COMMUNITY FOCUS: LA SOLEDAD
Community La Soledad, in the coastal highlands of Guatemala, clings to steep slopes at 5,000’ elevation. Here hikers from around the world hire guides from among five extended families to hike the the dormant Volcano Acetenengo, 13,380’. From base camp hikers view the very active volcano Fuego just 2 kilometers away for all night ooohs and ahhhs as eruptions rumble and flare. The following morning hikers are awakened at 4AM, “vamos arriba chicas y chicos- lets go up girls and boys” to the summit sunrise view as peaks are illuminated and verdant valleys revealed, from the nearby Pacific Ocean to the jungles of the Caribbean.
Most of the 170 families of La Solidad till hillside subsistence farm plots where they grow the basics; corn, beans, cabbage, squash. Few people have jobs outside the community. Families earn, on average, $4.50 per day.
This project has been completed!! It is expected profits from their two community filter systems located at the school and the health clinic will be used for additional water filters, adequate for the remaining families, within 4 years. Donations will of course be accepted for this project to accelerate completion prior to four years, or to be used for the very needy nearby communities.
Ample water for the village comes from a newly bored deep well. Water source is considered “improved” but remains not safe for drinking and pipes to the homes recontaminate the water. As with all mountain highland villages, organic contamination causes chronic diarrhea and therefore high malnutrition among the children. Low school attendance and low lifetime earnings are the result contaminated water.
Following community meetings and assessments, two elements emerged as primary needs. Pure drinking water, all agreed, is the highest priority.
The second priority is to finish a partially completed public clothes washing facility. Women take laundry 12 miles to a public wash facility, Pilas Publico. The social aspect of this traditional gathering place is valuable in itself, but also the first filter system will be located at the public wash area. The women will be the primary maintenance and monitoring agents.
2ea. BSF 25's have been installed, providing pure water for 50 families, located at the school and the health clinic. It is expected that operation profits will be ample to purchase more filters for the remaining 130 familes, within 4 years.
METHODS FOR SUCCESS
Prerequisite for any filtration project is an agreement among school and health officials, with selected WASH CHAMPIONS, agreeing to assign community members who agree to take the WASH training as developed by UNICEF, to include hand washing, bio-sand filtration, latrine construction, menstrual hygiene, food handling and in this case, watershed management. WASH CHAMPIONS will be responsible for community education, governance, maintenance and monitoring and measuring health outcomes.