When schools have no water or sustainable infrastructure and poor sanitation behavior, students suffer. UNICEF has identified Haiti and Honduras as the two most needy countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Dr. Michael Barrington, a Concord Rotarian, presented the WASH in School project to the local Rotary Clubs on Rotary’s sanitation efforts being conducted in Honduras.  It was an eye-opening education of the need for such humanitarian attention.

The WASH in Schools Target Challenge is a program created to motivate Rotary clubs to develop sustainable Water, Sanitation, Hygiene (collectively referred to as WASH) to impoverished schools. By improving the health and education of children, they hope to create a cycle of opportunity: that is, improved education, increased school attendance, and improved academic performance. These are two of Rotary’s areas of focus: basic education and literacy and water and sanitation.
Barrington reported that parents there hesitate to send their kids to school because of the water and sanitation circumstances. Water is scarce. It is only pumped in two days a week but the water is unsafe. Children often get sick due to E. coli contamination. Schools only have one bathroom to serve 400 students. They are unclean, dilapidated stalls, a step above an outhouse. So, if a student must go, they often go home, missing two to three hours of classroom. Menstruating girls will miss several days in a row. With no on-site sanitation facilities, what choice do they have? Unfortunately, most girls will drop out of school once they reach this age.
The Rotary of Concord and its partners (10 local clubs) are working with the host clubs of Tocoa and Trujillo in Honduras to complete a six-year WASH in Schools Project. In all, 30 schools are being targeted with $398,000 in funds from the Local clubs, District and Rotary International organizations.
Dr. Michael Barrington, travels all over the world providing Monitoring and Evaluation Services to humanitarian organizations such as USAID, UNICEF, Oxfam, Save the Children etc. He provides the same services for Rotary International and as a committed member of the Concord Rotary Club.
Working with civil engineers, they have built holding tanks so that the water can be chlorinated before being pumped to the schools. The goal is to provide the full range of WASH services to 30 schools including construction and renovation of bathrooms, provision of clean drinking water, provision of hygiene materials, WASH training for all teachers, Rotarians & parent groups. All UNICEF standards will be met, 650 teachers will be trained and the lives of approximately 12,000 students affected.
It is early in its development, but the reception has been well received. Since there is no money available from the Government, the schools’ PTA have volunteered and agreed to a self-imposed tax on each family who has a child in school. This money will eventually be targeted to sustain and maintain the infrastructure once Rotary efforts and funding cease. Fortunately, their money won’t be needed for another seven years and can accumulate until then.
For more information on the WASH in School project go to https://my.rotary.org/en/wash-schools-target-challenge.

Photos by Susan Wood