domingo, 18 de noviembre de 2012

*Health Promoters' Infrastructure Projects* Please help us make it possible!

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Thank you all for your consideration!

When I received my invitation to Peace Corps Guatemala and read about the work I would be doing, a large part of it, as many of you know, was to facilitate the community in obtaining improved sanitary infrastructure such as improved wood burning stoves, latrines, and cement floors.  The goal of our healthy homes project is to train health promoters our first year and in our second year to aid the health promoters in finding families in need of these three essential infrastructure projects. I am now well into my second year and the community is ready for their projects.  The leaders of the community, four female presidents of the health promoters, my counterpart (the rural health technician of the health center), and I have worked together to develop an objective, plan of action, and budget for their project. We are at the final point in developing this project and I am excited to share this process with my friends and family back home.

Where You Come In..
This is where my WONDERFUL family and friends who have asked how they can help throughout my service can now lend a hand to this community.  I have been dreading this moment ever since I found out volunteers often ask family and friends in the states to help with their projects, but of course I am now at that point. Although our economy is tough right now and everyone is struggling, every contribution will truly help no matter how big or small. Remember how great your life is simply for being born a North American. Simple things like having a toilet, a floor, and an ELECTRIC stove are benefits we have become so accustomed too that we don’t even realize they are benefits anymore. Imagine going down to the river or into the woods at 3am when you suddenly have to use the bathroom, ALWAYS having to wear shoes in your own home so you don’t get parasitic worms, and constantly staining your own lungs with smoke while putting your babies as risk for infections because you cook on your dirt floor.  Let’s work together to give these families a better quality of life.

Who are the beneficiaries? Health Promoters in San Pedro II
For the past seven months I have been working with an amazing group of women to train them as health promoters. They have learned health topics such as personal hygiene, transmission/prevention of diarrhea illnesses, balanced nutrition, respiratory infections, importance of vaccines, treatment/purification of water, and family planning.  These women are health leaders of their community yet still do not have the ability to practice what they preach due to not having the proper sanitary infrastructure.  Major health concerns in this community are respiratory infections, diarrheal illnesses, and general ailments resulting from poor hygiene. 

What? Essential Sanitary Infrastructure Projects
1) Improved Wood Burning Stoves
The number one cause of mortality in Guatemalan children under 5 years of age is acute respiratory infections. A great contributor to this is cooking on open fire within the homes. These women do not own stoves but rather put firewood on top of three bricks on their floor and call it “a stove”. In reality it is nowhere near a stove.  It is open fire on the floor. The infants being held on their mother’s backs still have very weak lungs and therefore the smoke causes great damage leading to ARI’s. 75% of the promoters cook on these types of “Stoves” where half have children less than 5 years of age. We can drastically improve this situation in San Pedro II with the implementation of improved wood burning stoves. These stoves use 65% less firewood, completely remove ALL smoke from entering the home, and contain tables so that the women are not putting their dishes/food on their dirt floors. They dramatically reduce ARI's, reduce adverse effects of deforestation, and greatly improve hygiene in the home.

2)  Latrines
Could you imagine growing up without a bathroom? Could you imagine using the fields, trees, and rivers as your bathroom? Most families are so accustomed to this that despite not having a bathroom, they have asked for another stove even if they already have one. This is a behavior change we truly hope to change. The biological contamination ruins their drinking water and causes diarrheal illnesses to become a huge problem in the community.  64% of these promoters lack a toilet.

Here are some photos of the latrines we completed during In-Service Training:

The finished Latrine from the outside
Latrine from the inside 

The beneficiary family :-)

One of the sons just hanging out on his latrine

3) Cement Floors
What would your life be like without your plush carpet or nice hardwood floors?  Instead let’s replace these options with dirt. This is the situation of 95% of the health promoters. We’re not even trying to replace the dirt with carpet but rather with cement.  The flooring of our basements in the states is a luxury for these families.  Children crawl around in dirt in their own homes often putting their hands in their mouths and contaminating their bodies with bacteria and parasites. A cement floor will reduce these general illnesses by ridding dirt within the homes.

Why The Need in San Pedro II?
The need for improved infrastructure is enormous in this community. Although the majority of these women need at least 2 of the 3 projects, each woman will only receive one.  If this project is not implemented, the community will continue cooking on the floor while increasing their chances for respiratory infections, adding to the adverse effects of deforestation, and living in very poor unsanitary conditions. They will continue using the river as their bathroom, allowing their children to become very sick with ARI’s and crawling around in their homes on dirt floors.

95% Lack Cement Floors
75% Lack Stoves
64% Lack Latrines (A BATHROOM)

At this point, our project will consist of 26 stoves, 10 latrines, and 5 floors.  Like I said, the need is much greater than this but this will be the first infrastructure project in the community. Our hope is that once the families and the community learn how to look for funds on their own, they can continue developing the project once I am no longer here.  One project for each woman will be a fantastic and a necessary start that can start the ball rolling in San Pedro II.

Municipality and Community’s Contribution
So far, the municipality has agreed to fund 100% of the 10 latrines and 5 floors. The community will be transporting all materials on their backs to their homes, giving lunch and a snack to their professional mason, and digging their own 5m hole for their latrine.  The COCODE (leaders) and presidents have also donated much of their time to attend meetings for this project and walk for an average of 4.5 hours a day while doing 41 home visits with me.  We also have already applied for USAID funds for the 26 stoves and they can contribute 40% of the funding for these stoves provided that 30% comes from the community, and 30% from a third party organization (PCPP).

*This means we still need to find funding for the last 11 stoves (16% of entire project). *

Each stove costs approximately USD$114.13. This means for 10.5 stoves we still need to raise USD$1,200. I know it seems like a lot but if we all help to spread the word hopefully we can reach this amount by January 1st 2013!

The cost of each stove is as follows, so even when you think a small donation is not much, it really adds up and WILL make a difference:

1 Stove:  
34 Blocks = $18.36
22 Bricks = $4.40
1 bag of Cement = $9.33
1 plancha (metal stove top) = $45.20
1 Chimney and 4 tubes =$14.00
1 bag of Limestone = $3.72
1 Stove door = $5.33
1 wheelbarrow of stone = $3.20
Iron Rods = $0.59
1 Mason = $10.00
Total per stove = $114.13 per stove

Here are photos of the”stoves” (that are really not stoves at all) in San Pedro II that we really hope to change with your help!

Photo 1. The first home I visited. On the left you can see
how two children were eating their breakfast here. Would you want to
grow up with this as your kitchen?

Photo 2. This is another example of a "stove". This style is not
directly on the ground but still the same health concerns still exist.

Photo 3. This is inside someone's home. The kettles are placed
on top of the fire to boil water to drink and for their general cooking.
 This shows what "open fire within the home" really means.

Photo 4. This door opens to the inside of the home and is left open
while cooking to allow for more ventilation. However, you can clearly
see the damage these open fires do not only to the HEALTH of these
 individuals but also to their homes. 

Photo 5. A family of 8 depend on this "stove" for 3 meals a day. 

Photo 6. Maria, one of the presidents of the group and her three beautiful
daughters in their kitchen. Two young sons and a husband
 rely on this "stove" as well.

Photo 8. President Juana being amazing as ever on our 5th hour of home visits
in the pouring rain where I must have wiped out up AND down the mud hills
 several times while she pleasantly trotted up and down
these cliffs and ditches in her little sandals.
Maltiox Choiwai Presidenta Juana!

Photo 9. The presidents, COCODE, and my counterpart working
together on the creation of this infrastructure project

And The Goal..

This is the stove we built during In-Service-Training that
we hope to replicate in the
 community of San Pedro II

A better view of the Improved Wood Burning Stove with the
wonderful volunteers of Southern Quiche during In-Service-Training
**During these upcoming holidays please think of these families. While you're giving thanks for the life you were blessed with,  remember these families who were not born into the same world you were. Give thanks that you have access to a bathroom, a floor not made of dirt, and a warm, safe, kitchen that does not cause you and your family to become sick with respiratory infections.**

**Please support these families by donating whatever you can at the following link: Remember ALL donations (big or small) do add up and know that these families will be SO grateful for whatever you decide to donate. **

Thank you all a million times over.

3 comentarios:

  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Guatemala? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Guatemala in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Avenida Juan de la Cierva, 44
    28902 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez