We feel privileged every time we visit our local partner and project participants in Honduras. During our visit last month, we were greeted with hugs and words of thanks to you, the Water1st donors, for making their projects possible.
With your support, 18 communities in the mountainous Lempira region now have water and toilets for the very first time. Clean water is being piped directly to every single home, ending the walk for water. Another 11 projects serving an additional 17 rural communities, schools, and towns are currently under construction.
A Slide Show of Our Honduras Site Visit:
We attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies for two projects serving three communities – Capuca, San Bartolo, and El Portillo el Paraiso.
In El Portillo el Paraiso, Presbitera Membreño, an amazing 75-year-old woman (see photo below), worked alongside the younger men of the community to build the project. Even though older people and single mothers are not required to participate in project construction, Presbitera was eager to have water at her home, and wanted to do her part to ensure the project was successful. She helped by carrying water (for making concrete), and preparing and carrying food to the men at the worksites several miles from her home. When we asked this mother of seven and grandmother of 21 if there is anything new that she’s able to do now that she has water at her home, she said, “I have a beautiful vegetable garden and I have flowers.” And, she added with a laugh, “I also have time to rest!”
The water and sanitation project ribbon-cutting ceremonies include songs, skits, speeches, and poetry from community members and local government representatives, along with a big potluck meal.
Water1st participated in the festivities singing John Denver’s Country Roads!
We also proclaim that the tamales we ate at the El Portillo celebration were the best ever – but we may need additional monitoring visits to this town just to be certain!
The ceremony concludes with an official ‘handing-over’ of the project — to be operated and managed by the community. Community members who are elected as the water board sign an official agreement and promise to uphold the official regulations of the system, including maintaining the system and collecting user fees.
We also visited most of the 11 projects that are under construction now.
In less than 6 months, the community of Jagua has nearly completed their project. The water storage tank was completed a few days before our visit, and volunteer work crews from the community were keeping the smooth concrete walls of the tank wet while they cured.
The people of Jagua, and three neighboring communities building projects simultaneously, are now building household toilets. The pit for the septic system has been excavated (covered with boards in the photo below) and the walls of the toilet stall are nearly finished. All Water1st projects integrate water, toilets, and hygiene — all three components are necessary to prevent the spread of disease.
Our local Honduras partner, COCEPRADIL, is very skilled at managing large construction projects with labor provided entirely by community members. The people are organized into groups that work two days each week. Every household is required to contribute the same amount of labor. Contributions are meticulously tracked, and when the project is completed, the value of the labor is calculated so that the community knows the full monetary worth of their water system and toilets.
The people of Jagua shared with us how they feel about their project under construction. Doña Filomena (below, in blue dress) kept saying over and over again, “I am so happy!”
These projects are about awakening hope and a sense of strength in these communities. It can be hard to maintain those mental perspectives when one is very poor and constantly encountering obstacles and setbacks. Seventy-year-old Leon Rodriguez told us that at the beginning of the project, after they had worked hard to prepare the spring site for construction, they returned the next day to see that overnight rains had caused a landslide and all the work they had done needed to be repeated. They were crushed, but they didn’t give up. He told us, “We had to be organized and have courage to get to where we are now.” Nurturing this level of faith and confidence are at the heart of what we and our partner, COCEPRADIL, hope to accomplish.
On our final field visit day, we traveled to San Sebastian. Due to long-standing disputes between a few community members, in 2008, San Sebastian decided not to participate in a large water project that would serve three communities. It was a sad time, but we went ahead with the project, keeping the same design so that it would be technically feasible for San Sebastian to connect in the future. San Sebastian’s two neighboring villages have been enjoying clean water and toilets at their homes since 2010.
We have kept in touch with San Sebastian, and during our January visit, the people of San Sebastian decided to put aside their differences and commit to connecting their families to the existing water system. It was an emotional meeting, and they thanked Water1st and COCEPRADIL for not giving up on them and “giving us the strength to work.” Juan Vasquez, a community organizer from COCEPRADIL said to them, “Get your picks and shovels ready. We’ve had more difficult situations than this that we have worked through. The doors are not closed.”
We look forward to continued visits with the people of San Sebastian and all the other communities in Honduras that have built water systems and toilets with your support. As we have told the people of San Sebastian over the years, our goal is that everyone in Honduras will have clean water at their homes. We are very happy to know that day is coming soon for them.
May more and more people like Presbitera Membreño from El Portillo el Paraiso get to enjoy the gifts that a clean water project brings — health, vegetable gardens, flowers, and a little bit of well-deserved rest.