Learn a bit about what their experience has been like as they collect important data in Nicaragua! Click the video to watch.
April 2021 Newsletter
Greetings from our Executive Director – Energized for the year ahead
We are excited to have broken ground on a water and latrine project in the community of Mancera Central, returning to that community after collaborating to build a new school building in 2019. As its name suggests, it is the center of a group of smaller villages, with a high school and a health clinic that serves all of those surrounding villages. In these rural communities, high school occurs every Saturday and students take their homework for the rest of the week, to complete after they finish their chores. Going to high school is quite a commitment, walking or riding a horse for hours from the smaller villages to get to school. It was eye-opening and heart-warming to see the influx of teens that Saturday of our visit. Many of the girls were accompanied by moms or older brothers, for safety. It takes at least 5 years for them to graduate from high school, going only once a week as they do.
In 2019 the community mobilized to build a new school to serve as the primary school during the week, and the high school on Saturdays, just as they are now mobilizing to build a water system to provide safe drinking water for their families. It was the fastest school we’ve seen come together and that energy is continuing on the water project.
We are so very grateful for the support of The Burdine Johnson Foundation for financially supporting the Mancera Central water project. Their sustaining support over the years has brought safe water to hundreds of families.
We are also grateful and thrilled to report winning our second Rotary International Global Grant! This grant will pay for the water and latrine project in the community of Bilampi, which we will break ground on in early summer 2021. We’re excited to share an interview, below, of KC Cerny, the driving force behind these complex grant applications. In designing this system, our water engineer reported this community having the worst water quality he had ever seen. The families in Bilampi cannot wait to get started. They should have clean water in their homes by the end of the year!
And, in between these 2 water projects, we will collaborate in the community of Malakawas to build a new school, after finishing a water project there last year. In our survey work leading up to commencing this project, we’ve seen the highest level of adult continuing education of all of the communities we’ve worked in previously. It is great to see parents just as eager to continue their education as the children, and they cannot wait to have a new school building in which to study.
Your support makes all these projects possible. We invite you to one of our upcoming ‘Crash Courses’ to learn more about 2021 projects and the communities where we’ve put your investment to work. I hope to see you there and bring a friend or two to help us spread the word. It would be a huge gift.
Project Update: March 2021
Clean water is flowing in Mancera, Nicaragua. The forty families in this small community have been working since December to harness a high elevation spring to bring water to their homes.
They’ve finished the spring capture process and clean water is flowing downhill through pipes they are currently working to bury in a 2-mile trench to the site of a future storage tank. Once that first section of the main conduction line is complete, they can start building the 45,000-gallon storage tank that will provide water to their homes.
This is back-breaking work and this particular spring capture was more difficult than average. Sometimes the springs are easily accessible and not located far from the community they will serve, but in Mancera, the spring is two miles up a formidable mountain accessible only via narrow trails. All the cement, sand, gravel, and pvc had to be carried on horses, mules, and by hand in the hot sun and, sometimes simultaneously, through deep mud.
I’m continually amazed at the persistence and sheer physical fortitude of the communities we work with. They spend month after month carrying supplies, digging trenches by hand, and laboring in challenging conditions to get water to their families. This project is slated to be complete by August of 2021.
Director of Operations
Partner Spotlight: KC Cerny, West Austin Rotary Club President
In describing the work of the West Austin Rotary Club, KC Cerny highlights the service organization’s motto: “Service above Self. ” Over the past few years, KC has truly lived this motto by working tirelessly with Rotary International to help secure two of the largest grants in Project Schoolhouse’s history. Combined, these Rotary International grants funded water projects in three communities.
Projects in El Aulo and Nueva Jerusalem were completed in 2020 and the third project in Bilampi will break ground in early 2021. KC has been an active Rotarian since 1990 and is currently the President of the West Austin Rotary Club. KC and the sponsorship of the West Austin Rotary Club were instrumental Project Schoolhouse winning these grants.
In a recent conversation with KC, he explained Rotary International is a significant funder of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects around the world and has a long history of advancing efforts to further peace and understanding. Rotary International, founded in 1905, quickly spread around the globe, with clubs in Europe, Asia and South and Central America. In fact, one requirement for securing this global grant was establishing a partnership with a Rotary Club in Nicaragua, which we did in Matagalpa. The global grant funds for the projects are distributed through the bank accounts of the local Matagalpa Rotary Club. As KC explains, “Rotary International doesn’t just fund these types of projects, but they get highly involved in them as well.”
In describing his personal connections to the work of Project Schoolhouse, KC reflected on his experiences as a camper. “If you have ever been camping, you know how important it is to find clean water.” That’s why when Tab gave a Project Schoolhouse presentation to the West Austin Rotary Club a few years ago he was intrigued. But KC was not the only West Austin Rotarian who was intrigued by Tab’s presentation: “Several [Rotarians] had positions with major corporations in South America…and they were intrigued by what Tab was talking about.” KC and the other Rotarians connected to the notion of just how vital it is to have clean, running water. They connected to the hardships related to having children walk for miles every day to fill buckets of water from the river or other water sources, how these children miss school and often get sick from drinking unsanitary water. KC and the other Rotarians were also attracted to Project Schoolhouse’s mission to create low-cost and effective water systems that could be installed and maintained by folks living in these rural communities.
As KC explains, “from a Rotary International standpoint what this means is you’ve got a project that delivers clean water, meaning the disease incidence goes down, the kids get to go to school and people aren’t spending hours just hauling water up the hillside. You know, you can actually be out working in your fields or gardens…The point here is, it is economically viable and it helps promote the health of the community. And health has been something that Rotary International has been focused on for decades.” KC continues, “and having Tab visit Nicaragua on a regular basis is very important to Rotary International for purposes of funding the Global Grant.”
When asked about future collaborations between the West Austin Rotary Club and Project Schoolhouse, KC extended a warm invitation to members of the greater Project Schoolhouse family to attend future Rotary Meetings and consider joining the organization. And KC expressed excitement about visiting Nicaragua. Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, KC planned to visit the sites funded by the Rotary International Grant. After securing public health clearance, KC and his wife plan to lead a team of Rotarians to visit the three villages in the Spring of 2022–”fingers crossed.”
Written by Ana Valente and Kris Sloan