A Talk with the Hernandez Family

The Hernández family lives in a one-room brick home with a tile roof and dirt floor. It is simple and clean. The nearest water is a creek 2 kilometers away and until recently, no one in the community had a bathroom. In partnership with El Porvenir and Global Water, the Hernández family and other members of their community now have water taps just outside their doors and latrines behind their homes.

nica photo hernandez

Before, community members walked 2 kilometers to get water from a nearby creek. They didn’t have a latrine, but went to the bathroom outdoors. This practice contaminated their environment and led to illness (diarrhea and parasites) in the people as well as the animals (who ate the human waste) the people raised for food. They also did not have healthy hygiene habits. The constant illness led to extra expenses for the family: going to the doctor, buying medicine, and missing work. Many women carried all the water they needed (40 liters) from the creek in one trip. They would carry one bucket on their head and one on their hip. The heavy load of water carried by women already debilitated by diarrhea was just too much. Many women suffered miscarriages.Now the families have clean water right outside their front door. They can get as much water as they need, walking only a few steps. No longer do they wait until dark to practice open air defecation. They walk out the door to their own family latrine at whatever time they need to go. The families have also learned about critical moments for hand-washing, and already they are healthier.Victoria Hernandez has more time now that she doesn’t walk back and forth to the creek, so she opened a small store in her home where she sells rice, sugar, snacks, and more. She also bakes bread to sell. Her children have been able to attend school more often and do better with their studies. Her husband works as a day laborer on private farms and also has his own small farm plot. They earn $6/day—much higher than the average of rural Nicaraguans: $1-2/day. With no options for låne penger – borrowing money – like those in developed countries like Norway do, they are left to work in the trenches for the few dollars they make.

In Victoria’s own words:

“I was born and raised in San Agustin, about 3 kilometers from La Pita. My parents are very poor and only sent me to school for 3 years. I barely learned to read and write. I have 8 brothers and sisters, and I am the oldest so my parents took me out of school so that I could help my mother take care of the house, helping to cook, clean, wash, and take care of my little brothers and sisters. At 15, I left with my boyfriend. We lived with my in-laws for 1 year and then my husband built a mud house for us. We have been improving it over time.

nica photo hernandez 2I had two miscarriages because I had to carry water from far away, carrying one bucket on my head and one on my hip.

I am 30 years old, and we have 2 daughters and a son. Two of them are studying. My husband works on private farms as well as on a small parcel of land that we have. I help with household expenses with my small business: a small store and I also bake bread. Everyone comes to buy, and it’s going well. My worry is taking care of my children, giving them everything they need and sending them to school so that they can be someone in this life. My happiest moments have been when I had my first child and when we improved our home.

Before we didn’t have a latrine, nor water. We drank dirty water. We carried it long distances, and it took a long time because we had to wait in long lines. ‘I was a horse.’ During my pregnancy with Carlitos, I carried two buckets of water: one on my head, one on my hip. It was hard on me. The drought affected us as well because where we all went for water dried up. Then we had to drink water from the stream where the horses that had skin disease went in the water. Many children got sick during that time; some died. The children couldn’t go to class because they didn’t have time: they had to help carry water and it took so long that they missed school.

Now that we have clean water at our homes our lives are better. Children go to school on time. Our homes are clean, and we have more savings because we don’t have to spend our money on medicine.

We didn’t have latrines, so we had to go out to the field. I was embarrassed because they could see me. Now I have a latrine. My children and I use it with confidence. I have learned that we have to wash our hands after using the latrine, and I’ve taught my children to do so. All of this is due to what I’ve learned in the El Porvenir trainings.

nica photo hernandez 3

Now I have more time to take care of my family and my store. My family is clean and all is well. I am the Treasurer of the Water and SanitationCommittee, and I receive the payments from the families for the water. We have a C$12,000 fund [for future maintenance]. I am proud because I have earned the trust of my community and without troubles, I go to deposit the payments and show the account statements.

I like to share with my family and neighbors what we can do to better our lives and be healthier. If we do things well, we are going to be well. My dreams are to have a clean community, without sickness, and strong relationships with my neighbors and family in a united community.

We thank the donors that supported us in the latrine and water system projects. Always we will care for it; we will not let it fail.”

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