PP Florencio Naguit
In 2017, my club began our first global grant project, an effort to provide 28 toilets to three communities of indigenous people called Aetas. Two of these communities were in an isolated area in the mountainous region of Capas, Tarlac: a five-hour drive from Manila (including two hours by 4×4 jeep over rough terrain) while the third is in Angeles City, Pampanga. They have no toilets in their homes like more than 9 million households in our country. They either rely on crude pit latrines or defecate in the open or river. This leaves them open to diseases like diarrhea and cholera. The roughly 43 families in Sitio Flora and 79 in nearby Sitio Kawayan in Capas and 20 families in Sitio Babo, Angeles City are mostly farmers.
In my first visit to Flora and Kawayan, three priests accompanied me. The principal among them is the priest in charge of Aetas affairs in Tarlac, who is also the head of the Lord’s Family Foundation. The village leaders toured me to their sitios under a blazing sun. I was surprised to see their concrete water tanks. They have their water source. The water comes from the mountain spring and is piped down through kilometers-long laid pipes. Several water stations are set up in strategic areas in the village. After the tour, I recall, one of the leaders said in vernacular that “nongovernment organizations and politicians had visited us often, promising to build toilets, but none had ever been built.” “I won’t blame the NGOs,” I said, “Logistics wise, it is a complex venture.” The ladies were enthusiastic and lobbying to have the toilets, while some of the men were ambivalent. The three priests also spoke. They explained how the toilets can help in their well-being particularly in their health and sanitation, besides it is free except for their volunteer work. They realized, then, Rotary’s objective was genuine.
Rotarians made visits to the community to learn about and understand current hygiene practices, willingness to work on the project, and the communities’ desire for toilets. We were successful in accomplishing the community assessment. The project was difficult and time-consuming, from completing the necessary survey and assessment process, to delivering building materials up the mountains and across rivers. When the weather permits, frequent visits to the sites were necessary.
Work began in Flora in early 2018 during the dry season, December through April, when roads are mostly passable. We hired a three-person work crew and organized local volunteers to help in the construction. The work crew transferred to Sitio Babo in Angeles City to construct their toilets. A year before, our club built eight toilets for 105 families in the area funded by a District Grant. Construction of toilets in Kawayan began in 2019 after Flora’s toilets were completed. The project provided free meals and snacks to the volunteers daily.
Each toilet had a septic tank. The foundations, walls, and roofs were set properly. The tiles and toilet bowls were installed correctly and the final coat of paint was done. We added solar lamps for their night use. Laminated posters on hand washing, proper toilet practice, and the methods of toilet cleaning were hung on the toilet walls. We erected three noticeable Rotary markers in each sitio with the twenty four-inch Rotary emblem on top and stainless plate describing the project.
The training component of the WASH project is a very significant element of the project. Without it, TRF will not approve the project. Training encourages and hastens behavioral change. Without it, the sustainability of the project is compromised. We produced four training modules: 1. The importance of Hand Washing, 2. Breaking the cycle of fecal contamination, 3. Small Doable Actions to improve Safe Disposal of Human Feces, 4. Toilet Cleanliness. Our references came from USAID “ Essential WASH Actions” and Rotary Pacific Water for Life Foundation on WASH Activity Guide for Communities. We did two kinds of training: Macro and Micro. In most of our inspection visits, Rotarians did the macro training. The local teachers assigned in the sitios’ public elementary schools conducted the Micro training.
This project came into fruition because of the successful cooperation nurture with our international partner, the Rotary Club of Batemans Bay. Aside from their contribution, the foreign primary contact solicited additional sums from their District and other Rotary clubs in NSW, Australia. We have been working with them yearly on WASH projects and other humanitarian projects for more than two decades. In February 2020, they came to celebrate with us at the dedication ceremony handing the completed toilets over to the villagers of the three sitios.
After almost three years of planning, traveling, constructing, and training, we submitted our final report to the Rotary Foundation. It was accepted and approved without the need for clarification. We fulfilled our pledge to the Aetas. Rotary International did not let them down. The Aetas also prove they are worthy of this WASH project. They have owned the project through their volunteer work. They pledged to maintain and sustain their toilets. The cooperating organizations will see this goal accomplish because of their frequent contacts with the sitios. On March 23, 2021, World Water Day, Rotary International celebrated it by featuring this project as one of its successful WASH projects implemented.
Please visit: World Water Day stories:
Story https://www.rotary.org/en/philippine-wash-project-delivers-toilets-and-hygiene-education villages