( Article Submitted by Patrick Karney )
Providing Sanitary Facilities to Schools in Belize
Better Health = Better Education
Howard Smith Nazarene Principal Ardulfa Velasquez wrote:
“ Mr. Karney, Greetings from Howard Smith Nazarene School.
It is always a pleasure to hear from you. Thanks for checking on how we are doing with our bathrooms.
It’s a pleasure to tell you that since our bathroom has been built we have noted that absenteeism has been reduced from 25% to almost nothing. One of the reasons we had a high rate of absenteeism was due to children getting sick with a) flu, b) dengue, c) Malaria, d) urinary tract infection. These illnesses were caused by old pipes that leaked water causing waterborne illnesses and was suitable for breeding ground for mosquitos.
Due to the dark and dilapidated condition of the bathroom, children especially girls refused to go to the bathroom. Holding too long from going to the bathroom caused them to suffer from urinary tract infection. All these problems have been solved.
The new bathroom is enjoyed by all. None of the illnesses mentioned above have been reported. The new bathroom has been a blessing for us and for years to come.
Once again I thank all for the support given to our school. May God continue blessing you as you take up new projects to support the most needy schools in the Country of Belize.
Attentively, A. Velasquez, Principal “
That’s the kind of letter that any Rotary Club would be more than pleased to receive. In this case it was addressed to the Rotary Club of San Ignacio (RCSI), located in the Cayo District of Belize, Central America. RCSI has been providing modern sanitation facilities to schools in their area since 2005 via the Global Grant process. All toilets have been built in conformance with a basic UNICEF design. Through the years, San Ignacio has improved upon this design as experience, local conditions, and student needs have dictated. Some of those changes are translucent ceiling panels to eliminate need for electric power and enhanced sustainability, widening the structure for easier student access, and the addition of special-needs access where necessary.
To date the club has completed eleven (11) toilet structures, with the twelfth (12) currently under construction, with completion scheduled in January, 2017. San Ignacio uses a process that has evolved and improved over the past years. Most recently adding a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), between the Club and the school, and a second MOU between the Club and the contractor. These documents outline the responsibilities of each party, and the need for the school to commit to sustaining the toilets as the years pass.
In 2016, with great support from the the Rotary Club in Fairbanks, Alaska led by Mike & Peggy Pollen and Wayne Clark, the San Ignacio club leveraged $500 US of local club funds to construct the three toilet blocks costing $95,000 US. This clearly demonstrates the power sister clubs in North America and The Rotary Foundation bring to these worthy endeavors. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Rotary Foundation!
Following the completion of each of its school toilet facilities, the San Ignacio club works with the beneficiary school to organize a Toilet Inauguration ceremony which serves not only as a ribbon cutting for the building, but also creates the opportunity for the club to present good hygiene posters and in-person training to the students/staff. In turn, the school puts on an appreciation presentation for the Rotarians and guests which includes such things as interpretive dance, skits, student choral performances and other varied entertainment with refreshments provided by the children and their parents.
These “handing over” ceremonies provide an opportunity for not only the school to thank Rotary, but also for the school and the club to introduce the new facility to the community and representatives from the Belize Ministry of Education. This public exposure further showcases Rotary’s theme of Service Above Self to a broader audience. Each of the installations is emblazoned with signage identifying the installation as a Rotary International project, with attributions not only to the San Ignacio club, but also to those North American clubs that have contributed to its construction. It is San Ignacio’s pleasure to host representatives of those clubs who attend these events.
Rotary school toilets in the Cayo District have made the Rotary Wheel a widely recognized and respected brand in Belize.
These last three projects, by themselves, have brought the benefits of good hygiene to over 1,000 students and staff in just one school year. With annual student turnover, you can add another 200 new beneficiaries to that number each year throughout the life of these three facilities. As if not impressive enough, that number says nothing about the number of students and staff benefiting from the other eight (8) installations that Rotary Club of San Ignacio has built in past years.