Ada Garcia: Opportunity and Empowerment

Ada García, 31, has a desire for self-improvement. All her life she has worked to learn new things and be able to put them into practice for the benefit of herself and her family.  

 

El Porvenir visited Ada’s community, Arenas Blancas, looking for people—both men and women—who were willing to learn to build latrines and toilets in order to train them.

 

Ada was inspired by the idea, and she decided to participate. "Women can also do the work of a mason," expressed Ada. "First we were trained how to build latrines and toilets, and after that, we started to work. In the beginning, it was difficult for me to get the measurements right, but I learned and improved until the latrines and toilets were done well," Ada tells us.

 

"After working in several communities, the time came to build my own toilet. I worked hard on this because I wanted it to look beautiful and perfect. Now I have my own toilet! I learned so much working with El Porvenir," Ada confirmed.

 

"It was a good experience because it helped me practice my skills. Now, I feel confident that I can do this and whatever else I set out to do. Training people for this type of work—regardless of gender—and giving incentives to try new things gave us confidence,” said Ada.

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Cesar: Community Empowerment

Cesar is one of the 425 people who live in Quizaltepe, San Lorenzo. There aren’t many employment options there, so many people emigrate to others parts of Nicaragua or Costa Rica for work. Those who stay work in agriculture.

 

Cesar, 47, was born in Quizaltepe. Before working with El Porvenir, he had never had a latrine. That’s true for most everyone who lives there. Cesar left school after 5th grade and his parents taught him to work the land. Cesar is married with 4 children, and he puts all his strength into providing for them. He sometimes goes to Costa Rica for work; the money he earned working there made it possible to build his own home—something he couldn’t accomplish with what he earned farming.

 

About 15 years ago, a European organization offered to build latrines with the residents of Quizaltepe, but they only worked with 15 families. The children continued to get sick with diarrhea. Many of the families scraped together what materials they could to build their own improvised latrines: simple pits surrounded by black plastic, wood, and some zinc sheets for a roof. At least this kept the human waste out of their yards.

 

Cesar: “There was always contamination, and the community didn’t seem dignified to visitors or even to us. If anyone visited us, I was so ashamed of my latrine. Our latrine wasn’t adequate or hygienic. Our community was always disorganized and people defecated outside; the chickens and pigs then ate it, causing even more sickness when we ate the animals.”

 

Cesar had heard of El Porvenir from people in nearby communities, and he was curious if El Porvenir would work with them, too.

 

Cesar: “One day, I made a decision to change things. When I went into San Lorenzo, I went to the El Porvenir office and asked how they work. They explained everything to me, and I felt I could trust them. I sent a request for support, and then El Porvenir came to visit and went house by house to talk with everyone. We realized that our needs were greater than just latrines. We needed potable water, electricity, and latrines. We felt so happy to have gotten a response and to feel like we were going to improve our lives.

 

“Not only did El Porvenir work with us to build household latrines and improve our quality of life, but we all worked together to build double pit latrines at the school as well. I started training to be a volunteer community health educator even before the project began, and I’ve developed my leadership skills and problem solving skills. I worked enthusiastically along with my community to haul materials to each house and to help the mason.

 

“It almost seems unreal that a dream that I had for so long has come true. Now my family and everyone here has a hygienic latrine, and we aren’t contaminating the environment anymore. We’re also working to recover our forests through reforestation work. We aren’t burning our fields anymore. Our community continues to grow, improve, and adopt better environmental practices.”

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Watershed Restoration in Las Cruces

Wilber is the Las Cruces Watersheds Committee Coordinator. Part of this project focuses on conserving topsoil; to do this, residents have terraced, planted fruit trees and coffee, and planted trees like cedar.

The benefit of these terraces, says Wilber, is that they prevent topsoil from being lost on the steepest areas of their farms which are in the highest part of the watershed. “In the future, with the planting that we are doing, we are organizing the forest where before we had no fruit trees or hardwoods.”

He went on to say that the committee will continue to organize: “We want to make our community better.”

The residents of Las Cruces have worked to build 469 meters of rock terraces and 200 meters of live terraces made of grasses and trees to prevent soil erosion. Both kinds of terraces slow the speed of the rain water, allowing it to infiltrate into the ground and making the land better for crops.

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"A latrine that works for me": Wheelchair-accessible latrines

Mario contracted polio when he was five. He had high fevers and never walked again after that. He spent nearly eight years crawling anywhere he needed to go until someone donated a wheelchair to him.

Mario is now 49 and lives in Piedra de Agua, El Sauce: “When it was raining and I had to go out to take care of my necessities in the old latrine, the wheelchair often got stuck in the mud.  I had to yell until someone could come and help me. It was very sad.”

When the community members approached us and asked for support to build 25 new latrines, they told us about Mario. We were able to work with the makers of the latrine shells to create a sliding door on a bigger shell to make the latrine wheelchair accessible; we also worked with the family to pave a path from the home to the latrine so Mario would no longer get stuck in the mud. The inside design was modified as well to include a bench for transferring from the wheelchair to the seat.

Mario wrote a note on the door that says, “Thank you, brothers at El Porvenir, for making my dream come true due to my disability.”

“This latrine works for me for my needs. It doesn’t matter if it rains, I can get my wheelchair into the latrine, and I have a seat where I can sit and do my necessities with ease,” he says with a big smile.

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Changes in El Caracol, Terrabona

Residents of El Caracol, Golondrinas, Terrabona have built fuel-efficient vented stoves, latrines, and a water system. They are also working to restore and improve their watershed.

 

Doña Rafaela is 67, lives in El Caracol, and is part of El Porvenir’s volunteer community health educator program. She tells us that the project has been a great benefit for their community: “Since El Porvenir came, the face of our community has changed.”

 

Water is always a great need. Before having a water system, the women had to walk up to 2 km to a river to wash clothes. “Now, we have clean water at each home—and a latrine, too—which translates into health for the community,” says Doña Rafaela.

 

Some of the benefits that residents highlight are the workshops on how to use your latrine, hygiene talks at the schools, and when and how to wash hands. They also actively participate in and appreciate the community clean-ups of the river.

 

“The best part is that this project hasn’t stopped like others that have come and gone in the past. The work with El Porvenir has continuity,” says Doña Rafaela.

 

The community has changed significantly, according to Doña Rafaela: “Before, the children died of diarrhea, parasites, vomiting, fever—and it was because the community wasn’t clean. Above the water source, the animals roamed free. And that’s where our drinking and bathing water came from.

 

“Now, our water is clean, and the illnesses are gone. It’s been a complete change.”

Doña Rafaela

Doña Rafaela

This new stove uses 50-60% less firewood than a traditional stove and vents harmful smoke out of the home.

This new stove uses 50-60% less firewood than a traditional stove and vents harmful smoke out of the home.

Candida's New Latrine

Before Doña Cándida had her own latrine, she had to cross the highway to use her closest neighbor's latrine. Cars and trucks speed along that road all day and all night. And snakes live in the bushes alongside the road.

"One time when I was about to cross the highway at night, all of a sudden, my foot felt hot. I looked down and saw a snake. My foot started to hurt; I had a fever and vomiting. I had to go to the clinic. Thank God that's all that happened; I could have died that day."--Doña Cándida

Now that she has her own latrine, she is healthier and safer.

#ACT4SDGs

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