Learning First-Hand: A Day in the Field

By Eva Jiménez, Volunteer, PWW Honduras

Since July of this year, PWW has been implementing a multi-community project, funded by a grant from the Raskob Foundation. The project reaches four communities, in the Trojes municipality, that are located inside the Patuca National Park: La Zuisa, Villa Nueva, Altos de Yamales and Las Brisas de Yamales. In total, 148 bio-sand filters and 143 latrines will be installed, in family homes, when the project is complete.

As I’m learning about all of the work PWW does, safe water and sanitation infrastructure are not the only things these communities need. To create sustainable change, the communities must get involved and take the projects on as their own. Therefore, when we launch a project, the greatest effort is placed on impactful community gatherings and education.

The project launches by first gathering with community leaders, and then with all community members, to explain the project in detail and connect with them. After that, a collection of workshops are carried out: household hygiene practices, environmental hygiene and menstrual hygiene. Individual members of each community then volunteer to become Community Agents and take on the responsibility of overseeing a number of households and their correct usage of the tools and hygiene practices.

Next, with the help of Community Agents, water filters are installed into every home in the community. Once the filters are implemented and working properly, PWW sets up a time with the local health clinic to coordinate a deworming campaign, where local families receive deworming medicine and attend a personal hygiene workshop.

Next, it is time for latrine building to commence, first by gathering the community members and explaining this part of the project, then construction. Latrine materials and construction instruction is provided by the PWW team, but the families need to provide the labor themselves.

After implementation, the PWW team will return to the homes for monitoring and follow-up visits, at intervals of one month, six months, and one year. This is when the community will take over the project. In total, PWW will meet at least 14 times with each community!

I was lucky to be able to escort them for filter installation in the community of La Zuisa.
Following is the story of my experience:

Pure Water for the World’s team met at 5:30am, at the office in downtown Trojes. After collecting all materials and loading the trucks, we managed to leave at 7:00am, bringing along some extra passengers that were heading the same way.

After two and a half hours, on what is probably the worst road I have ever seen (up to now at least), we managed to cross the 50km that separates Trojes downtown with La Zuisa. It is a vast area where neighbors are kilometers away from one another. Electricity, water, and transportation are services that every family needs to provide for themselves.

By 11:00am, we were organized in seven groups comprised of a PWW staff member and one to three Community Agents (depending on number of homes), ready to cross rivers (by track, horse and foot…not kidding I have proof), to climb up and down hills, cross-country walk all around, and, above that, get mud up to our ears!

As for me, I was working hard to keep up with Ostilio (PWW staff), Johana, Eliodoro and Minor (Community Agents) as we worked in seven different houses. Each house had the sand and filter prepared, so the teams just needed to place the filter, balance it, fill it with the sand, and then put the water in and measure the flow. A good flow rate is essential to ensure the proper development of the biomass. Ostilio was thorough in taking a survey of the family (collecting all of their pertinent details) and having a little chat to reinforce concepts on how to use the filter properly, including providing a reminder of essential hygiene tips.

At 7pm, we were all done and ready to leave, but we were not sure we would be able to because of the earlier rains and the bad conditions of the road. We tried it anyway.

After pulling and pushing the three trucks up a muddy hill (which took the four men about an hour, as Karla – PWW’s Health Promoter – and I stood cheerleading to provide our support), we managed to keep going.

Finally we arrived back at Trojes downtown at 11:00pm. Some of us were more tired than hungry; others more hungry than tired. All of us were very, very dirty. So we mumbled a fast “good night” and everyone left for home.

Today we installed 43 filters, that will serve 216 people, of which 98 are children under the age of 12. There is still loads of work to be done, but a satisfactory feeling goes through the whole team as results can already be seen.