This was our first day working on the pipeline project. After breakfast we drove to Los Hatillos, and were given instructions on how to systematically dig the trench for the pipeline. We had to dig the trench to be about knee-deep and wide enough to stand in on both feet (so that two PVC pipes could fit side-by-side).
We each chose a partner from the group, and one person pick axed and the other shoveled. The soil was very dry and rocky, so we had to learn the most effective methods of pickaxing/shoveling from the locals. Doing this in pairs was nice because it gave us frequent breaks where we could get out of the sun and hydrate with lots of water and gatorade.
After lunch, we went on visits to 3 different houses in the community with Luis, one of the translators. The first house was home to a woman and her granddaughter. They had lots of animals outside, including a pig with her piglets, hens, cows, dogs, cats, etc.
The next house was home to a mother and her four children – all under the age of 8. The last house was a grandmother, her daughter, and 2 kids. We were able to ask the women what they thought of the project and what they would do after it was complete. In all cases, the women spent hours each day – with their children – collecting water from the sources up the road. They all expressed sincere gratitude that we were in their community helping to build the pipeline. With a new potable source, they will have to worry about diarrheal diseases much less, and they all plan to spend more time at home taking care of their children.
In a few months, GB is going to this community in Los Hatillos with an environmental brigade, and they plan to replace all their cooking stoves. Currently they all have biomass stoves, requiring the women to collect sticks, and leave the embers burning inside their homes constantly. This causes serious problems with indoor air pollution, so the environmental brigade will build new stoves and vent the smoke outdoors. The current conditions cause respiratory illnesses in children; in the second home we visited, a 2-year-old child was sleeping in the hammock because he was sick from lung problems. Between potable water faucets and new cooking stoves, there will be far fewer illnesses among children in the community.
After the house visits, we walked up to the first water source currently being used for non-potable uses – cleaning, cooking, bathing, etc. When we got there, the pipe wasn’t being used by anyone, but leakage left a still pool of water at the opening. It appeared grayish blue in color, and very turbid…definitely not clean water. We learned that this water was a groundwater source, and there are homes just up the watershed that have privies in their yards, eventually seeping sewage into this groundwater supply. No one should have to use this water for daily purposes, whether for potable uses or not…never mind that they spend up to 3 hours each day collecting it.
Eventually, a young girl and her mother walked up to the pipe while we were standing around it. I think the girl was hesitant at first because we were there, but after she started filling her buckets, others gathered to fill theirs. Even the cows and horses came and drank the pool of still water that was on the ground.
While we worked on the trench, we would see the same people with buckets going back and forth along the road. We knew they were getting water, but we didn’t know from where or what it was really like. Seeing their source of water and their homes provided an incredibly eye opening experience. We all felt very welcomed into the community where we would be working the next 3 days, and we’re excited to get back our here tomorrow!