eight hand dug deep wells; all testing high for bacterial contamination. At the top of the nearby steep hill, water flows past Montellano to residents of Itzapa, through municipal system pipes. The local government of Itzapa offered to lay pipe to connect houses to its water for a cost of $210 each. But municipal water is also contaminated. And nobody has $210.
Following community assessments in 2020, when data was collected from residents, school officials, and interviews in each home; it was determined the community was in desperate need of pure water and home filtration. Point of use (POU) was the best option. Los Buenos Vecinos furnished hand wash stations, tippy taps, and WASH handwash training to the community.
That rare attention to the community's needs sparked interest and hope for further improvements. The local school requested a school size Tippy Tap, which was furnished in the summer of 2021.
NOTE: As of March 2023, the Municipal Govt. has agreed to extend water to each home in Montellano. The Municipal Mayor Levern Sal thanked Buenos Vecinos for their work, furnishing 53 home filters.
METHODS FOR SUCCESS
Knowing the fixtures, water filters and tippy tap hand wash stations, are necessary but much less effective without behavioral changes, Los Buenos Vecinos studied both successful and also failed business models from around the world and adapted to suit local conditions. Fundamental to every successful project is adoption of the UNICEF WASH Water and Sanitation Health protocols.
Each school or community desiring the fixtures much sign a contract and agree to create a WASH CHAMPIONS group. WASH CHAMPIONS are local dedicated citizens, educators, health official, students and elected officials who agree to take WASH certification classes and teach and reteach with assistance and oversight of Los Buenos Vecinos. LBV teaches the teachers, trains the trainers and monitors the monitors. Classes include art; role playing, visual arts, games, and most importantly, hands-on participation in the construction of the filters.
"User learns the importance of keeping the filter level to allow the microbe layer to thrive".