Rainy Day Savings
Teresa Guzman knows the impact of the Earth’s limitations. During the rainy season, water is plentiful. But in the midst of the dry season, November to April, the area can go months without a drop of rain. A dynamic, vocal group of mothers on the school’s Parent Teacher Association, led by Teresa, decided to get innovative and construct a rain catchment system with support from Water For People through the SWASH+ program which provides comprehensive water, sanitation and hygiene education in schools and the surrounding communities. Resources for this program come from donors including ITT Corporation, Global Water Challenge, and UNICEF.
It’s an idea that isn’t often used in this area of Guatemala. In fact, the community’s water board had recently approached the mayor to approve the idea and assist in funding such a project and the group was turned down based on doubts of success.
But Teresa and the other mothers on the PTA had a strong case, and "No" wasn't an answer that would help the 50-student school solve its water needs. Everyday they had to bring water—often collected from unsafe sources—to the school for their children to drink, to make snacks, and for dishwashing. When the children became sick from contaminated water, the mothers took care of them. The all-women PTA was tenacious and the mayor approved the project and supplied funding after multiple visits with the PTA.
“It was important to get the community involved and to agree with the idea,” Teresa said. “We needed to have good communication with the community because they needed to help. Once they saw how the process was going, they decided to support us.”
Determined to make the project a success, Teresa and her gang of mothers arrived at the school at dawn each day to strategize, plan, and begin their work. They contracted the attorney to meet the government regulations, spent countless hours moving between government offices to get the necessary signatures. The PTA worked with Water For People to properly request and arrange funding from the municipality and community members, determine the specifications of the project, and lay out a plan for long-term use and maintenance of the system.
The result is a 50,000 liter rain catchment tank that capitalizes on the entire reach of the school’s roof to collect water. The school now has six handwashing taps that are active in the rainy season. In the dry season, they have to work with Mother Nature. They will watch their water supply and reduce down to two water taps as necessary during this time to better conserve the water in the tank.
“Each teachers tells the students to take care of the water. Here in this community, we don’t have enough water.” Teresa said.
For Teresa, every day is Earth Day. Conserving, refining actions to better support resources, preparing for a (non)rainy day, and working within the Earth’s limitation are just part of waking up each day in La Cumbre, Guatemala.