A "Crappy" Week

We attended conference this week, and it was all about poop. If we didn't know the Spanish words for excrement before, we certainly know them now. Some of them for use in polite company, some not so much.

With Pastor Fredy we went to the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, to spend a week in a workshop on "Alternative Sanitation Methods at Low Cost." We'd like to sincerely thank Covenant Creek Community Church in Bellbrook, OH for providing the funding to go, it was truly a blessing that I'm sure will apply to many people here in Honduras. The conference was both class time and literal construction time and was highly interactive; all-in-all, we would rate it as excellent. Canadian development organization CAWST did a great job.

We built little platforms to hold eggs off the ground, representing how important a decent floor is for a latrine. Especially latrines that dangle people over caverns of human waste.
 The week focused on how to address a serious issue here, what to do with human waste. In many of the more marginalized communities, there are few or no latrines due to cost or lack of education. People often have no choice but to find a semi-private place and do their business in open air. The practice is wide-spread here and a source of personal shame and also leads to serious contamination issues that can spread sickness very quickly. This shame and sickness feed into the vicious cycle of poverty.

The good news is that there are many low-cost, innovative methods available to tackle this issue. Although low-tech, the work very well to isolate dangerous waste from the community. All of them focus on providing a hole of some sort, with some sort of safe platform above it. From there, they vary widely, we learned 12 techniques in all. Here's a few examples.

  1.  The Arborloo - A shallow hole is dug (>2 meters) with a simple safe, portable structure above it. Users fill the hole fairly quickly and cover the top 1 foot with soil. From that point, they plant a tree above the waste so that it can take advantage of the nutrients below. Clever and simple. 
  2. Simple Latrine - A nice, deep hole with a strong slab above it surrounded with a small structure. The classic outhouse.
  3. VIP Latrine - A nice, deep hole with a strong slab above it surrounded by a small structure. However, this Latrine also provides a method for ventilation and fly capture that also reduces the transmission of disease.
  4. Composting Latrine - Two chambers are built above ground with two holes for the toilet. With each deposit, the user tosses in a predetermined amount of organic material that helps with the natural decomposition process and controls odor. After two years of use, the user switches holes. After two years of sitting and decomposing, users can safely remove the waste and use it safely in their gardens.
 We also spent some significant time working with how we could unobtrusively help the community discover this issue and negate it. We used card games, built paper outhouses, followed case studies, and worked through community development and sanitation theories. In one particularly unforgettable moment, as a group of adults, we were asked to draw turds on a piece of paper, lay them in a group on a floor, then gather around and look at them and talk about how we felt. If it feels ridiculous to read that, believe me it was even more ridiculous to do it. However, it was a surprisingly effective way to see how the community feels about the issue.

For the practical/construction part of the workshop, we constructed a few types of slabs to place over our septic pits, as well as a low-cost, durable, and sanitary toilet. It was all very interesting and certainly useful. We really hope that we'll be able to help apply this knowledge in the communities here. It has the potential to both make lives more healthy and help them understand that they do have value.

Damos gracias a Dios por: siempre tener letrinas que son saludables y comodas. (We're thankful for always having restrooms that are both sanitary and comfortable.)

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