Dos Pueblos Joins the Global #GivingTuesday Movement

Help Us Raise $3000 for Potable Water in Rural Tipitapa!

Dos Pueblos is proud to participate in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage philanthropy and celebrate generosity worldwide. Occurring this year on November 28, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the US and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

#GivingTuesday kicks off the holiday giving season and inspires people to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support. With our campaign, we are building upon our five-year relationship with Marvin Salazar, a community in a rural part of Tipitapa with very limited resources.

In 2012, Dos Pueblos and other partners built wells to provide access to clean drinking water in five different communities in Tipitapa, including Marvin Salazar. As the next step, we installed an electric pump that benefited 200 families in this community. Inspired by our water sanitation work and the desire to make a difference, a Dos Pueblos teen delegate donated her bat mitzvah money to provide trees as part of the reforestation phase this year. Now, for the final phase of this project, we’re raising $3000 to install a water tank so that residents can safely store potable water.

Dos Pueblos has been working on clean water in Tipitapa from a time when most communities there had no electricity and could only use hand-cranked pumps. As they got power, we began working with them to replace their hand pumps with electric pumps, and contributed to community efforts digging trenches and laying pipe to create small distribution systems to communal spigots, and then to individual houses. We also assisted some communities to upgrade from small electric pumps to larger ones, to deepen their wells, and more. Our work has improved access to potable water for over 8,000 people in Tipitapa.

A huge part of this process depended on our local program coordinator, Rosa Gomez, who developed the organizing capacity of the water committees in each community. Recently, our community partners identified the installation of storage tanks as the next phase of development. We hope that you will join us in supporting this community-led initiative!

Zoe’s Bat Mitzvah Garden is Planted in Tipitapa!

During our February 2016 trip, U.S. youth delegate Zoe Sepsenwol learned that wells are protected when they have trees around them. Her father, Jonathan Sepsenwol, and his friend, David Haber, had supported the upgrading of a water source in one of Tipitapa’s poorest settlements. Zoe became determined to follow up after she returned from Nicaragua by raising $500 for her Bat Mitzvah and donating it for planting fruit trees and other soil- and water-protective plants around the well in the Marvin Salazar community. With know-how and labor from community members and the Arco Iris youth team, our Nicaraguan partners waited until the rainy season started in May, the right time for planting. Look at the results!

The entire Arco Iris team chipped in to plant 18 citrus trees and 18 banana and palm trees.

The entire Arco Iris team chipped in to plant 18 citrus trees and 18 banana and palm trees.

Among the clusters of plants are 18 citrus trees and 18 banana and palm trees. The Nicaraguans are thrilled with the idea that 18 signifes “life” in the Jewish tradition, as water is truly a source of life. The project nicely complements our theme of cross-cultural communication about religious traditions this year.

I visited the community in February 2017 before this year’s delegation arrived, and saw once again how this water project has made an enormous difference in the lives of the people in this community with very limited resources. Another exciting aspect of this project is a new collaboration with the Arco Iris team. Joselyn Urbina Corea, an Arco Iris teen, has been active in gardening and tree- planting both at the Dos Pueblos library in Chilamatillo and at her high school. She saw Zoe’s project as an opportunity to take on additional responsibilities, so she is using her gardening skills and growing tremendously as a leader through this project. We’re so proud of the hard work and accomplishments of both of these young women!

Joselyn (right) helps oversee Zoe's reforestation project in Marvin Salazar.

Joselyn (right) helps oversee Zoe's reforestation project in Marvin Salazar.

An Ironic History of Water Scarcity in the Land of the Lakes

Collecting water in Ciudad de Dios Called “The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes,” Nicaragua supposedly received its name from the Spanish Conquistadors: a hybrid of Nicarao, the chief of a local indigenous tribe, and agua, the Spanish word for water. How ironic then, that the country boasting the largest supply of freshwater in Central America suffers from a chronic scarcity of safe drinking water.

According to El Porvenir, more than two-thirds of Nicaragua’s rural communities lack access to clean potable water, with serious consequences for infant mortality, health, and even education – women and children are often forced to travel for hours each day to find water, leaving little time for school or work.

So if Nicaragua has such an abundance of water as a natural resource – with availability that is more than five times the average for the Central American region – then why do its citizens struggle to access it every day?

The answer lies, in part, in the country’s long water policy history. Under the Somoza dictatorship until 1979, much of the water system was owned and operated by the private sector, meaning that consumers had to pay full price for operation and maintenance of the system. This made the price of water inaccessible for Nicaragua’s poorest populations. Although today the country’s water supply and sanitation is a public good, pollution and service problems continue to restrict access. The city of Managua had been dumping untreated wastewater into Lake Managua for over 80 years, and the Nicaraguan Water and Sewerage Enterprise estimates that effective coverage is still less than 60% due to insufficient and unreliable service.

In attempts to fill this gap, local water committees and organizations such as Dos Pueblos and El Porvenir have undertaken water projects with local partners. With the generous help of the Cottonwood Foundation, Dos Pueblos’ potable water project works with local Nicaraguan communities, empowering people to come together to lay pipes, build wells, and ultimately develop community-owned small-scale infrastructure to guarantee sustainable water access. Over the past year, Dos Pueblos has transformed five rural communities, improving health, education and governance, and demonstrating just how important water is. But millions still lack access to this vital resource, and there is much to be done. See how you can make a difference - donate or volunteer today!

Bringing Water to an Entire Community

Last week I got back from my first trip to Tipitapa.

My time there was packed with so many amazing activities—drives out to over a dozen rural communities, visits with young people involved in our libraries and softball programs—that it’s hard to pick what to write about. But for now I’ll focus on just one community, Marvin Salazar, we visited to follow up on a water project.

After turning off the highway and driving down a bumpy dirt road for a spell, we pulled up in front of an open air church to meet with members of the Water Committee and greater community.

The wind was picking up, so we moved our meeting to a small building beside the church to hear how local organizers put together a water project that delivers water directly to households in their community. As the committee’s president, Juan de Fuentes, described their work, I was wowed by the level of organization this project involved.

Community members standing next to their new electric pump.
Community members standing next to their new electric pump.

After having organized to get electricity in their community last year, community members used support from Dos Pueblos to install a large electric pump that can deliver water directly to people’s homes. Each household bought into the water system by purchasing the piping for their units (about $13 each), and in an effort to make the process as transparent as possible, the Water Committee made a point to manage paper, not money—collecting receipts that showed each household had made its contribution to the project. Finally, in an effort to better manage their water supply and maintain their pump, the Water Committee split the community into four sectors and installed switches in the piping system so that water delivery goes sector by sector, with each receiving two hours of access at a designated time each day.

Water is provided to each sector of the community for two hours at a time using this key.

As we walked through Marvin Salazar, we got to see their new infrastructure at work, stopping at the sector switches and watching as people took advantage of the outdoor taps at their homes. It was inspiring to see so much good come from such a small investment of resources. As a first-time visitor in the area, I felt hopeful that our partnerships with local organizers can make a tremendous impact in people’s lives. But as a volunteer in the US, I also felt compelled to do more to meet the level of work being done by volunteers in Nicaragua. Walking through the most remote area of the community, where more than 400 houses are still waiting for piping to be installed, I looked forward to the next few months of work, and to my next visit, when the piping trenches will be filled in, and the water will be flowing in every home.

Access to Water is a Basic Human Right

That is why much of our work focuses on getting clean water to the neediest in Tipitapa. Potable water protects the most vulnerable, children and elders from water-borne diseases, and frees residents, especially women, from the endless daily task of obtaining what they call “el líquido vital.” It is one of the most powerful – and cost effective – ways of helping communities organize around meeting their basic needs to break the cycle of poverty. In the last eight years, our partners in Nicaragua have coordinated many projects bringing clean water to growing communities (over 20,000 families). With support from our individual donors and the generosity of the Cottonwood Foundation, our experienced volunteers lead the way by providing technical expertise, and the communities always contribute the ?sweat equity‘ to install the refurbished wells. Once the basic necessity of water is met, our volunteers continue to engage the communities in addressing local health and education needs.

The bad news is that the Cottonwood Foundation is closing its doors in May. The good news is that they have recognized our work with a final Legacy Grant to provide healthy water to 10 new communities. This grant will allow us to reach the most rural regions in Tipitapa – those that are most excluded from society – so that they may play an active role in protecting their health and their families. In other words this means child mortality is reduced, schools are built, water pollution is decreased, and economic opportunities begin. Help us provide these basic rights to Nicaraguans. We need your support more than ever to continue this important work. Please don‘t forget to make a generous donation today.