COMMUNITY FOCUS: LOS ENCINOS
Perhaps it is not despite, but because community los Encinos was born of tragedy, that the people cooperate enthusiastically. Here, separated geographically from neighboring villages, refugee families were relocated- some following destruction of their mountain village during the war, some of a different language and region came after a volcano buried much of their community on the Pacific coast, and more recently others were resettled following a flood.
109 families live here, raising children together, engaging in community litter clean up together, and now hoping to build water filters, to provide precious pure drinking water.
As is the case for most nearby communities, the people here are farm workers. A few have small subsistence plots on rented land, and most provide agricultural labor for large corporate farms. Workers, young and old, earn about $2.10 per day. Diet is primarily corn, and beans, with little protein.
Hand Wash Day
As is also the case for their neighbors, the water in Los Encinos is not safe to drink. Most children are malnourished due to chronic diarrhea. 74% of the children are stunted and school attendance is much less than 8th grade.
Hope arrived when the historically neglected community received electric pumps and covered well heads at their 5 hand dug wells. The water source is now considered “improved” but remains unsafe to drink.
Los Buenos Vecinos, the Good Neighbors, were called in January of 2021 by a teacher who asked for a school Tippy Tap handwash station so children could wash their hands. Following community meetings and needs assessments it was concluded the prime problem of water borne diseases directly affected school attendance.
The school readily agreed to assigning a male and a female teacher to receive UNICEF W.A.S.H Water and Sanitation Hygiene training and a Tippy Tap was delivered and installed. Soon thereafter, home tippy taps were furnished and WASH handwash education was provided to every household in town.
The remaining issue of impure water will be solved with a community filter at each of the communities five wells. As with other communities, it is anticipated the bio-sand filtration systems will supply water 98.5% pure, safe to drink.
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 failed and successful 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. A fee of $0.65 per month per family is assessed to pay for continuing education supplies, occasional water purity tests, monitoring home use, and allow for about 8% future growth.