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Healthy bathrooms: The commitment of an entire community

August 16, 2010






The community of Finagrain, in the Caaguazú department of Paraguay, is committed to improving the health of their families by taking simple, but significant, steps towards adequate housing. Habitat for Humanity and the Dequení Foundation, in partnership, are providing a hand up in this process.

Just after two in the afternoon on a brisk Tuesday in June, nearly every family in Finagrain had gathered together excitedly in the local health center to learn the details of a project that would help them to achieve a significant step towards improving their housing conditions—new, sanitary bathrooms. Later, the local Community Development Committee, a group of Finagrain residents working toward housing improvements, would sign an affidavit of commitment to the Healthy Bathrooms project, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity Paraguay and the Dequení Foundation.

Zunilda Ramírez, the local Dequení coordinator, kicked off the event, “Today we break ground on our second dream, to improve the sanitary conditions of our homes, so that our children will no longer suffer from parasites and can grow up in good health.” After a participative diagnostic with the families in Finagrain, the members of the local Community Development Committee determined that the most urgent needs were to install a health center, improve the sanitary conditions of each household, and later to improve the muddy road conditions. The health center was inaugurated in March of 2010, with support from CCFC, and he residents of Finagrain are ready for the next step.

Don Alberto Cardozo, president of the parent’s committee, provided words of welcome. Also attending were Municipal Mayor Jorge Dos Santos, District Hospital Director Dr. Carlos Adalberto Cuevas, Habitat for Humanity National Director Mary Lechenuk, various representatives of the Dequení Foundation, and many Finagrain mothers and fathers.

“In this first phase, 46 bathrooms will be built with the families that we have selected together. Construction will begin next week,” said Don Alberto. Later, Habitat staff covered the details of the financial education workshops and construction training that each family was invited to attend—a key component of their active partnership in the project. The local Ministry of Public Health will provide training on the healthy maintenance of the new bathrooms.

The financial education workshops are organized together with the Habitat for Humanity partner families, seeking not only to provide opportunities for communities to incrementally build and improve their homes, but also to learn how to effectively manage their resources, learn to save and begin to invest in home improvements that can truly improve their quality of life in the long term.

Most families in Finagrain have precarious latrines that they have built themselves, typically consisting of a hole in the ground surrounded by loose boards to help provide a foothold when conditions get muddy. The new bathrooms will be built using sturdy clay bricks, and will include a cement toilet and a sheet metal roof.

Habitat for Humanity Paraguay will supervise the work, using locally contracted masons from Finagrain who will receive help from the families in digging the foundation, transporting materials and supporting the construction process however they can.

Doña Blanca Lopez and her family live in Zone 3 of Finagrain. She cares for her four children while her husband, Rafael Sanchez, works in temporary jobs to support the family. The oldest of their children, 12-year-old Cecilia, suffers from severe sun allergy. Doña Blanca travels constantly to seek adequate care for her daughter. “Many times we’ve tried to improve our house and build a nicer bathroom, but it was very difficult with the expenses that we have for her treatment. My kids—more than anyone my Cecilia—need a clean environment, and with our current latrine it’s impossible. This help is very important for us.”

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity in Latin America and the Caribbean, click here.