Polena School Bathroom Project – Albania
This project is made possible through the partnership of Water Charity and the National Peace Corps Association.
This is a project under the LET GIRLS LEARN Program, a collaboration of First Lady Michelle Obama and the Peace Corps to expand access to education for girls around the world!
Polena Village, Korca, Albania
Polena is a small village of 650 people located close to Korça city in southeastern Albania. Tucked against the rugged mountains on the western edge of Korça’s rich agricultural plain, the village looks out over fields of potato, onion, corn and other crops. In the early fall, apple orchards grow heavy with the region’s famous ruby fruit. At around 3,000 feet elevation, the Korça valley has a much cooler climate than most of the country. Pleasant summer breezes give way to cold and wet winters, blanketing the landscape with snow for several months.
With limited indoor heating, the winters can be a hardship. School children and teachers are accustomed to temperatures as cold inside the classroom as outside. Despite this, the region prides itself on its history of culture and quality of education. Residents are quick to explain with pride that the first Albanian-language school was established nearby and that many of the country’s most famous educators, writers and artists hail from the small region. Though poor, the charm of Polena is undeniable, strangers are accepted with the warmth of old friends, and residents meet the challenges that life presents with hardy good humor.
The bathrooms in Polena’s only school are in terrible condition. The two toilets (one for boys and one for girls) are located in a small addition to the main building that has crumbling walls and a failing roof, to the extent that the bathrooms are exposed to the outside elements through holes in the ceiling. During the harsh winter, this exposure can render the bathrooms unusable, with frozen pipes and ice forming on the walls and floor. The roof shingles are falling off and portions of the roof are held in place with nothing more than loose rocks. The internal ceiling panels are rotten and collapsing, and the walls are covered in a thick coat of mold due to poor ventilation. The toilets are flushed with hoses that spray water all over slippery tiled floors, and the doors cannot close or lock properly.
These conditions will continue to deteriorate throughout the rainy fall and snowy winter, causing the mold to proliferate from the dampness and the ceilings to collapse further under the weight of water and snow. In addition to hygiene concerns and lack of security posed by these conditions, the safety risk to the children presented by the failing structure is significant. Additionally, the number of girls in attendance at the school (presently 22 girls to 38 boys) is worryingly low. The poor conditions of the bathrooms may be partly to blame for these problems, as parents are reluctant to send their daughters to a school without a safe and secure place to use the bathroom.
The project will renovate the Polena middle school bathrooms so that they are clean, safe and secure for children to use. Currently, the bathrooms consist of a single girl’s room with a squat toilet, a single boy’s room with a squat toilet, and an anteroom with a sink connected to both bathrooms.
We will completely renovate all three spaces, by completing the following work:
1) Repairing and renovating the interior and exterior walls
2) Replacing the roof
3) Replacing the light fixtures
4) Replacing the sink and adding Western toilets
5) Re-tiling the floor and interior walls
6) Replacing the exterior windows with windows that open for adequate ventilation
7) Replacing the interior ceiling panels
8) Replacing all three doors and repairing the door frames to (i) the ante-room and (ii) the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms.
Additionally, to increase community involvement and awareness, the project will include a grand opening and family day/health fair at which children and their parents can play games, enjoy the new bathroom facilities, learn about important hygiene practices for the upcoming cold and flu season, and listen to talks about the importance of education and staying in school (especially for girls). The fair will include face painting, and the opportunity to make posters about hand washing which will be laminated and posted on the school walls.
The funds provided by Water Charity will go toward purchasing all materials to complete the project, including for the bathroom fixtures, plumbing, and construction materials. A small amount (less than $25 USD) will also go toward purchasing materials for the opening day health fair, including for face paint and laminated posters.
68 people, including 60 children and 8 employees, will benefit directly from the project. This project will also impact any visitors to the school and future students and staff.
Peace Corps Volunteer Directing Project
Miles and Michelle Killingsworth
Monitoring and Maintenance
Peace Corps Volunteers Miles and Michelle Killingsworth will work closely with the Polena middle school and the Korca municipality to ensure that construction and renovation is completed successfully. Once completed, the Polena middle school and the community of Polena will be responsible for maintaining the bathrooms in working condition, and keeping them stocked with soap and other supplies.
The Municipality of Korça’s Department of Education and Infant Services will provide the labor for the renovation.
Polena’s lack of adequate school bathrooms has an especially negative impact on the education, quality of life, and safety of girls in the community, including in the following ways:
• Girls might seek an alternative place to go (such as a local cafe), which puts them at significant risk of harassment or assault
• Girls might “hold it in”, rather than regularly relieving themselves, increasing the risk for urinary tract infections which in turn can cause kidney and reproductive health problems.
• Inadequate doors and security in the bathrooms can expose girls to harassment or assault
• Girls without adequate bathroom facilities might not attend school while they are menstruating Repairing the bathrooms in the only school in Polena will have a strong positive impact on all children in the community, but especially the girls who are particularly vulnerable to problems posed by inadequate facilities. The renovation of the bathrooms will address these problems, and in turn, help to increase the low number of girls in attendance at the school.
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