Workshops and Activities: Etta Projects connected with five new communities located in three municipalities. Through extended stays and routine visits to these communities, project staff has engaged in an ongoing process of training and dialogue to measure the impact of our work and evaluate change.
Families and schools in four of the five communities participated in health, hygiene and sanitation workshops. Staff conducted training sessions utilizing a participatory methodology designed to build a comprehensive connection between hygiene & sanitation to health status. Families worked together to clean school latrines, build "tippy taps" (small faucets made from two liter plastic bottles) and implement small recycling projects.
Water Distribution System: This month under the financing of Rotary International Etta Projects built a distribution system in Santa Teresa that connects the community's new water well to schools sinks, school bathrooms, the community health center, and the community washing bins. This is the first time the community has ever had flushable toilets and clean, running water.
Etta Projects staff went to Santa Teresa for a small inauguration ceremony hosted by the community to welcome the new infrastructure. As we sipped the local beverage chicha and ate empanadas, the women talked about some of the benefits of the new water system. "The water is clean and does not have any odor now." "Washing clothes is easier with the new faucets." "Our kids now have a place to do their necessities at school." Community leaders in Santa Teresa are now advocating to their local municipality to build a larger water tank that would allow the distribution system to reach each family's home.
Health Promoter Training: With the support from Rotary Club of Sturgeon Bay and the Rotary Club of Appleton Breakfast and District 6220, Etta Projects held a Health Promoter Training Workshop, bringing together eight health promoters from four rural communities to the city of Montero to receive training. This is the first of two 2-day workshops designed to empower elected community members to promote healthy behavior, provide basic health care and coordinate with the nearest health center. Here are some responses from the Health Promoters when they were asked about their personal goals in their new role:
"The people from the health center used to come weekly to my community, but they came on different days and at different times and they never told us when they would be there. I guess too many times we were at work or not available because eventually they just stopped coming. I think that it's important that we coordinate with health centers and organize the community so we can work together better." (Lino Zaballos, Community La Isla)
"Families in my community can't go to the doctor every time we get sick; we are families of little resources. When we recognize the illness is very serious, then we go to the health clinic. The doctors yell at us and tell us we are bad moms because we waited too long before getting help. People are scared of how they will be treated. I think one of my biggest responsibilities as a Health Promoter is help families understand when it's necessary to go get treatment and also let them know their rights to public healthcare." (Silvia Rodriguez, Community Santa Crucito)
Working in partnership with government, local organizations and rural communities, Etta Projects offers training and support that provides rural communities with the tools and knowledge to make positive changes of their health, hygiene and sanitation. For the past two months Etta Projects has connected with seven communities (engaging men, women and children) by having community members look deeper into the villages' problems in order to develop simple, affordable solutions.
Fabiola Brun La Fuente and Carlos Caceres Castillo, Etta Project's facilitators, travel daily to different communities to lead participatory workshops involving water, hygiene, the environment, and sanitation. The project has developed creative, fun methods to demonstrate to the community the important concepts of each theme. Not a single topic is presented without real life activities that involve community participation and action. Not only do we dialogue about why clean water is important, for example, but the groups also practice different methods to purify contaminated water. Groups do not discuss garbage without engaging in their own community cleanup. A snack is not served without practicing effective hand washing. Every activity that is performed is done with materials found in the community so that the local people can easily continue the healthy behaviors.
Advancements made over the past month include:
Etta Projects recognizes that every community is different. People have different needs and different interests. Some communities are still working to secure clean water. Others need electricity. Some villages needs better roads, improved schools or access to health clinics. Regardless of the specific need, one of the most critical factors to making change is strong leadership in the community. For change to come from within the community, community leaders need to have skills and knowledge in community participation, democratic leadership styles, project planning and implementation and soliciting projects from government institutions and NGOs.
In response to this need, Etta Projects developed a two-day leadership training program. On April 10th and 11th community leaders from throughout the Integrated North gathered in Montero to gain skills and share experiences.
Some of the villages included in this project do not have a local health center. These villages are often extremely remote, and travel is difficult and timely during the rainy season. In response to this need Etta Projects has developed a Health Promoter Project. The initiative is led by Dr. Rosa Vigo who travels to the isolated villages to provide training to local people on promotion of hygienic behavior as well as treatment of minor injuries and illnesses. The first community to receive this project was 10 de Noviembre. Health Promoters were required to participate in full day workshops to explore different issues such as: health in Bolivia, maternal health, children's health, hygiene & sanitation, common illnesses, treatment, and health promoter administration. At the end of the program, the trained Health Promoters received a large First Aid Kit that essentially gives local people access to medical supplies and basic medications.
Carlos and Fabi are scheduled to begin working with new communities in the distant Municipality of Santa Rosa at the beginning of May. Etta Projects is anticipating the implementation of this project in villages found in this area because most do not have access to health serves.
On April 5 Etta Projects and the Municipality of Yapacani signed an agreement to complete water system in two villages. The municipality has approved funding of the construction of water tanks. Etta Projects will follow their work by building water distribution systems in each village. Local people will support much of the manual labor. Both villages, Vina del Mar and 10 de Noviembre, are celebrating the happy news that clean water will arrive to their community in the next few months.
In the original project plan Etta Project's intention was to host a Hygiene & Sanitation Fair in each community to celebrate the lessons learned throughout the training sessions. As we gained a better understanding of the specific needs of each community, we decided to allow communities to choose how they would like to best utilize the funding originally directed toward community fairs. Each of the communities decided that the resources would be better spent on improving an existing hygiene or sanitation problem in their community. The following are some examples of the activities that the communities chose to implement:
Improvement to the community water system. Currently in the village of Santa Teresa the entire community shares a single hand water pump and three sinks for washing clothes. The sinks were covered with fungus and filth. The community decided to utilize their budget to buy cleaning materials and paint in order to improve the community water system. Over a period of two weeks, community members gathered to scrub the sinks, dig water ditches, and paint and gloss the water system. They also purchased materials to sterilize the buckets used to transport water to their homes. Today the women laugh at the fact their clothes actually come clean after washing them in the sinks.
Materials to implement a school breakfast. In the village of El Fortin the community voted to use the funding to implement a school breakfast program for the children. The community lacked dishes, cooking utensils, pans, and a stove in order to prepare a healthy breakfast for the students. With their budget Etta Projects was able to provide a wide variety of necessary cooking equipment to get the program off the ground. Women from the village now share the responsibilities of preparing the food for the students.
Community First Aid Kit and paint for a small health clinic. Local people from the village 10 de Noviembre made the decision to use their money to improve health care in their community. Etta Projects trained two Health Promoters (read below Health Promoter Program) to treat common health needs. The Health Promoter received a large first aid kit filled with medical supplies and over-the-counter medications. Ill or injured people purchase the materials at cost in order to make the project sustainable. After completing the training course, the community decided to clean out a small room in the back of the community building (that at the time was home to every bat in the village). We cleaned and painted the room and transformed it into a small health clinic. The Health Promoters proudly refer to the area as "their office".
Elimination of Standing Water. The six families that make up the small village Barrio Soledad access clean water from a small hand pump attached to a deep well. The simple water system was a big accomplishment for the community, but unfortunately the water source left a large amount of standing water around the pump. The standing water attracted millions of mosquitoes and brought new contamination to the village as animals waded through the dirty water. The communities decided to utilize their funding to build a structure around the pump with bricks and cements in order to avoid water build up. Today the area around the water pump is clean and mosquito-free!
None of the aforementioned activities are complicated or costly. They are small grassroots efforts led by local communities to promote health, sanitation, and improved hygiene in their villages.
Santa Teresa, located in the Municipality of Saavedra, is found roughly 10 kilometers outside the small town Saavedra. Almost all the local villagers work in the sugarcane industry. Community members retrieve water from one hand pump, and they share a common area for washing clothes and cleaning. The small community has a health center, but rarely is a doctor or nurse present to respond to health needs. The village has a small school with two teachers that teach approximately 50 students from first to fifth grade. The school has a small water tank and hygienic bathrooms, which at the start of this project did not function due to the absence of a water system. Santa Teresa has electricity.
Santa Teresa stands out from many of the other communities involved in this project. The community is extremely well organized and has extensive knowledge regarding hygiene and sanitation. When Etta Projects first arrived to Santa Teresa, we were very excited (and a bit surprised) by the broad knowledge from the community members and their overall positive hygienic habits. We soon learned that a few years prior another NGO implemented a successful ecological bathroom sanitation project in the community. The eco bathrooms are still effectively used today.
Etta Projects revised its education program in Santa Teresa to build upon the existing knowledge and practices. We focused on issues that were not explored in the past project such as water contamination and garbage elimination. The new themes presented to Santa Teresa support its continued journey towards a healthy, sanitary community.
The participation in Santa Teresa was outstanding. On average 25 to 30 people participated in the weekly workshops. For its community activity, Santa Teresa chose to clean the common water area and to install piping in the school bathrooms so that they could function properly. Etta Project's staff members were just other helpers in the work, but the motivation and organization around the activities came from the community! Santa Teresa truly is a village that reflects the positive impact that health and hygiene education programs can make in a community.
As Etta Projects concludes the third month of the Health & Hygiene Project, we have connected with 19 of the 25 villages that are projected to receive a clean water system. During our visits, we have completed a community diagnostic in each community and have started creating workshops and activities that are unique to the needs and interests of each village. In communities distant to health clinics, for example, Etta Projects has designed a Community Health Promoter Program in order to build capacity of local people and to assign specific people to care for and promote health and hygiene in their own communities. In other villages, community members have decided to focus on community gardens, community clean-ups, educational fairs and other activities that encourage improvements in health, hygiene and sanitation.
While the Prefecture and APEP have completed the perforation of water wells in 24 villages, some of the municipalities have encountered financial setbacks in finishing their contribution to the water project- the water tank and the distribution system. Etta Projects has been working alongside both the municipalities and local leaders to explore different alternatives to best utilize the resources of all project partners. In the Municipality of Yapacani, for example, we are waiting for the final revisions on a contract that will combine Etta Projects', the municipality's, and the communities' resources in order to complete the water system in two villages.
Unfortunately heavy rains and slippery mud roads made it difficult for Etta Projects to reach all the villages that participate in the Health & Hygiene Project during the month of February. We are aware of the necessity to interact constantly and consistently with villages in order to create sustainable projects; therefore, the facilitators have revised the schedule to now concentrate on only eight villages closer to Montero. This new schedule will begin in March. Once the rainy season subsides, Etta Projects will reincorporate the distant villages into the design.
The village 10 de Noviembre is located in the Municipality of Yapacani, about two hours West of Montero. It's a small community of approximately 25 families. Some people live without electricity while others, including the small one-room school, receive energy from solar panels. The closest medical clinic is 11 km away and access to medications is about another 10 km further.
For several years the community has been anxiously awaiting a sustainable clean water system. To date, the entire community's only access to water is from a single water well that runs a shallow 12 meters below surface. The water from this well has a yellow tint and a foul smell. During one session with the community, families brought their water pales to show Etta Projects the black residue left on their buckets after using their water. The water source is contaminated from the vast petroleum fields that are located in this region. Most villagers agree that even boiling the water does not eliminate the odor and unfavorable taste of the water. Consequently, many people rely on rain water for drinking.
The Municipality of Yapacani is one of the municipalities that have struggled to complete their portion of the water systems. Etta Projects recognizes the urgency of bringing clean water to 10 de Noviembre and has already started coordinated with the local authorities and the mayor to complete the water system. The contract should be signed this month and construction should begin soon after.
In the meantime local people from 10 de Noviembre are working hard to improve other areas of their daily life that negatively impact their health. Villagers have received interactive workshops involving hand washing, water purification, and waste management. On average over thirty men, women, and children attend each educational session. One of the principle community problems identified by the locals is the presence of water-related illnesses- parasites, fungus, scabies, and lice. In February Etta Projects distributed parasite medication to all members of the community. In March we will implement a Health Promoter Program which will build capacity of two people in the community to consistently promote good hygiene and sanitation habits throughout the village. The Health Promoters will also be given basic medical training from a Bolivian doctor and will receive a fully equipped medical kit to benefit the community. Locals will pay cost prices for medicine in order to maintain medical supplies in their community.
It's easy for nonprofits to choose projects that look good and feel good doing. But these projects often lack sustainability and fall short of making real change in the lives of local people. This health and hygiene project is not quick or easy. With only two months since we began this project, Etta Projects has already begun to recognize some of the challenges. We are coordinating activities with local government, state government, other NGOs and local communities. We are working alongside 25 communities in 7 municipalities. And we recognize that every community is different and has distinct needs and interests. In this complexity, tangible results do not happen overnight. But Etta Projects is determined to make a sustainable impact and to advocate alongside local communities for access to safe water.
Taking the first steps towards change....
In the month of December twelve different communities have been mobilized to begin the implementation of the health and hygiene project. Our focus this month has been completing a community diagnostic of each village. Project staff completed the needs assessment in all 12 areas, and they facilitated a goal setting workshop alongside local members in seven of the villages.
Etta Projects also spent this month connecting with local municipalities in attempt to persuade the government to complete their responsibilities of this project by building water tanks and the water distribution systems. Without this infrastructure in place the participating communities will not have access to clean water. Etta Projects and the Municipality of Yapacani have already begun negotiating a contract to complete the systems. In other municipalities local government support has been more difficult to secure. Etta Projects is coordinating with community leaders to work together to urge their local officials to uphold to their agreement. In the meantime, the community members are developing alternative affordable alternatives to bring clean water to their communities.
In each monthly update we would like to introduce you to one village that is participating in this project.
The small village Monterrey is located 104 kilometers outside of Santa Rosa in the Municipality Santa Rosa del Sara. There are 144 habitants in the community, all which live without electricity. The closest health center and food market is 54 kilometers away, and in the rainy season when the cars cannot pass down the narrow muddy road, the women make this difficult trek weekly on foot to buy groceries for their families. There is a one-room school house that offers first to third grade to 22 children.
Monterrey's entire water supply comes from three shallow wells that are filled with mucky water, live animals and garbage. Early this year the Prefecture and a partnering NGO, APEP, completed a new water well. The well currently sits covered up and unused as the local people from Monterrey wait for the Municipality to complete their water tank and distribution system. Unfortunately, the local government insists that they do not have the funding to invest in this project.
Over fifty community members attended the first workshop Etta Projects held to begin talking about the health, hygiene and clean water program. In these sessions local people drew community maps, discussed their local environment and analyzed both problems and solutions. We were greatly impressed with the community's participation and interest in making positive change. The people of Monterrey are organized and eager. They understand the political process. They solicit materials. They offer manual labor from the local community members. Most importantly, they are determined to have clean, reliable water.
Etta Projects and the local authorities of Monterrey are investigating different alternatives to finish the system. We are still working with the mayor's office, hoping that they will put aside resources to complete the system. We have also begun to analyze local resources and skills in the community. With the local contributions from Monterrey coupled with support from Etta Projects, Monterrey should have water within the next six months!
If you would like to contribute to Monterrey's water system, please call 360-876-7487 or Donate Now .