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.”