Get Involved: Pilas

Pilas are one of those things that can turn a North American into a Gringo into an Amigo. To the unacquainted, time at a pila is very humbling. I suspect that Hondurans secretly love nothing more than watching Gringos prove that they earn their little nickname by fumbling around a scrub board. However, if you know how to work one of these things, instead of silent snickers you get approving head nods and the right to be called by your actual name.

To our North American eyes, pilas are big, wet, awkward hunks of concrete. Honduran ojitos see quite a different thing; they see health, cleanliness, reliable access to water. Pilas are the focal point of a family's hygiene and to a certain degree, their social life. They provide "water insurance" for when the tap runs dry, a good sturdy scrub board at a comfortable height, a convenient catchment for rainwater. In a world full of day-to-day uncertainty, the pila is something solid and reliable.

Men returning from the fields wash up and sometimes just end up sitting on the pila to shoot the breeze with their family. We often sit on our own pila well into the night and talk to friends and neighbors. It's a sturdy, safe place. For a couple of months before we finished up our rainwater catchment system, we were sustained by our pila. Water for meals, bathing, hygiene, and cleaning sprung forth from that magical concrete box. The rainwater system now provides for the majority of these needs, but we still wash laundry at the pila. Kaleb has been slowly improving his scrubbing method, but Stacey is now a certified dirt slayer. She has learned quickly and been well-trained.

Honduran women spend a serious amount of time at a pila: scrubbing laundry before daylight, cleaning utensils after meals, bathing their umpteenth child, giving water to the chickens, drawing water for cooking, bathing, arranging bamboos and pipes to snag that late-night rainstorm. Time spent at the pila is hard work, and life for Honduran women is especially hard.

But imagine the work when there is no pila.

Imagine carrying a load of dirty laundry down to the river in the dark pre-dawn morning. Now imagine hauling that same load, soaked and heavy, in the muggy Honduran sun to dry on wires around your home. Imagine praying for rain to fill leaky buckets so that you might not have to haul water in jugs from that same river with scratchy nylon ropes tied around the spouts.

Now imagine that there's no river.

Heart to Honduras has seen a significant increase in requests for pila projects over the past couple of years. As communities have been empowered to work towards projects that they recognize as true priorities, pila projects often rise to the top. We believe that this is a result of asking the right question. Like in all HTH projects, we work hard to facilitate healthy collaboration between the local church, local government, and the beneficiaries to be involved in the project as much as possible. As a result, local churches now often donate a bag or two of cement or maybe the labor of a mason. Municipalities regularly donate sand and concrete blocks. Beneficiaries will occasionally contribute blocks or cement and always contribute stone for the foundation and a mason's assistant. The process allows for collaboration flexibility depending on the resources available to beneficiaries.

So what can you do? Sponsor or Advocate.

The HTH Project Site currently has eight pila projects awaiting sponsorship or in process to request sponsorship, each with multiple pilas. The average pila only costs $250, but these projects cannot move forward with willing sponsors. Many of you may be able to give towards a pila or two. You can provide a tax-deductible donation either online via PayPal on the HTH Project Site or by mailing a check designated to "Pila Projects" as instructed on our Get Involved page.

Some of you may not be able to give, but you can do the crucial work of advocacy. An advocate can typically provide sponsorship for far more pilas than a donor can sponsor. Whether you can sponsor a pila or not, we need your help to get the word out about these projects. To help equip and educate our advocacy partners, we have created a pila fact sheet with before-and-after photos that explains what a pila is and how you can get involved. (Download Pila Project Sheet in PDF here.) We also have involvement cards (pictured at bottom of page) with a link to the Project Sponsorship Page.

Download HERE.

As you get involved in these projects, please feel free to contact us for resources that can help you as you seek sponsors for these projects. We would love to be in touch with you, answer any questions you might have, or mail you printed resources (project sheets, involvement cards, etc.).

Your advocacy efforts really matter. We and the rest of the HTH staff cannot possibly find enough funds for all of these projects by ourselves. If you decide to advocate for pila projects or any other projects, please contact us and let us know. We want to know the people that we are fighting alongside in the struggle to bring Christ's hope and alleviate poverty in Honduras.

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