Monday, December 6, 2010

WFP visit to Wiwilí

Last week, El Porvenir had a visit from Diana Betancourt from Water for People (WFP) Honduras. We drove up to Wiwilí, with its improved roads (over previous year); it probably took just 7 hours this time. We saw several new pilot projects that the staff are working on. The double pit VIP latrine is nothing new perhaps for El Porvenir, but this was the first year we built them in Wiwilí. Here is one in Corrozal.

Although completed just a week before, Doña Dominga had already planted flowers around the latrine.
Then we visited Corriente Lira, on the Coco River (although we drove, then walked 3km to the community - no boat ride this time), to see the pilot of the pour flush latrines. This is a first for El Porvenir and very exciting for us. They were not quite complete, but they are close. Pour flush latrines are a good option for communities with an abundance of water and good soil absorption.

The leader, Don Balvino, explains to Diana the construction process in great detail.
The pour flush is similar to a toilet, but 1 liter of water is poured in to flush it.
These pour flush latrines are double pits.
The small box in the foreground allows for a switch between them.

Staff was particularly proud of this new handwashing station in Las Vueltas.
School is out for the year, so no kids around right now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Photos from World Toilet Day (or World Latrine Day)

We changed the name to World Latrine Day for our regions
In Nicaragua, as I mentioned in the last blog, our regional El Porvenir offices held events to celebrate World Toilet Day (WTD). We invited local communities to come to our Open Houses, held in our offices, to discuss methods to rehabilitate their old latrines. It was a successful day and we plan to repeat it again next year. Some people did get the impression that we were going to give away new latrines, but most people seemed to understand what we were getting at. Several students from a nearby school also came and a couple of local NGOs. Here are some photos from the event in Darío.

Marlon gives some latrine rehab tips to people that dropped by the Open House

Mayra explains our 10 hygiene "tips" for using the latrine

Staff decorated the office outside with hygiene messages.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tomorrow is World Toilet Day!

Tomorrow, El Porvenir will celebrate World Toilet Day (WTD). Our regions will hold open houses, inviting local communities to discuss sanitation in general and in particular to discuss the rehabilitation of their old latrines.

Pilot double pit latrine in La Calamidad, Camoapa, Nicaragua
The vast majority of communities in Nicaragua, if they have latrines, have single-pit VIP (Ventilated Improved Pit) latrines. Many built over the years are now full. Here at El Porvenir, we have been piloting double pit latrines (also known as Fossa Alterna) where the superstructure (the slab and enclosure) is moved to the second pit when the first fills. By the time the second pit fills, it is safe to dig out the first pit and start the cycle again. We plan to stop using the single pit VIPs in 2011 as the double pits are working. The photo above is an example.  However, looking back, we plan to work with communities that already have single pit latrines to develop ways to rehabilitate them, converting them into double pit latrines of sorts.

Those are my WTD thoughts... I welcome yours...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Reforesting Today to Ensure our Environmental Future in our Community"

I have talked a lot on this blog about water and sanitation, even hygiene to some extent. However, I have been remiss in not highlighting our very important reforestation program. We are working with one of our great board members to morph our reforestation program to a watershed protection program. We already have a lot of the components of this in place, but some changes will be coming. For example, the staff (and I) have been learning that all reforestation is helpful, but there are areas where planting a tree can be more impactful - such as higher in the watershed where the streams tend to spring up, along stream or creek banks, etc. We are learning to work smarter.

In English: "Reforesting Today to Ensure our Environmental Future in our Community"

Part of our work in the reforestation program has always been to try to change attitudes and practices amongst the people we work with. Burning the fields to prepare them for planting is a common practice in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, it is not a very environmentally friendly practice. This new sticker that the staff created is being distributed in our communities as part of our recognition that we need to do even more in environmental education - helping people to recognize the connection between those trees and their water in the watershed. We hope to revamp our education program along with the reforestation program to get more people on board with "Reforesting Today to Ensure our Environmental Future in our Community."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Handwash-a-thon on Global Handwashing Day

On October 15th, Global Handwashing Day, El Porvenir held handwash-a-thons in many schools. 22 were planned, although it looks like at least 30 were carried out. Here are a few shots:

Handwashing in a school in Terrabona

Teacher showing the kids how to wash their hands.

Kids gather to wash their hands in the handwash-a-thon

Two girls show off their mural that they helped make for GHW Day

Many schools had cultural events, like this school in Ciudad Darío

The children line up at this school to wash their hands.

Other children watch as a young girl learns to wash her hands.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day/Global Handwashing Day/Clean Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

New well photo by Jon Polka
Happy Global Handwashing Day!

Although the Blog action day is about clean water, often a topic on people's minds, I think 2 related topics are equally important: sanitation and hygiene.

For an organization that works in clean water, like El Porvenir, it becomes imperative to include sanitation, often through latrines and other facilities to ensure that the clean water installed stays clean. Check out Rose George's excellent book on Sanitation.

Also, on Global Handwashing Day, it seems appropriate to talk to the hygiene piece. Even with the infrastructure in place, if the families aren't washing their hands after using the latrines, the health impact is not as great as we'd like to see it.

I am traveling today, so these are my brief thoughts to contribute to the Blog Action Day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

El Porvenir's 20th anniversary celebration in Nicaragua

Yesterday was El Porvenir's official 20th birthday as an organization. The staff in Nicaragua planned a big event in Cuidad Darío, El Porvenir's starting point all those years ago. I was away in the USA until just the night before at a board meeting, visiting supporters and attending the 20th anniversary event in San Francisco. (The event in San Francisco was very successful, by the way.)

So I was very impressed with all the work that the staff put into the celebration. Here some shots of the exposition stands they set up outside the hall.

Staff put a rope pump on a barrel, just like our US friends do
They even built a miniature slow sand filter
And a model showing a healthy and an unhealthy watershed
However, most pleasing for all of us was the arrival of El Porvenir's founder, Carole Harper.

Carole Harper speaks about EP's key to success, community participation
Overall, it was a fun event. We had musicians from each of our municipalities, from communities we have worked in. Who knew there was so much talent in our areas?

These talented musicians had everyone clapping and dancing.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

El Porvenir attends WFP Country Coordinator meeting in Guatemala

In August, El Porvenir (well, Rob) was able to attend a very productive Country Coordinator meeting with WFP in Guatemala. We had a chance to visit a few projects and see how they are doing things, as well as sit down and discuss different topics such as Integrated Watershed Resource Management (IWRM) (or Watershed Protection, if you will), long term monitoring and evaluation, a methodology of Projects Implemented by the Community, and sustainable Sanitation. It was a packed and tiring week, but well worth it.

IWRM was perhaps the area where we have the most to offer to share, and I did do a presentation on our work in Nicaragua that was well received. Here are a few photos from that week.
Tank with hand-washing station beside the school latrines
It wasn't all fun and games, but there was some with Steve Sugden.
Exchange session with WFP staff from Denver, India, Rwanda, England and Guatemala.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Field Supervision in Sauce

I had the opportunity to visit El Sauce and some current projects last week. It's always a pleasure to be in El Sauce as we have a high quality team there. They have won the best team award internally for the last 2 years running.

Here is a happy family with a double pit latrine. You can't see the second pit, it's just off to the right.

Ana Cecilia shows us the new well at Agua Fria in action. Very good quality work on this one.

A nice stove. Actually stoves are probably were we need to do more work to improve quality, but this one was nice! No smoke is visible (just steam from the pots) and still pretty clean even a year after construction.

And a well in Armenia...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Inaugurating Project with the Red Cross, Camoapa

On Tuesday, Rob attended a project inauguration in La Embajada, Camoapa with the Nicaraguan and Canadian Red Cross, municipal representatives, church representatives and local community members. La Embajada is quite a distance from the town of Camoapa, about 1.5 hours driving. Luckily the road has recently been repaired. They say it used to take up to 4 hours!

The high school kids did a few dance numbers for us which was cute, as shown above.

Although that was nice, it really was all about the 50 latrines that the community built. Here is Flor below from the Red Cross, cutting a ribbon with the latrine owner.

This project was financed by the municipality of Camoapa, the Red Cross and El Porvenir (through donations from several private donors).

Monday, July 5, 2010

EP Presentation at Bay Ridge Church, NY

As advertised, El Porvenir made a presentation at Bay Ridge United Church during the coffee hour. The church made a generous donation of $500 to El Porvenir afterwards. Here is a shot of some of board of the church with Rob Bell, Executive Director. Thanks to Bob A for organizing the event.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

EP Presentation in Ottawa

El Porvenir made it's first Ottawa presentation this month. Hopefully the first of many... Here is a shot of some of the attendees with Rob Bell, Executive Director. Thanks to Tom M for organizing the event.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Success Story - Las Vueltas

Dona Arcadia de la comunidad de las Vueltas, es una madre soltera que tiene 3 hijas adolescentes. Antes, ellas debian ir a traer agua hasta la quebrada, esto era peligroso porque el camino es solo y la distancia muy larga.

En la actualidad Dona Arcadia y sus hijas tienen agua en su casa a traves de una puesto domiciliar.

"Ahora ya no me preocupo por lo que les pueda pasar algo a mis chavalas en el camino y sobretodo el agua es mejor: - Dona Arcadia

In the community of Las Vueltas is a single mother named Arcadia who has three young daughters. Before EP's project, they would journey to get their water from a river gorge. It was dangerous because it was a very long isolated path to the river.

Now, after working with EP, the family has water in their house.

"Now, our water is better and I don't have to worry that something could happen to my daughters on that journey to get water" - Arcadia

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Watch us live on You Tube!

Click on the link below to see the new EP video that shows how our projects create change and joy in the lives of the villagers we partner with!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

World Water Day 2010 in Wiwilí, Jinotega, Nicaragua

As we mentioned earlier, we carried out some activities to promote World Water Day (March 22) in some areas, such as Wiwilí where we coordinated with local government and our partner Water for People. In Wiwilí, the staff got some schoolkids involved to do a little parade around town.

This banner talks about World Water Day and how clean water will make a healthier Nicaragua and a healther world.

This other banner talks about the importance of nature and trees, and how without trees, there is no rain. The water we have tomorrow depends on how we conserve today.

An important message from Nicaragua to all of us. Don't forget to check out the new look for our web page as well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Costa Jill's trip to Nicaragua

Since I haven't had time since the vacation to post a blog, I will point you to another blog about El Porvenir instead: Costa Jill's blog

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

World Water Day events in Nicaragua

I am on vacation, but I couldn't resist sharing a couple of pictures from events here on Monday.

We put up banners in the main towns with the World Water Day slogan - Clean Water for everyone and several regions had events. There was a good turnout at this event in Terrabona, with water drinking races and a piñata for the kids.

Everyone had a good time. How did you spend your World Water Day? Let us know at

OK, now I will go on vacation. Back in a few weeks.

Friday, March 19, 2010

World Water Day coming soon; St. Patrick's Day Parade

World Water Day is close, and we will be celebrating here in Nicaragua with several communities. I will put up some photos in the next few weeks once I get them. In the meantime, these photos are too great not to share. Our Colorado Friends of El Porvenir (CFEP) group put together a float in the Denver St. Patrick's Day parade, complete with a latrine and a working rope pump.

Maybe you have a fun promotional idea? Email and let us know if we can help!

Monday, March 8, 2010

First School Handwashing Station Piloted

As the School Water, Sanitation and Hygiene movement (SWASH) takes off, El Porvenir also has gotten involved. While we have always built wells and latrines in schools, for the first time in 2010, we have built a handwashing station in a school for the children.

This first handwashing station is in the San Francisco school in the municipality of San Lorenzo. This was financed by Global Water. This will help get the children in the habit of washing their hands (with soap!) after using the latrine and in other crucial moments. This is key in bringing the health impact full circle.

While we have often done school projects in the past, our health education material is more geared towards communities, so one focus for us in the next period is to create more materials that specifically focus on school groups. We do have our coloring books, but we want to do more. That's the challenge for 2010, as well as fine-tuning the new infrastructure such as the handwashing station.

In these photos (especially below), you might notice the large tank above the taps. This school/community has access to a local water system, but with water rationing, they only receive water for 2 hours a day. So, we built this small tank to collect enough water to last all the school day for the children.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Coco River - Ulwasking - Day 2

The next morning, we woke up bright and early in preparation for the community meeting at 8am. We crawled out of our mosquito nets, which probably saved us many bites, and slowly got into action. I went to get my soap from the ledge of the school, which I had used to wash my hands before dinner the night before, and it was gone. It looked like the kids visiting us last night had taken it. I was a little frustrated, but it is hard to begrudge them - they need it more than I did.

The culture is definitely different than the usual Nicaraguan "Mestizo" culture. We weren't there long enough to get many of the nuances, but one thing I did notice was that they had no qualms about asking for things. They asked for our flashlights, money, food, knives, you name it... In the Mestizo culture, this is also true that some people will ask for gifts, but it was much more the case here than I am used to. The male domination seemed more prominent as well here, although in the meeting, the women weren't shy about speaking up, and we did make a point of asking them. When we had to reschedule the meeting, it was only the men that came to talk to us and make the decisions. Perhaps it was because we were all men as well in the group this time, but it did seem that men made most of the community decisions.

We did learn a couple of words in Miskito (not enough for the meeting though): "Nakisma" is hello, "pen" is well or good and "tinki" is thank you. Even so, I may not have these exactly right.

Right side of the crowd

We had the meeting in the same school where we had slept. We ate breakfast around 8am, but somewhat fortunately, this community was typically Nicaraguan and arrived late, giving us a chance to eat. It was standing room only in the schoolroom, there must have been 40-45 people. It was a tri-lingual discussion, as I introduced Mark and James, although we mostly spoke in Spanish and Miskito afterwards as we got into a very interesting discussion. The community seemed very interested and willing to put in the sweat equity into the project - of course, we'll see when the project construction phase starts. It was positive sounding though; they built their own homes when they returned from the evacuation.

We heard the need for water and that was where the interest lay. The women from the area around the school told us of the problems carrying water and how there is now only one spot where they can get the water. The women from the other area beyond the military base told us they drank water directly from the stream. We explained to them our policy of giving priority to the latrines first and that we had already budgeted for 20-25 latrines here in Ulwasking. They argued that the water was the priority, but I think we more or less convinced them that having the latrines was equally important, especially before working on the water project, so as not to contaminate the water. Then we explained, if all goes well with that project, then we can do the rest.

This is the creek the children cross, calm now, but when it is rainy...

After some long chats with the community leaders afterwards, we took the boat over to the other sector beyond the military base to see where they got their drinking water (it was on the way back anyway). They explained to us that they also needed a bridge over the creek, as one of the children almost died last year crossing it in the rainy season. Since the school was in the other sector, they wanted to build a bridge, or a school for their sector. I explained that we don't have any school or bridge building expertise, but that I would mention the need to another NGO that I knew...

Top view of the stream crossing

Mark shows us where they collect water for drinking

We went to the stream and saw where they gather water - and also noted some women washing just upstream from there. Obviously, this was contaminated water they were drinking. Hopefully, we can build one project that can serve both sectors, or else do 2 projects. We will send our new engineer, Marlon, out here soon to see what ideas he comes up with...

It may be hard to tell, but this woman is washing upstream from the water collection point.

So, after some last words of parting with the families, we got back in the boat for the return trip upstream. It was a little longer returning, but other than that, very similar to the day before. One difference was we stopped for lunch in Honduras this time. No border control and you can pay in córdobas or lempiras - no problem.

So after that international stop, we continued and went on towards Terrabona, León and Managua...

I will update you on Ulwasking in the future as we get news. By mid-year we hope to have some news on the first latrines...