All Hands and Hearts launched a remote assessment immediately after Hurricanes Eta and Iota made landfall in November 2020. Access to a sufficient water supply was highlighted as one of the highest needs in the communities being assessed, thus our team of staff and volunteers began ground up construction of a community center with the associated water, sanitation and hygiene(WaSH) facilities which include latrines and water storage for the community of Sesajal, San Pedro Carchá. We also constructed additional rainwater catchment and storage stations in the nearby community of Seraxqen, Chisec, to increase the communities’ access to water.
In October 2021, we completed our first relief program in Guatemala. We are incredibly pleased to be able to expand our international reach and extend our support to the affected communities of Sesajal and Seraxqen. In January 2022, we began our second relief program, focused on the improvement of WaSH systems at 6 schools in the Chisec area. Sign up to volunteer now!
Hurricane Eta swept through Guatemala on November 6, 2020. At its peak, Eta distributed 600 mm of rainfall and wind speeds as high as 235 km/hr causing significant impacts throughout Central America.
Just two weeks later, a Category 4 Hurricane, Iota, devastated the same regions that had just been impacted by Eta.
All Hands and Hearts (AHAH) began remote assessments immediately and arrived in Guatemala in February 2021 to identify how we could support the greatest need. We found the most remote, rural communities, already experiencing the highest poverty rates, were left without help from the government or aid organizations.
In the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala, 83% of the population lives in poverty. These communities are vulnerable to lack of access to basic services, food, clean water, and livelihoods; problems exacerbated by hazards of cyclical drought and flooding. These existing hardships have been inflamed by Hurricanes Eta and Iota and compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our first program in Guatemala addressed the early-recovery needs of communities impacted by Hurricanes Eta and Iota through restoring community infrastructure, initially focussing in Sesajal on a community center with a kitchen, open air space, and latrines, as well as four water collection facilities in Seraxqen that will provide 81 families safe and reliable access to water. In an area where women and children often had to walk up to two hours each way to collect unclean water, these new water collection and storage systems are a life-changing development that will impact health, safety, livelihoods and futures for generations to come.
This second relief program in Guatemala is focused on constructing vital Water, Sanitary and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure across the six most vulnerable schools in Alta Verapaz.
As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, proper sanitation and hygiene practices have become increasingly important, and are one of the best ways to prevent the spread of disease. The Ministry of Education in Guatemala (MINEDUC) considers access to water essential for the road back to school.
In October 2020, MINEDUC reported there being 10.000 schools without proper access to sanitation or potable water. In particular, Alta Verapaz presents the highest number of schools in need of adequate WaSH facilities: a total of 1,633 schools.
During this new program, our goal is to impact 6 schools through the construction of vital WASH facilities. Each module will include:
- Safe, culturally appropriate toilets or latrines for girls and boys
- Handwashing stations
- Rain water harvesting
- Water filtration
- Community-based trainings
We welcomed the first cohort of volunteers in January 2022. The first stage of construction focused on three of the six schools we will be working on in this project: Nuevo Eden, El Manantial and Monja Blanca Schools. At all three schools, our work involves firstly the demolition of the existing latrine and sink blocks. In the first month of the program, thanks to the hard work of the team, we were able to complete demolition and begin the excavation work for the foundations of the new structures.
In the second month of the program, progress continued. At Nuevo Eden School, the concrete footings for the new latrine block and water collection system were poured and the team prepared the grade beam pour of the new latrine block. At El Manantial and Monja Blanca, the latrine blocks were one step further along with the grade beam poured and the plumbing installed! The team then started preparing to pour the concrete slab to complete the foundations.
Despite facing challenging heat in the month of March, progress on Nuevo Edén, El Manantial and Monja Blanca schools moved quickly. Additionally, March saw work start on a fourth school: La Ruinas.
We were incredibly grateful to the 60 community volunteers who supported work at El Manantial school and dug the trenches for the leach field in a single day in March. A leach field, or septic tank drainage field, is an underground array of perforated pipes adjacent to the septic tank. Thanks to the hard work of our community and residential volunteers, work is progressing in Guatemala.
As our Guatemala Relief Program moves into its final month, we have said goodbye to our final cohort of volunteers and are honored to be completing the final stages of program with volunteers from the local community. We are pleased to announce that we have completed construction at three of the six schools: Nuevo Eden, Monja Blanca and El Manantial providing safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure impacting 172 students.
Construction at the final three schools, Las Ruinas, Santa Rosa and El Paraiso is underway and progressing smoothly thanks to the hard work of our staff team and local volunteers. At Las Ruinas and Santa Rosa, the foundations of the new latrine blocks have been poured and the walls are starting to go up. At El Paraiso, excavation for the foundations of the new latrine block is complete and the foundations are on track to be complete by the end of April.
Through our partnership with ADRI and the Guatemalan chapter of PERIOD., we have been conducting hygiene training with the school communities. Over two weeks in April, in collaboration with ADRI, we held hand-washing training with parents at each of the six schools, ensuring ongoing use of the water systems and establishing long-term solutions for entire communities.
In April, we conducted our first virtual training session in partnership with the Guatemalan chapter of PERIOD., providing education on menstrual hygiene and dispelling the entrenched social stigmas around menstruation. We invited 400 individuals to attend both the virtual and upcoming in-person training sessions.
Partnership Spotlight: PERIOD.
PERIOD. is a global youth-powered nonprofit that strives to eradicate period poverty and stigma through service, education and advocacy. PERIOD. aims to center those disproportionately affected by period poverty and support local efforts for menstrual equity. In 2019, UNICEF reported that in Latin America, 43% of students who have their menstrual period prefer not to attend school on those days, making menstruation one of the leading causes of school absenteeism.
PERIOD.’s chapter in Guatemala will provide menstrual hygiene training for the teachers, parents and older students of the six schools AHAH has been working with and the broader community. The first stage involved surveying with individuals to understand their current knowledge base around menstrual hygiene and, crucially, if they are interested in knowing more about the topic. Thirteen of the fifteen individuals interviewed consider it essential to learn more about the issue and would like AHAH and PERIOD. to support their communities with menstrual hygiene training. The survey also highlighted the entrenched social stigmas that menstruation is seen as ‘shameful’ and menstrual blood as ‘dirty’. By raising awareness about menstrual hygiene, we can improve not only girls’ education but girls’ future.
“My name is Ernesto Tiul Coc; I have four positions in this community and region of Sesajal, including being the leader of the Community Development Council and President of the Local Government Unit. Everything that has happened in the two hurricanes last year, it affected us a lot because we have never experienced something like that, so we did not know what to do and how to react to hurricanes. Now we are learning how to protect the lives of the people in our community. And thanks to the All Hands and Hearts organization, a community center is being built that will serve as a shelter if a flood should happen again. As we have already experienced, the community center will also serve for us to receive training.
Thanks for all the support! Sesajal now looks more beautiful, we are very happy and thanks to all the people from different parts of the world who are working here for us” – Ernesto Tiul, local community leader.
In November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota, both Category 4 storms, devastated communities across Central America. First, Hurricane Eta struck on November 3 and slowly moved across northern Nicaragua and into eastern Honduras, before continuing its path into northeastern Guatemala and the Caribbean on November 6. Just 15 miles away from Eta’s landfall, near Haulover, Iota then struck on November 17 and followed a similar path. Both storms led to significant flooding and landslides across the region, impacting millions of people.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was historically active, with Iota bringing the season’s count to 30 named storms, the most ever recorded.
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