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Water Challenges at Maya Jaguar

Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala Vice President Ted Rose, Secretary Susan Hill, and Director Bruce Powell, visited the Maya Jaguar School in April to assess the need for additional water, latrines, and students’ bathing facilities, as well as a possible upgrade of the kitchen stoves and water filters in the campus dining facility.

Water remains a critical need at the school. The approximately 30 large holding tanks fed by a rainwater catchment system provide inadequate water volume for the 36 students currently enrolled and resident staff. Student enrollment for school year 2024 (January through October) is hoped to increase to full capacity of 60 students.

Several options to deal with the current and future water short are under consideration.

Drilling for water on site is currently being explored. Reliable water has been found at a depth of 300 feet, but the large equipment needed to do the drilling found the roads to be impassable. Smaller drilling rigs pulled behind a truck are a potential, but availability of such equipment, drilling time, power, and capacity needs to be assessed.

Another option would be to use is a natural spring, but none has been found so far. Even a spring at a lower elevation could be used, but the lack of electricity to pump the water up the mountain and the cost is prohibitive.

The current water catchment system at the school uses only a little more than half the available roofs for the collection and storage of rain water. The rainy season is typically from June to December, the school year is January to October. Expanding the catchment system is a possible solution to the water shortage, but additional tanks, tubing, and drains would be required. Currently, only some of the storage tanks are connected directly to the water catchment system. When those tanks are full the drain tubes need to be manually changed to the empty tanks. One suggestion was to provide interconnecting tubes to the empty tanks from the tanks tied directly to the catchment drains. This way the water would automatically drain into the empty tanks. Another suggestion was to construct a large cistern to store excess rain water in dry times. Water from the cistern could be pumped to the needed areas, but lack of electricity remains an issue.

A bath house for the male students and teachers is desperately needed. The bucket method or going to the river are currently the only options. There is a four-shower stall building with drainage below the boys’ dorms now. Four years ago it was in use, but it is now in disrepair and is used as a dry place to hang washed clothes. Its use was probably discontinued due to the lack of water. The female students and teachers have a six-stall shower room with three flush toilets and five sinks located in their newer dormitory. It is a clean, well-appointed bathhouse but also lacks adequate water, estimated at only about one-third of the needed volume - an additional four tanks would be required. Male students need a similar facility. The male teachers’ lodging is a fair distance from the male student dorms and therefore may benefit from a separate facility but, again, water is the bigger concern.

The latrines have been upgraded recently and may be adequate for current enrollment, but the school will need additional latrines with anticipated full student enrollment next year. Prefabricated structures are available for the surrounds, but holes would need to be dug or alternate designs for the waste disposal would need to be reviewed.

Accompanying the group on the campus tour were volunteers from a Barillas based NGO, Hands for Peacemaking. They were very helpful in identifying potential solutions to our concerns. Maya Jaguar Executive Director Osman was particularly interested in the large prefabricated stoves they could provide for the kitchen and the cooking area below the kitchen. Currently all food is prepared on open fires that put out a tremendous amount of heat and smoke and use large amounts of scarce firewood. The enclosed wood stoves reduce the use of wood by nearly ten times and redirect the heat. Ted suggested that we could possibly trade the unused slab mill in storage in need of repair for a couple of the larger stoves.

Currently all drinking water is boiled. An Eco filter suggested by Hands for Peacemaking is a small five-gallon bucket that has proven effective and could eliminate the need to burn a significate amount of wood. The units are fairly small and could be located throughout the campus. The filters would need to be replaced and the units cleaned, but they could provide better access to clean drinking water currently lacking at the school.

Osman was pleased to report that no new students have chosen to leave the school this year. Typically, three to five have left by this time in the school year to return to their families or migrate to other areas. Osman's key focus is on the quality of the education the students are receiving and keeps an eye on the teachers, curriculum, and the students' test scores. He is also interested in having a nurse at the school. Overall health of the students, as well as dental and vision care, are a concern.

Overall, things at Maya Jaguar are extremely impressive and encouraging, but more improvements are vital and need to be addressed by the board, with full support from our generous donors.


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