It’s been two weeks, and I’ve hardly knit a stitch. But I have a good excuse…
I went on a service trip with a group from my church, through el Porvenir (the Future). El Porvenir works in partnership with the rural poor of Nicaragua through sustainable self-help water, sanitation, and reforestation projects. Our mission last week? To build a lavandero (bathing and laundry/wash station) next to the community well in a rural village. Our worksite was pretty remote, about 45 minutes from our very basic small town hotel (no hot water or daily, or even weekly, housekeeping service) down the highway, through a tinier town, over 6 river crossings (some dry, some not),
into the hills along the back roads,
through a spent cornfield, and into a grouping of a few houses.
There is no running water in these houses; water is fetched from the well about 200 yards up a foot path. No indoor plumbing, but el Porvenir has worked with this community before. All the houses have latrines behind them, and the well was also an el Porvenir project two years ago. There is no electricity in the village, except for one house that has a single solar panel.
Enough for some light during the winter, and probably a source of charging for the cell phones! Yes, there are 2 bars of signal from Claro Nicaragua. I thought I’d be completely off the grid, but I guess not.
The kitchen of the house where we had lunch each day was basic, but enough.
It even had a hen and her chicks, who were too young to be in the yard with the rest of the animals.
I love this picture; it looks completely unfocused, but each area has something going on. On the left, on the machete-crafted sawhorses, we’re making reinforcement beams with rebar, rods, and wire, that will be filled with concrete. Directly behind that people are digging for the foundation slab. On the right you can see the blocks that will become the walls of the lavandero, and behind those are people bending metal rods to make squares to shape the reinforcement beams. The kids helped us cut thin wire to wire the squares to the rebar, and men of the village helped with the concrete work. The women also helped shovel, and gather rocks to fill in the base for the concrete slab. This is what I found most impressive about an el Porvenir project. We didn’t come in to build a lavandero for this community; they worked alongside us to do it. Our contribution, more than anything, was to purchase the materials so that they could make this happen.
Building materials were carried up to the worksite by wheelbarrow, pack horse, or hands. The stone blocks in the previous picture came up by horse. Another feature of the worksite? Free-roaming cattle and chickens!
But the best part of the project? Meeting the children. Even though my Spanish is very limited, and their English was even more limited, we became friends. We read stories in Spanish (Eres mi Mama? Are You My Mother? Big Dog, Little Dog…the older kids helped me with my reading) and worked together.
We also met the matriarch of the community, Hermenegilda, who’s 95. Her son Jose Angel is on the left, and one of her daughters (didn’t catch her name) is on the right. Hermenegilda is related to everyone in the community.
We knew we wouldn’t finish this project in the time we had there, but the community will get it done. Eventually it will look like this one:
But when we left it looked like this:
I’m happy to say I helped build these shower walls!
My brigada (brigade):
And a couple of pictures from the road.
We spent a lot of time trying to get just the right picture of this rocky mountain. It’s hard to get a good picture when you’re standing in the back of a moving pickup truck!
And how was your week? Did you miss me? What did you do while I was gone?