Friday, July 1, 2011

On the Importance of Outhouses

Over the past couple of weeks I wake up and repeat the mantra, "I am calm, and at peace." a few times before I dart out of bed and start the day.  It's been a little crazy around here lately with the arrival and then departure of some Honduran volunteers for my "Sources" Canada World Youth  water project, my first experiences with Honduran financial paperwork, and scrambling to apply to the "Glimpse Correspondents' Program" by yesterday's deadline.  All this, and a boss who was travelling in Mexico and was only intermittently available by Blackberry or occasional messages from fellow ASONOG employees.  Skype, Facebook, texting...I use technology here as much or more than I did in Canada.

I am happy to report that this Canada Day is chill  for me, and I'm enjoying a little down time along with all the Canadians who are vacationing today.  If you're out camping in the British Columbia wilderness this long weekend, give Smokey the Bear a hug for me would you? 

The reprieve will come to an abrupt halt on July 11th when my 3 Honduran volunteers and their 3 Canadian counterparts arrive here in Santa Rosa de Copan to continue with our water project. For 8 adventure packed weeks, we're going to be cruising around the countryside of Western Honduras, meeting with local NGO's, municipal governments, the Secretary of Health, and community water boards, to learn about and document the good, bad and ugly, water management practices in these parts.  From all this, we will create an educatiional tool targetted to youth leaders in local communities, to help them take action on water related issues.  The Canadians will bring this tool back to Canada, where it will be shared with several other "Youth Leaders in Action" programs of Canada World Youth, which will then help to affect change in several other countries where these programs are held.

"Like what sort of water related issues?" you ask... well for example, many of the rural areas have no latrines.  Not a proper outhouse for miles around, just the fresh, open air between you and your deposits.  As you can imagine, this causes problems.  For example, every year when the rainy season starts in May,  there are outbreaks of Hepititis A in all the downstream communities, because the surface water gets contaminated by all this open air, "no dedicated location"  potty behaviour.

Why don't we just solicit funds from somewhere and build some latrines?  Simple right?  Gosh, these development workers must be real dolts... Well, problem is, when you and your parents and their parents' parents have never used, nor maintained, nor felt the need for an outhouse...and suddenly an outhouse becomes might just as likely use it as a chicken coop as a poop collecting device.  Affecting behaviour changes in widely dispersed rural populations is challenging. So, please, don't just poo-poo this.

I don't have any photos of latrines-turned-chicken-coops yet, but here's a link to a photo album of some of my favourite pics from my Honduran adventures so far.  I used this in my application to the "Glimpse Correspondents" program.  If I get selected,  my blog will improve because I'll get professional writing, editting and photography advice especially aimed at storytelling from travel!  Cool eh?  Fingers crossed!

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