As Oscar Mejia breathes in the fresh mountain air and sips his coffee, he looks around the school that’s nestled in the verdant landscape. Oscar comes from a long line of educators and has taught children in the El Lanillal community in San Antonio de Cortes, Honduras for over 18 years. He is truly committed to helping children reach their full potential, so he’s glad his school and his community look and feel different than they did a couple years back.
Four years ago, the sanitation facilities at the school were run-down structures that required the kids to bring their own water to operate the toilets. The bathrooms were made of old, decaying wood that didn’t promote cleanliness or hygiene.
"We live in a rural place and, although we are small, we are a tight-knit community," shares Oscar. "Unfortunately, our bathrooms were in bad condition and it was a big hygiene problem for the children."
Oscar and other teachers looked for options, and eventually found Water For People. Water For People and the municipality co-financed the project, while the community coordinated and provided the necessary labor. Water For People staff also held sanitation and hygiene workshops for the school and the community.
"Everyone participated and that’s important," explains Oscar. "It’s the community participation that keeps us united and strong in making hygiene and sanitation a priority."
The construction of the sanitation facilities benefitted the school’s children tremendously, allowing them to better focus and actively participate in class. The school now has an almost-100% school attendance rate, and the students don’t experience waterborne sicknesses anymore.
It’s the responsibility of each community member to help maintain the facilities and promote good hygiene. Whenever toilet paper or soap runs out, one of the parents will bring more. Everyone plays their part for the health of the children and the community.
There has been a ripple effect in terms of hygiene education, too.
"I tell the parents that the children learn about hygiene at school, but it’s up to the parent to talk to them about this topic during their daily activities, too," explains Oscar.
Water For People continues to monitor the community to ensure that things are running smoothly. The school has been designated as a model facility for hygiene and sanitation, meaning that other schools in the municipality look to the El Lanillal community as a leader.
With the knowledge that the children are healthier,
and the community is better educated on sanitation practices, Oscar looks to
the future with hope. As he takes one more sip from his coffee, he smiles and
starts walking towards a crowd of laughing children during recess. "It’s time
to head back to work."