Access to safe and clean water revitalizes a community

By Narayan Murarka, Suzanne Gibson, Mark Gibson, Mary Holcomb (Members of the Rotary Club of Barrington Breakfast), Jorge Aufranc (Rotary International Director), and Francisco Viau (Member of the Rotary Club of Guatemala Sur)

The Barrington Breakfast Rotary Club from Illinois, United States, has been working with the Guatemala Sur Rotary Club in Guatemala City, Guatemala, for more than six years. We have concentrated on the needs of people in the region of Sumpango, in the Sacatepequez Department, by carrying out several major initiatives which have expanded in both breadth and depth over time.

One of these initiatives focuses on preventing diseases in children through access to clean drinking water and improved hygiene practices within the community.

As part of their five-year plan for community service, the Guatemala Sur Rotary Club identified water and sanitation as a priority for nine elementary and seven secondary schools in Sumpango. For over a year, we had several exchanges about the project scope: we visited Sumpango, met with the mayor, visited the schools and talked to the principals.

A mutually agreeable plan was developed and all parties pledged their complete support, including community members in various trades who provided sweat equity to do the various jobs. Our project responded to the needs identified through many meetings with community members and leaders over a long period of time. Thus, the project became a community project as opposed to “our” project.

We developed a comprehensive plan to address various issues. Our plan included the following for each school:

  1.  Locate a nearby well or water tank (provided by the municipality) and pipe in water.
  2.  Process the water through a chlorinator to improve its quality.
  3.  Pipe in the water to a local storage tank installed on the school building.
  4.  Distribute the water to newly built wash and drink stations.
  5.  Build gender-specific toilet stalls.
  6.  Install flush toilets in stalls with septic tanks for waste disposal.
  7.  Provide water, sinks, and other kitchen amenities.

Over 5000 children are now benefitting from this program through considerably reduced rates of water-borne diseases and diarrhea, fever, fatigue and stomach worms. The availability of flush toilets has helped everyone, particularly female students.

As result of the program’s hygiene training component, we have seen behavioral changes in the community with hand washing becoming a norm. With fewer rates of water-borne diseases, school attendance is up. With access to sanitary facilities, girls miss less school. In conjunction with other programs, we are empowering and transforming the community.

The project is fully sustainable: local community members helped build the various facilities with local materials and local know-how. The municipality is responsibility for equipment maintenance.

Since first starting this project in 2012, we have developed significant relationships over the years. We all have a greater understanding and appreciation for each other. We teach and support each other; we challenge each other. And things get done while we also build community, and an international community at that. This is no small feat and very much aligns with Rotary’s commitment to promoting world understanding, goodwill and peace. The sense of satisfaction and accomplishment impacts each of us as individual Rotarians.

This post was original featured on the WASRAG blog. WASRAG is an international group of Rotarians, their family members, program participants and alumni with expertise and passion in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). WASRAG advises on club and district WASH projects while offering a wealth of resources for enhancing initiatives. Visit to access resources, become a member, or request assistance.

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