Our main project is based in Cebadilla, a rural community outside of San Juan del Sur. It is a very small community, consisting of approximately 250 people. As with many other small communities throughout Nicaragua, Cebadilla experiences extended periods of water shortages each year during its dry season. Initially, hand dug wells provided limited water, and the community was supplied with water via truck delivery. Members of the community were forced to wait in hour-long lines to fill up their personal buckets each day. We aim to provide each household in the community with consistent, reliable access to potable water year-round in an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable manner.
We are on our way to accomplishing this goal. The project was divided into two phases: 1) pump water from the new, drilled well to two 10,000 L tanks located on a hill in town, and 2) using gravity, distribute that water to each home in the community, including a cluster far from the center of town. In mid August 2016, a travel team saw to the successful completion of Phase 1. Phase 2 was subsequently completed over Summer 2017.
The primary needs of San Juan del Sur are better access to education, clean water, and sanitation. Most families live in extreme poverty, and low levels of education combined with chronic sickness caused by a lack of clean water and sanitation severely limits job possibilities. The Free High School for Adults is a non-governmental organization that for ten years has offered a free secondary education to those not served by the public high school. The FHS offers classes in 12 rural communities for grades 7, 8 and 9, but requires students in grades 10 and 11 to come to San Juan del Sur every Saturday during the school year and complete a week’s worth of high school work between 7am and 4pm. The FHS now has more students (over 700) than the public high school, drawn from all over the 250-square mile township. Nonetheless, it has no physical home of its own, and must borrow Saturday space from other (public) schools, whose largesse is not always ungrudging. But thanks to a donation of land in Boca de la Montan~a on the outskirts of San Juan, work has begun, and continues in fits and starts, on a permanent campus for the Free High School. It is to this campus and the San Juan del Sur community as a whole that EWB-Lehigh is working on.
The reason why we started a project here is because it directly impacts the current generation. It will cause them to attain a better level of education and have better access to basic human needs. We hope that this will result in more job opportunities and a better understanding of the importance of clean water and sanitation for human health. We are working to make a permanent campus for the FHS with proper clean water and sanitation systems.
The Community of La Fragosa is located in the Municipality of Petoa in the North part of the department of Santa Barbara, Honduras. It has borders in the North with the community of Quebraditas, in the south with the community of Tascalapa Trinidad, in the West with the community of El Retiro Chinda and in the East with the community of Agua Sarca. La Fragosa is a rural coffee farming village in the mountains, with houses spread far apart. The residents are among the poorest in the region.
In La Fragosa there are 48 households with a permanent population of about 175 people and approximately 150 additional migrant workers during coffee season. Of the 48 families only 4 currently have a clean source of water, and this was provided to them through their own private funds. The overwhelming majority of La Fragosa uses untreated water directly from the streams in town. Waterborne illnesses are rampant, and chronic sickness and diarrhea keep children out of school and parents out of work for long periods of time.
Furthermore, La Fragosa has had bad luck in the past with volunteers. A Honduran organization installed two large concrete cisterns at each home around 2008 for the residents to collect rainwater from their roofs. However, the cisterns were made with a porous concrete that the water seeps right through. In addition, the Peace Corps volunteers who were helping the community by installing ceramic filters were pulled out of Honduras in 2011 due to a violence-prompted removal of all volunteers by the parent organization.
Lehigh EWB began working in La Fragosa in 2011, after the completion of a previous project in nearby Pueblo Nuevo/Petoa, Honduras. The mission of Lehigh EWB in La Fragosa is to bring clean water to this community. A community-wide distribution system will be built drawing from one or more springs, complete with a concrete tank, chlorination system, and piping to each house.
The Lehigh team had plans to begin implementing the system for La Fragosa in 2013, but these plans have been halted by recent travel warnings for Honduras. For the foreseeable future, Lehigh students are no longer allowed to travel to Honduras. Therefore Lehigh EWB is actively searching for options to finish this project and bring clean water to this community.
Pueblo Nuevo is a rural population of farmers and factory workers with a population of about 1500 people. Although the town had an existing gravity-fed system with taps in most homes the water source was contaminated with bacteria and parasites. It was estimated that fifty percent of the town’s health issues were due to waterborne illness. Furthermore, the existing system had issues with availability and the town would often lose water pressure during times of peak demand.
Lehigh University originally learned about the water problem in Pueblo Nuevo through members of an archaeology program that traveled to the area. Students created a chapter of EWB-USA and teams traveled to the town for a preliminary evaluation in the summer of 2006. The team designed a 20,000-gallon water storage tank for the town of Pueblo Nuevo to combat the water quantity problem. The tank is located at a higher elevation than the rest of the town, which will enables water to be gravity-fed from the tank to every home. Water is fed to the tank from an existing spring with help from a pump. Construction of this tank was finished in the fall of 2008.
In January 2009, club started recruiting students and faculty from International Relations to help with social issues in the town. The new branch of the club made a lot of progress in helping the town accept the project. The group attended an evangelical church service and gave a brief presentation about the project. They conducted community surveys to gauge community awareness and support of the project. Furthermore, a plan for creating a water board was devised. The social team held a town meeting at the soccer field to discuss the importance of the water board. This eventually led to the creation of a Junta de Agua: a democratically elected citizens’ water board. The purpose of the water board is to keep the town informed, collect payments, and maintain the system.
In May 2009, the pipe route was laid out and digging of pipe trenches began. Construction of the electrical and foundation work for the pump house was also completed. The social team met with teachers to gain a better understanding of the education system. They partnered with a science class in Pueblo Nuevo and taught them about performing water tests. In January 2010, the piping system was completed, the tank waterproofed, a hypochlorinator installed. A camera exchangeand pen-pal program between the children of Pueblo Nuevo and middle-school children in Bethlehem, PA reinforced the education about the system and create a cultural exchange between the students.
LU-EWB will continue to follow up with Pueblo Nuevo to ensure that the new water system is working properly. The water will be tested periodically to guarantee that it is safe and is being maintained properly.