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Sololá, in the western highlands of Guatemala, is the second poorest of Guatemala’s 22 departments, where 94% of people live on less than $3.00 per day. 98% of the population of Sololá is indigenous Maya.
Mil Milagros (MM) is a U.S.-based charity with a local presence. Its mission is to ensure that all children in Guatemala graduate from sixth grade healthy, literate and prepared to continue their education. To achieve this goal, MM implements three programs in six communities serving over 1,100 children:
- Nutrition which consists of an early childhood nutrition program and a school-based feeding program;
- Education which includes the provision of textbooks, school supplies for all children and teacher supplies for all teachers, since the Guatemalan government gives very little funding to educational supports;
- A robust health and hygiene program to ensure that the children remain healthy and learn important hygiene habits such as washing hands, brushing teeth, using toilet paper, and consuming filtered water
The strategies of MM have succeeded in nearly eliminating the drop-out rate and improving school graduation rates. USAID states that only 40% of children in Guatemala graduate from sixth grade. Over the last three years, 96% of MM sixth graders have graduated.
Overall Problem Addressed
It is estimated that over 90% of the water supply in Guatemala is contaminated. The children in the partner schools need access to clean water to be able to brush their teeth and to drink water, rather than sugary drinks prepared by their mothers.
In 2013, MM challenged its partner schools to include water in their lunch menus and to stop serving sugary drinks to the children. The schools are now seeing the value of drinking water but do not have filters to make it practical in their communities.
The project consists of six individual projects with separate locations, community descriptions and problem descriptions. However, the overall project within the five communities is similar. In order to be able to be healthy and able to participate in a successful health and hygiene program, the children need access to clean water.
50 Sawyer filters will be installed in six partner schools, to be used in the classrooms and kitchens by the children, teachers and mother volunteers.
MM will organize child, mother and teacher leaders into hygiene commissions at each school to ensure regular and proper use of the filters. Also, MM will track attendance in each school, to measure the impact of the filters on water borne illnesses.
Descriptions of Communities, Problem Descriptions and Filters to Install
Canton Chichimuch, Santa Lucía Utatlan, Sololá, Guatemala
- a. Chichimuch is a small, rural community in Santa Lucía Utatlan where over 90% of the inhabitants are Quiché Maya. Most are day laborers working in the fields to support their families. The school has 135 children, nine teachers and 80 mother volunteers.
- b. Problem Description: In Chichimuch, the school is the last along the pipeline for water, which only arrives on Tuesdays for two hours. Many weeks, there is little to no water by the time the rest of the community has used its water and the children are unable to brush their teeth and wash their hands. The water that does arrive is not clean and needs to be filtered to be consumed.
- c. Filters to Install: Chichimuch will receive eight water filters, one for each classroom and one for the kitchen.
Paraje Nuevo Progreso, Canton Pahaj, Santa Lucía Utatlan, Sololá Guatemala
- a. Nuevo Progreso is a small, rural community in Santa Lucía Utatlan. Families in this community saw the danger of sending their children to the closest school, where they would have to cross a busy highway, and asked each family in the community to put a small amount of money toward renting a two-room schoolhouse. The school has 26 children, two teachers and 19 mother volunteers.
- b. Problem Description: Nuevo Progreso is a community with a serious water problem. There is no water in the school or the majority of the homes, so mothers have to get water from other sources and carry large jugs on their heads to provide water for the school and their homes. Nuevo Progreso joined Mil Milagros in 2013, so it has not yet received any filters from MM and would need new filters.
- c. Filters to Install: Nuevo Progreso will receive eight four water filters, one for each classroom and two for the kitchen.
San Juan la Laguna, Sololá, Guatemala
- a. San Juan la Laguna is a beautiful town with an unmatched spirit of collaboration. Many of the families work on local coffee farms and many of the children have to help their parents pick coffee during harvest. This is a Maya community where the predominant language is Tzutujil. The school has 300 children, 21 teachers and over 100 mother volunteers.
- b. Problem Description: San Juan la Laguna has several sources of water. It is the only partner community that rarely has issues with water supply. The water, however, is contaminated, so in order to drink it, it must be filtered. The school in San Juan will be entering into a partnership with Mil Milagros in 2014 and will need water filters as it currently has none.
- c. Filters to Install: San Juan la Laguna will receive eight 18 water filters, one for each classroom and two for the kitchen.
Aldea Chutinamit Pacaman, San Andrés Semetabaj, Sololá, Guatemala
- a. Chutinamit Pacaman is a small community that was displaced during a tropical storm in 2010. Since then, the 22 families have been living in tents and tin shacks on a soccer field while they push government leaders to purchase the land needed to rebuild. MM feeds all children year-round in this community due to their precarious circumstances. The community has 37 children, 2 teachers and 19 mother volunteers.
- b. Problem Description: The community has water from the local town government and when there is no water, they use rain water catchment systems to ensure they have enough water. However, the water is contaminated. The children in this community have really latched on to drinking water regularly as they have had access to water filters that now need to be replaced.
- c. Filters to Install: Chutinamit will receive four water filters, one for each classroom and two for the kitchen.
Aldea Xecotoj, San Andrés Semetabaj, Sololá, Guatemala
- a. Xecotoj is a diverse community whose residents were displaced in 2005 after a hurricane destroyed their homes along a local river. The school has 55 children, four teachers, and 30 mother volunteers.
- b. Problem Description: Xecotoj has serious problems with lack of water and went two months in 2013 with no water at all. Local governments have piped dirty water into the community once a week. The water is contaminated and the school needs new filters to be able to implement the health and hygiene program successfully.
- c. Filters to Install: Xecotoj will receive eight six water filters, one for each classroom and two for the kitchen.
Canton Pahaj, Santa Lucía Utatlan, Sololá, Guatemala
- a. Pahaj is a larger community outside of the main town of Santa Lucía, with a large population of men who are in the United States. Many are unable to send money to their families. The school has 400 children, 19 teachers, and 220 mother volunteers.
- b. Problem Description: Pahaj has very little water and the water sources are unreliable. They have been lobbying to receive another water source.
- c. Filters to Install: Pahaj will receive eight 20 water filters, one for each classroom and two for the kitchen.
Carolyn Daly is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, living in Sololá, currently working for Mil Milagros.
This is a great series of projects due to its effectiveness, sustainability, scalability, and ease of implementation and evaluation. It falls under our ongoing Filters For Life Program - Worldwide, which is an initiative to spread the use of these lifesaving filters as far and wide as we can.
Please give generously to this ongoing program. We will accept what you can afford, but we will give special recognition for donations of $100 or more. Any contributions in excess of the amount needed for the project will be allocated to other projects in Guatemala.
Michael and Carla Boyle, Nelsonville, OH, USA - $2,500
S A Escott - Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - $100
Sarah Albright - $200
This project has been finished. To read about the conclusion of the project, CLICK HERE.