Recently, I came back from a 5 week trip to one of the most gorgeous countries I´ve been to: Peru. This country in South America is outstanding for its impressive nature, ancient culture, great food but, mainly, for its welcoming and friendly people.
It has been a while since CAWST visited Peru. This was a great opportunity for me to get a better picture of the kinds of things our partners are doing in Peru and what kind of support was needed from CAWST. We were also able to recognize the huge need for water and sanitation, especially in remote areas, such as the Amazonian jungle, the Andes, or the peri-urban areas of the capital Lima which keeps growing every year.
I had the chance to visit two projects in the Cusco area, and it was great to see how organizations like DESEA and Soluciones Practicas are making significant efforts to bring safe drinking water to rural communities in the Andes above 3500 m! Particularly, I was very inspired from the project that Sandy Hart and Sandra Mcgirr have started in the Sacred Valley. They are implementing a comprehensive program that integrates PVC Biosand Filters and health care, but the most interesting part of their project is how they are focused on working on developing the capacities of local health promoters called “qhalis”, a term that in the local language, quechua, means “working for health”.
These women are taught, one of many topics, such as how to do follow-up visits to theirs neighbors to check if their filters are working properly. The picture shows how Geronima is measuring the flow rate to check if the filter is functioning properly. Most of the qhalis don’t know how to read or interpret numbers. That’s why DESEA has been very clever developing tools, such the jar in the picture, that will allow the qhalis to do their job more efficiently. Geronima and her colleagues are working very hard to make a difference in their communities, and I could see with my eyes that they are already making it.
Another interesting aspect of this trip was having the opportunity to witness the implemented projects from our WET Centre partner in the country, AguaSAN. They have installed more than 2500 filters in several communities in the peri-urban area of Lima. It was very rewarding to see how after a couple of years after the installation, most of the filters are still working very well and families have adopted them as a substantial part for keeping the health of their families. Several mothers had bright smiles on their faces when proudly talking about their filters. They recognized how the filters have contributed to reducing diarrhea and skin infections among the children in their households.
In this trip there were many other things that happened! For instance, I delivered a BioSand Filter Project Implementation workshop (with the support of Malena and Hillary, thanks!). We also carried out interviews for a research project examining the impact of CAWST’s training programs in implementing organizations like AguaSAN with Mount Royal University and connected with many of the organizations and institutions working on water and sanitation in Peru.
I was able to have many great experiences in Peru, however, the inspirational stories of Geronima and her colleagues and the successes of the mothers in Lima are the stories that stand out to me the most. These are just two examples of the big impact that many organizations all over the world are doing to improve the wellbeing of the most vulnerable.
Thank you to everyone who I met in Peru. You made Peru feel like home!
I hope to go back soon,
International Technical Advisor, South America.