Category Archives: Water Systems

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Taking in the view from the top of the water storage tank – one of the highest elevations in the community of Dipina.

Elation. It is almost impossible to express the feeling of clinging to the back of a dirt bike careening down steep rocky roads that sharply wind through the highest and most expansive mountains, taking in seemingly endless green vistas, crowned in clouds and morning fog, while the sun rises above the peaks and slowly wicks away the moisture. If there were a word to capture this exact feeling and moment, elation could be it. The word comes close to capturing the joyful and expansive soaring of my heart, the wide-eyed wonder, and the adrenaline-cushioned fear, concealed behind my contented grin. Many people reading this will never have the opportunity to see these views or experience this trek, especially not as their morning drive to work. It is a Tuesday morning and I am en route on my first ever community visit in Waslala to see our project progress in the community of Dipina, located deep in the heart of Nicaragua.

Off road racers, mountain bikers, climbers, serious hikers, campers and mountain dwellers can probably wrap their minds around this scene; filled with a mix of intense hiking and effort just to reach the small community of Dipina. I was entirely unprepared. My expectations, formed from previous experiences in which I arrived in a community in the comfort of a 4-wheel drive Land Cruiser, parked, went about my day’s work, and was back in the office by 5pm, completely missed the mark in this case. Until the evening before we left, no one had mentioned to me that we would be riding motorcycles to community, wearing rubber boots with all of our gear to spend a night crammed inside a middle school knapsack. There was absolutely no mention that we would have to ford four rivers, rivers which were easily knee high, pushing our motorcycles. Nor did they mention that this endeavor was only half of the trip and that, after an hour and a half of riding, we would park the motorcycles in someone’s house and hike for another hour and a half along a narrow trail into the mountains – a trail often slippery, pocketed with quick-sand like mud, and at times quite steep as it ascended in elevation until arriving in the community of Dipina.

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Junior and Taleno work together to push one of our motorcycles through the river en route to Dipina.

I kept my pace and tried my best to keep from falling by staring at the ground and placing my boot in the muddy imprint exactly where Junior had placed his boot seconds before. I could feel blisters forming on my feet and my legs quickly turned into stinging rubber weights that grew heavier to lift with each step. The heat and the sun were unrelenting. I almost fainted, and did not have the words in Spanish to explain that everything started spinning each time we stopped to rest, so could we please just keep walking. Junior, realizing how I felt and understanding my soon-to-be defeat, trekked into a nearby cornfield and returned with an ear of corn which he insisted I eat in order to raise my blood sugar.

By the time we reached Omar’s house, the house of our host where we would be eating and sleeping that night, I was unable to do anything more than sit down on a bench and stare. I can only imagine how I looked to everyone else. My shirt was dripping with sweat as if I had dived into one of those rivers fully clothed, which, when considering it, I felt I nearly had done. I had no energy to remove my boots or my waterlogged socks. After what felt like forever, I managed to pull off one boot. Junior pulled off the other and I placed my socks and shirt in the sun to dry.

I felt beyond tired, uncomfortably filthy, run-down and worn-out. What I really wanted was a steaming hot shower and my bed with fabric softener-fresh sheets. I had not physically pushed my body or my mind to that extent since my first time doing P90X Plyometrics or hiking a volcano in Guatemala six and a half years prior. Junior and Taleno just laughed at me. This grueling trek was only the beginning of our hike. Now that we had arrived in Dipina, we had to hike much higher – to an elevation higher than any water point in the community – to view one of the two water storage tanks that would be supplying water to the community. With legs aching, I managed to pull my socks and boots back on and we set off again.

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The view looking up at one of the two water storage tanks that will supply water to the community of Dipina.

When accepting this position, I theoretically knew the need for the work WfW does – because in these parts of the world clean water organizations can change the lives of an entire community or region. I studied the world water crisis and had seen gravity fed water projects in rural Honduras. Still, with this first experience in Dipina, the reality of the need became very real to me. Here was a community more than removed from the main stream of society – no electricity, no cell phones, and until this point in time no running water. All of the community resources had to be carried or hauled by mule for over 90 minutes into the interior of rural Nicaragua. Locations this removed from society almost do not exist in the US. Even in the forests of rural Pennsylvania or the vast plains of the American Southwest, more often than not there is a cell phone tower blinking in the distance. Here there was no restaurant serving pancakes, nor any gas stations within walking distance. If anything was rural, this was it.

All of that hiking, sweat, and pain became so worth the effort once we reached our next stop – the school in Dipina. It just so happened that on this day the trench digging and pipe laying had reached the school. The school children were outside watching the construction efforts and several boys grabbed pickaxes and shovels to help dig the last bits of trench. I stood witness as Taleno and Junior helped the community members cut and glue the final pipes and attach a faucet to the tap stand providing clean fresh water to schoolchildren just outside of their school for the first time ever in the history of Dipina.

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Students grab pickaxes and shovels to help dig the last bits of trench.

We continued onward and upwards to the water storage tank. I arrived at the tank drained, almost less than human. I could not raise my legs or keep my balance to cross the barbed wire fence enclosing the tank. My clean water had run out. We filled my bottle from the pipe at the tank and passed it around, each person drinking almost the entire 800mL themselves. After our tank inspection, we returned to Omar’s house. I am unsure of how I made the descent and barely remember walking back. I do remember how badly I wished for a shower – a truly first world problem in a community that had never had running water. Yet in the end, the day ended beautifully, with a swim and bath in a cool clear stream, hot fresh corn tortillas, a majestic thunderstorm filling the night sky with streaks of lightening, and me passed out cozy and warm in my hammock.

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Sunset in the community of Dipina.

Since my first visit to Dipina I have returned several times as progress on the project nears an end. I have hiked the same route and several different, equally treacherous routes. I have slid down muddy hills so steep that descending on my backside was easier than trying to climb. I have ridden horseback to the second water storage tank, located even higher in the mountains. I rode on the roof of the worn out truck, which I lovingly nicknamed Marcy, that serves as public transportation from Waslala to the town where the trail and the journey to Dipina begins. Once I arrive, I watch students line up to drink clean fresh water from their new tap stand. I observe how much easier life is for families with a tap stand at their home. People constantly express their gratitude for the support of Water for Waslala and the funding that made their clean water project possible. The trip that was initially the death of me has become an amazing adventure and a source of great joy.

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Riding horseback to the second water storage tank located even higher in the mountains.

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The vista from the second water storage tank. In the distance, the roofs of the homes of project beneficiaries are visible.

I love words, conveying ideas, expressing emotions, providing a snap shot into an experience, yet I have done and seen so much in such a short time, I struggle to find the words to explain or express all of it. If you really want to know Waslala and the elation of working here, you will have to visit us and experience it for yourself.

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Marcy about to load up for her 3-hour journey to Waslala. To the right is the beginning of one of the muddy trails into the community of Dipina.

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indiegogoWater for Waslala, recently completed its inaugural campaign on Indiegogo raising a total of $1000 for the community of San Jose Dipina. For those of you not familiar with Indiegogo, it is a crowdfunding platform where people who want to raise money can create fundraising campaigns to tell their story and get the word out. The campaign, which ran in July and August, raised $845 and another $155 after the campaign was completed. We wanted to thank everyone who contributed to the campaign including:

  • Jeanne Caverly
  • Mark Kennedy
  • Mark Morgan
  • Alissa Levesque
  • Stephanie Chang
  • The Fish Family Foundation
  • Jim Klingler
  • Maureen Lynch
  • Harry Metzinger
  • Bob Atkinson Jr.
  • Christine McQuade

The San Jose Dipina water system recently began construction and is expected to be completed in November.  When the entire San Jose Dipina water system is finished, it will serve four counties in the Waslala region with approximately 370 beneficiaries in over 60 homes and 4 schools.

While this system has a tremendous amount of beneficiaries, it is also highly complex and therefore one of the most costly systems we’ve constructed to date. The water for the San Jose Dipina system will be collected from two natural springs located approximately 8km (approximately 5 miles) from the farthest household beneficiaries. Two covered spring intakes will be constructed to capture the spring water which will then flow downhill by the power of gravity through PVC piping to two storage tanks, in order to serve the community needs during peak demand periods.

What this means is that when this system is complete, the people in the San Jose Dipina community no longer have to spend hours each day fetching and carrying water from local streams and the men, women, and children, in San Jose Dipina will gain access to a constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water directly at their homes or school.

Although the $1000 will go a long way to help with the overall cost of the system, we are still in need of additional funds to subsidize the full cost of the system which is estimated at over $20,000. The main cost of the project is the nearly 8km of pipeline that will connect the natural spring to the beneficiaries houses and schools. If you’re interested in contributing toward the Dipina project, you can do so by clicking here. As we continue to make progress on the system, our team in Waslala will be posting pictures and updates to our blog. We encourage you to check back over the next several months as we near our completion date in November.



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Girls fetching dirty waterChildren in the San Vincente Dipina community of Waslala are tasked with carrying buckets of dirty water from the local stream to their homes. This water will probably make them sick but they have no other options.

Once they get to school they have to leave class to walk to the stream for something to drink. Instead many kids go the whole day without any water.

They are often sick. They are always thirsty.

Together, we can change this reality for these children.

Why We Focus on Schools

Every water project Water for Waslala builds includes a faucet at the local school. We know children need clean water to thrive. Water is essential for a child to grow properly. By providing access to clean water we are reducing illnesses like diarrhea, lowering child mortality, and reversing the chronic dehydration that keeps these children tired, run down and unable to realize their potential.

Waslalan school children

When they have access to clean water, kids can spend their time at school learning. They are better able to focus and participate. They grow as they are supposed to.  They have time and energy to play. As we’ve seen in other communities with access to safe water at schools—once they have clean water, children thrive! You can help us make this happen in San Vincente Dipina too.


Clean Water is on the Way

Girl uses faucet at schoolWhen the people of San Vincente Dipina county came to Water for Waslala and applied for a water system we realized it made the most sense to add them to a system that was already planned for three other counties in the area. When the full Dipina system is complete it will supply clean water to 4 schools, 58 houses, and a total of 370 people, including the children in San Vincente Dipina.

Because the majority of the work has already been done we only need to raise $7,000 to include San Vincente Dipina. If you would like to hep us reach this goal, please click here to make a donation.

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Hi everyone, my name is Chelsea Mackie and I’m a recent Villanova engineering grad who is volunteering in Waslala for several months. I visited Waslala with other engineering students three times while at Villanova, and after the first time… I was hooked. After being here for several weeks helping out with WfW projects I can say that I love my new home and am truly excited to be here.

One of the projects that is currently underway is a new system in the community of Yaro. I finished Spanish classes just in time to return to Waslala to witness the building of WfW’s second ferrocement tank. I thought the best way to highlight the week for everyone would be to show some pictures that I took.

The first thing to note about Yaro is that it is quite a journey from Waslala. Three hours in a public truck that I could never get used to, no matter how many times I went. Transportation became an even bigger challenge for us during construction because of all the rain we had. On our first trip home from Yaro after constructing the tank floor our truck couldn’t make it up the hill. Thankfully, the next truck was able to, and pulled the pickup truck that one of our friends was in out of the mud as well. We were able to go home with them and avoid the more frightening alternative.

Not only did the rain make transportation a nightmare, but pouring the floor of the tank was a struggle as well. After a decent amount of concrete had been put down, it started to pour. We had a tarp ready to cover the work site, but it wasn’t enough. A small river started flowing over the freshly poured concrete. Thankfully, with the help of some dry cement, everyone came together to finish the work after the rain stopped.

The rest of the tank construction went smoothly in comparison to our transportation and weather problems at the start. Despite all the challenges one faces while living here, I was incredibly excited to witness this construction and can’t wait to get involved with more projects in the months to come.

The pictures below provide a peak into the construction process…

Fist you need an area to put your tank

Then you install the plumbing

Then you pour the floor

Which gets wet from TONS of rain

Then you run into your friends who are stuck in the mud

And your truck can’t get up the hill

Then you go back the next week to add a tarp

And concrete on the inside

And then the outside

This was my “shower” for the week (I use water and a pan to shower in my house too)

Our home away from home in Yaro Central

With a gorgeous view

Me in the tank!

Add a roof

And don’t forget the radio for entertainment while you work everyday

More concrete

And there you have it!!

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Villanova University group in Waslala

By Iain Hunt, Waslala Project Manager

In Waslala we have two seasons: the “winter,” with the kinds of cats and dogs that fall from the sky; and “summer”, with the high-noon sun and dusty trails giving Waslala a Wild West feeling.

In the first week of this past March– during that instant when the rains abruptly cease and winter passes to summer–spring break actually came to Waslala. That is– continuing a tradition going strong for nearly a decade now– a group of Villanova University students and faculty spent their spring break accompanying our work in Waslala.

A highlight of these visits for me, as Waslala’s resident chele, is to see old friends from the North and South reunite. Some students return for 2nd or even 3rd visits. Professor James O’Brien returned for his 8th straight year. And it’s hard to express the joy in seeing our own Jordan Ermilio visiting with his godson and seeing how much he’s grown since his last visit.

During our first day of outings, we visited the community of Boca de Piedra, where I was surprised to learn that the Villanova crew had visited some 7 or so years prior. Jordan, along with community members reminisced about trekking the verdant mountainsides above the village with then-Waslala parish priest, Father Nelson, a person who provided much of the inspiration that gave birth to Water for Waslala (the project in Boca de Piedra didn’t go through initially how-ever-many years ago because its large scale was beyond the capacity of the fledgling organization at the time).

One of my fellow travelers in Nicaragua, Billy, works with the Volunteer Missionary Movement (or VMM) and accompanied us for much of the week, including that first day in Boca de Piedra. In recent post to the blog that Billy maintains with his wife, Kristin, he alludes to another one of the highlights of these visits for me: to see our bright and enthusiastic young visitors get “ruined” a bit.  That’s what we call the life-long impression that Waslala tends to have on visitors… the kind of impression that keeps people coming back for second and third visits.

In the three visits we’ve received from Villanova water groups in the one-year-plus that I’ve been here, we’ve managed to start a tradition of starting a new project or initiative with each new visit. A year ago, we broke ground in El Guabo Jicaral, building the intake works for the now completed system there. Last October, coinciding with the recent delivery of ceramic and bio-sand filters to families for our initial household filters pilot project, the Villanova team came with the equipment and knowledge to begin a water quality testing campaign. They taught members of our on-the-ground team how to conduct the tests necessary to periodically monitor water quality both in our gravity-fed systems, and coming out of the filters we deploy.

Villanova students testing water samples

Villanova students testing water samples

This time around, we got our latest construction effort off to a strong start, building the 1st of 2 intake works in the community of Yaro Central, a compact concrete structure to cover and capture water from a natural spring, so that it may enter the pipeline leading to the community. The following photos take us through the construction process:

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Thanks so much to the Villanova crew for such a great week in Waslala!

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By Nora Pillard Reynolds, WfW VP & Director of Communication

“The concept that it was completely unacceptable that 5 million people in Malawi did not have access to fresh water when engineers back in Canada were working on problems such as making a photocopier increase its speed from 149 pages per minute to 151 pages per minute. We need to work on problems that matter.”

–David Damberger, founder of Engineers without Borders Calgary

David Damberger

I love TED talks! I send the links to my friends, I show them in class to my students, and, often, I think differently about some idea after watching one. Here is a great one that relates not only to water, but can be applied to all types of organizations.  In this video, David Damberger, founder of the Calgary chapter of Engineers without Borders (EWB), explores the state of the development sector and urges all of us to embrace failure in order to learn and improve.

Failed water systems

Damberger describes his experiences working with EWB in Malawi where he encountered numerous failed water systems. One of his co-workers discovered that out of 113 water systems, only 81 were functioning. He states that “although infrastructure was built, there was no thinking about who was going to maintain the system”. He continues to examine the problem and highlights that “a lot of donors focus on hardware, not realizing the importance of software. If you donate money, you feel better if your money went to something tangible- a well, a school, a goat, not a water committee”.

This is certainly a struggle for WfW as well, but we work to maintain our focus on software because without the software, the hardware won’t matter. We dedicate a lot of time and energy to thinking specifically about water system maintenance and this is something that continues to be a challenge for us as an organization.

In her blog post  The Challenges of Sustainability, Meaghan Gruber, our former project manager, described some of our efforts that focus on water committees and community maintenance funds.  Additionally, Virginia Leiba, our director of community outreach in Waslala, is responsible for conducting community meetings and leading health and environmental education workshops. Although investment in software may not seem as “sexy” as hardware, WfW recognizes and acts on its importance in our work.

See Our Approach for more information related to our emphasis on trainings in the community and on-going evaluations of our systems to ensure that we learn about problems and improve our work.

Through his discussion of failed water system projects in Malawi, Damberger transitions to a more general topic- one that impacts all of us in our personal and professional lives in all sorts of industries…FAILURE.


Admitting failure is hard! I commend EWB Canada for their willingness to admit failure. They actually publish an annual failure report so that we can all learn from mistakes in order to make improvements! Damberger poses a great question for all of us (working on water issues or not) to consider: how does your organization think about and share failure?

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By Justin Knabb, Director of Development

It is with great pleasure that I present our first ever Annual Report… hot off the press!  To download a copy to your computer, tablet, etc, you can click here.

Since Water for Waslala started almost 8 years ago, we’ve focused the bulk of our efforts on the most critical work at hand– the construction of cost-effective, sustainable water systems for the people of Waslala.  That important cause remains our focus, of course, but this year we’ve resolved to step up the ways we bring this remarkable place — Waslala — into the lives of our donors and support base.

We feel that an Annual Report filled with hi-res photos, key stats, and narratives would be an ideal way to do just that.

Our report can give you a better sense of the complexity of this development work.  It’s so much more than simply digging trenches for PVC pipe.  Our work also involves community organization, health and hygiene workshops, reforestation initiatives, and many technical partnerships (just to name a few).  Our work is ever evolving; in this report we tell you about the household filter pilot project we launched recently to bring clean water to the most remote areas of Waslala.  In our report, we provide some background on our leadership team, our story, our financial position and much more.

Special thanks to Matt Nespoli, WfW’s Founder and Executive Director, and Avi Loewenstein, WfW’s Director of Corporate Governance, for the many long hours they put into creating this report.  And thanks to our many other board members and contributors for helping to make this report a reality.

We hope you enjoy reading through it as much as our team takes pride in serving the wonderful people of Waslala, Nicaragua.

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The night before the scheduled inauguration of the El Guabo water system, something freakish but not so anomalous occurred. I’d finally managed to get a hold of my compañera,  Virginia, who had just returned unusually late from a visit to a community further down the road. She reported that the bus had been delayed because a tornado had passed through El Guabo, uprooting a number of trees, and thus blocking the road.

A tornado?!

Bueeeeeeeeeeeno… a tornado occurring in the roller-coaster topography of Waslala does indeed seem freakish, but having such an interruption occur at the culmination of a project that’s experienced many setbacks (such as having the cable from a suspended crossing stolen late one night) didn’t feel that anomalous. Early the following morning, I traveled to the community, and sure enough the evidence suggested that a tornado had indeed passed through, with trees uprooted and chunks of roofs missing within only a narrow corridor. I found Don Serapio, who would later be hosting the inauguration festivities in his home, along with his family, continuing to clear fallen trees (whilst salvaging the relatively easy pickins’ for much needed firewood that essentially all Waslala campo families utilize for cooking). The inauguration, at Don Serapio’s insistence, proceeded as planned.

I begin with this story to highlight the resilience (and resourcefulness) of the Waslalan people, and to bring to light some of the odd weather events and frequent uprooting of trees that  indirectly point to some global environmental issues that cannot be ignored as we try to implement water supply projects in Waslala. If the wet season has been dry this past year in Waslala, the dry season has been, well, parched (in a still more green and lush than, say, Nevada, sort of a way), with reports of water sources yielding their lowest output in memory. In the present focal community, El Guabo, the system’s dry season source flow had decreased from the previous year. In Piedras Blancas, another WfW-supported community, a river reportedly dried up completely for the first time. All the viejos say that “it don’t rain like it ‘usta.'”

While I can’t show rainfall trends in the area over the past how-ever-many years, I would like to share some figures widely cited online regarding another phenomenon that has likely contributed to diminishing water supplies: deforestation. On a national level, Nicaragua has lost some 50% of its forest cover since 1950, with 21% disappearing between 1990 and 2005 alone. In 1998, a presidential decree outlawed the logging of some precious woods for five years, including cedar and mahogany.

In Waslala, people recall as far back as the 1970s the extensive logging of precious lumber, with truckloads of logs often leaving at night. The process let up a little during the war-torn 1980s, but started up again in full force in the 1990s. Today, the logging industry doesn’t affect Waslala as drastically as other parts of Nicaragua. However, the clearing of woodlands for cattle pasture is a process that’s developed in its place in subsequent years.

Reforestation activity during water committees' workshop

Efforts are being made at both the national and municipal levels to confront the issue. Sections of Waslala lie within BOSAWAS (in the mountains above Santa Maria Kubali, another WfW community that happens to have an abundant water supply), the largest nature reserve in Central America, and presumably third largest in the world. The mayor’s office facilitates a municipal environmental committee that is composed of representatives from different institutions (including the Pastoral del Agua).   Together they’re working on a municipality-wide reforestation plan.

El Guabo's Modesta and Lupe working with Virginia and university students to prepare temporary tree nursery

Water for Waslala recognizes the long-term risks that deforestation poses to the sustainability of community water supplies in Waslala, and is beginning to incorporate reforestation as a necessary component in the implementation of water supply projects. We’re now beginning to ask communities to develop reforestation plans as a prerequisite for considering the community for water system construction.  Our project facilitator/promoter Virginia is helping communities with both existing and potential future water systems start to elaborate these plans. Reforestation was among the principal areas of focus during our first Waslala-wide water committee capacity-building workshop in April.

Finally, to commence the real nitty-gritty work of reforestation, we’ve been collaborating with a group of agro-forestry students from the University of the Autonomous Regions and Caribbean Coast’s satellite campus in Waslala to reforest the area surrounding El Guabo’s water source. Along with community members, they built a temporary nursery in the hills outside of the community, where they prepared 500 seedlings, now ready to be planted in the near future. Sustainable water systems cannot be constructed from just PVC and concrete – they also require unharvested lumber.

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By Elise Tosun, Waslala Project Analyst

In my last post, I covered the basics of Impact Evaluation 101 (the need for a “treatment” and “control” group) and said I was looking forward to seeing the results of the follow-up survey from El Varillal #2. Now, the results have come in! Not only that, but we are using those findings to inform our next round of monitoring and evaluation for our system in El Guabo, which has an unprecedented 30 beneficiary households. Clearly there is a lot to discuss on the evaluation front!

First, let’s talk about the results we saw in El Varillal. In this community, we have about six beneficiary households (those who have a tapstand at their house), 20 households with children in school, and 48 households total. We are seeing positive results on the health front – most beneficiary households have children under the age of 3, and those households report fewer instances of children having diarrhea in the past month (53% reported instances of diarrhea in the last month prior to system construction, versus 12% now). We also know that households report washing their hands twice as often as they were before, which is potentially due to the health and hygiene workshops led by Virginia in the community.

Our findings on time savings and school attendance were more difficult to tease out of the survey results. In terms of time savings, most beneficiaries were previously getting water from sources 2-5 minutes away from their home, though those minutes added up over the course of multiple visits to the site each day. Some beneficiaries did travel over 10 minutes, and even as far as 30 minutes, to gather water for their households. We are currently measuring school attendance by asking families how many times their children have missed school in the last three months due to stomach illnesses, and we did not see any significant change in this metric – most families continue to report that their children do not miss any school because of diarrhea or other stomach illnesses.

Given these results, we are planning to update our system evaluation process to measure our health, time, and education impacts more accurately:

  • Use focus groups in each community prior to the survey to test out questions we plan to ask each household. Focus groups will be a critical step in ensuring that families understand the questions that are being asked of them and are able to answer them accurately.
  • Include health behavior changes in our assessment of health impacts. It should be no surprise that drinking cleaner water positively affects individual health outcomes. Perhaps even more important is whether Water for Waslala, through the health and hygiene workshops we conduct in each community, is effectively changing people’s behavior so that they are taking steps to prevent sicknesses. These behavioral changes include more frequent hand-washing, more frequent hydration, bathing, and washing linens and dishes.
  • Experiment with different ways of measuring time savings. Families in Waslala often don’t carry cell phones or even watches, so their concept of “30 minutes” might just not be the same as ours. Therefore, we can experiment with different ways of measuring how families spend their time before vs. after system construction: by asking them to fill out a daily pictorial diary of the activities they do for one day, asking them to allocate yesterday’s time among different activities, or even just asking whether they feel they spend less, more, or the same amount of time on certain activities.
  • Look at more objective measures of school attendance. Most community teachers keep attendance sheets which enable them to keep track of how many times children miss school. We are looking into matching these to beneficiary households to get a measure of school attendance that avoids the difficulty to parents of having to recall how often their children miss school. We can then double-check these attendance figures with household reports on the reasons that children missed school.
  • Capture other changes that could impact health, time, and education outcomes. It’s important that we continue to consider other factors that may impact our outcomes of interest but that might have nothing to do with the system construction. For example, in El Guabo (the next community we will do a follow-up survey in), many of the beneficiary households live on the main community road. This locale may make it easier for their children to get to school and might also mean they don’t have to travel as far for water as other families. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind the impact of living on the main road when we look at the additional impact of water systems.

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By Joanna Bowen, Co-Director of Villanova University Partnership

Water flowing from the El Guabo tap stand

As hard as I try, I can’t seem to remember the first time I heard about Water for Waslala.  Without realizing, WfW seeped quietly into my life as a student at Villanova as I participated annually in the Walk for Water and put Waslala on my list of places I hoped to get to.  Now, in my role as the Service Break Coordinator at Villanova University, I often cite WfW as an example of students taking action after returning home from a Service Break Experience.  After all, it is my hope that students will do exactly what the founders of WfW did: Identify a need and figure out how they can become part of the solution.

So, after several years of hearing and telling the story of WfW, coupled with my new role as the Advisor to the Student group on VU’s campus, it seemed that it was time for me to experience Waslala firsthand!  In July, I traveled with four friends (including board members Jerica and Brian) to visit Waslala.  Upon arriving in Waslala, we were welcomed by members of the parish and had the opportunity to learn from Iain and various community members about exactly what the impact of WfW is the surrounding communities.  While I felt very familiar with the WfW US operations, l had the opportunity to learn much more about how water systems become a reality for the people in Waslala.

There were many moments from this trip that I will keep with me for quite some time.  These include witnessing the first drops of water pour from a tap in El Guabo, meeting volunteers from around the world who are working in different ministries in Waslala, meeting in person for the first time individuals whose names I have heard for years, and even hiking through the jungle to buy cookies from a local family!

One highlight of the trip was an overnight stay in the community Santa Maria Kubali.  While in the Santa Maria Kubali, we had the opportunity to meet with the community’s water committee.  This group of men (and one woman!) work to make sure that the implementation of a water system is possible and meets the community’s needs.  In essence, it is the water committee’s responsibility to make sure the system is maintained and functioning in its desired manner.  They collect dues from individuals that are recipients of the water system, decide where tap stands should be, and help represent the general needs of the community.  This structure is a true example of the Catholic Social Teaching principle of subsidiarity; that any organization must allow the individuals the right to accomplish what they are able.  An intervention when not necessary is a disturbance of the desire to work for the common good.  WfW is doing exactly this; they are in partnership with those in Waslala.

There were many highlights during our week in Waslala.  However, nothing topped the opportunity to be in conversation with individuals who have been empowered to make such an important change in their community.


We're Proud to Announce that Water For Waslala Has Been Acquired By WaterAid - Read The Full Announcement