2011.02.01: February 1, 2011: Elise Pagel is rallying the people of Las Auyamas in the Dominican Republic to construct and install 20 pit latrines at homes that don't have proper facilities

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Dominican Republic: Peace Corps Dominican Republic : Peace Corps Dominican Republic: New Stories: 2011.02.01: February 1, 2011: Elise Pagel is rallying the people of Las Auyamas in the Dominican Republic to construct and install 20 pit latrines at homes that don't have proper facilities

By Admin1 (admin) (98.188.147.225) on Friday, June 03, 2011 - 2:02 pm: Edit Post

Elise Pagel is rallying the people of Las Auyamas in the Dominican Republic to construct and install 20 pit latrines at homes that don't have proper facilities

Elise Pagel is rallying the people of Las Auyamas  in the Dominican Republic to construct and install 20 pit latrines at homes that don't have proper facilities

"I spent the first three months at my site walking around to all of the homes in my community to gather information about lifestyles and living conditions," Pagel said in a recent e-mail from the Dominican Republic, a country that shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti. "With this information I was able to see the lack of access to proper bathroom facilities was an important priority for this community. One day after spending a couple of hours at one household I casually asked to use the restroom. The mother glanced at her husband and two adolescent children, all speechless and displaying quiet looks of embarrassment. And then she explained my options. I could hike up the hill into the fields or walk down to the stream, as these are their two available bathrooms. Improving access to sanitary bathrooms is a priority for this community because without them, the health of the entire community is sacrificed."

Elise Pagel is rallying the people of Las Auyamas in the Dominican Republic to construct and install 20 pit latrines at homes that don't have proper facilities

Peace Corps volunteer from Appleton looks for an assist from hometown

By Kara Patterson Post-Crescent staff writer February 1, 2011

Farming, family, friends and food are the rhythms of life in the Dominican Republic campo of Las Auyamas, where Appleton North High School graduate Elise Pagel serves as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Yet for all its richness of culture and community, Las Auyamas is struggling to meet a basic need of its residents. About 30 percent of its 485 people do not have access to sanitary bathroom facilities at home, Pagel said.

"I spent the first three months at my site walking around to all of the homes in my community to gather information about lifestyles and living conditions," Pagel said in a recent e-mail from the Dominican Republic, a country that shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti. "With this information I was able to see the lack of access to proper bathroom facilities was an important priority for this community. One day after spending a couple of hours at one household I casually asked to use the restroom. The mother glanced at her husband and two adolescent children, all speechless and displaying quiet looks of embarrassment.

And then she explained my options. I could hike up the hill into the fields or walk down to the stream, as these are their two available bathrooms. Improving access to sanitary bathrooms is a priority for this community because without them, the health of the entire community is sacrificed."

Pagel, 23, a 2009 graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., is rallying the people of Las Auyamas to work together to solve the problem during the rest of her 27-month Peace Corps commitment, which began with training in March 2010 and ends in May 2012.

Pagel's Peace Corps Partnership Program project stipulates that Las Auyamas families will help masons construct and install 20 pit latrines at homes that don't have proper facilities. The families also must attend educational workshops by Pagel and health promoters on latrine use and maintenance and hand-washing basics.

"We will provide information about the routes of transmission of common illnesses, and how they can be prevented simply by washing hands after bathroom use," Pagel said. "To encourage those behaviors, we will guide a session on creating and installing simple hand-washing devices made of gallon jugs and string to be used with the new latrines."

Residents of Las Auyamas are contributing 39 percent of the funds, or about $2,419, to the sanitary bathroom and hygiene promotion project. Pagel is asking the Fox Valley for assistance in covering about $2,840, or what remains to be raised of her $3,770 fundraising request.

"As volunteers we cannot receive funding directly, so we partner with community leaders and organizations to design and implement appropriate projects in the community," Pagel said. "Peace Corps Partnership Program projects require at least a 25 percent contribution of the total cost to come from the (beneficiary) community, which helps to ensure adequate support, interest and involvement from the beneficiary. Not all Peace Corps volunteers complete projects using this type of funding, but it is the best way to allow people and organizations from the States to donate directly to a Peace Corps volunteer's project."

When Pagel attended Appleton North, she studied environmental and biophysical science with Connie Roop.

"I'm really proud of her," said Roop of Appleton, who since has retired from teaching. "She is very creative and from the beginning I identified her as an excellent problem-solver. I wasn't particularly surprised that she as a Peace Corps volunteer was able to go into a community and assess and see what is the best thing that can happen here, and pull people together. I just think that these are the kinds of on-the-ground projects that are going to do tremendous good short-term and long-term, and they are an investment for global relationships. They'll remember Elise and their lives will be improved. That's the way our foreign service is probably most effectively done."

The challenges of living and working overseas outside a cubicle appeal to Pagel, but she also is interested in community development work, she said. The Peace Corps, founded in 1961, sends American volunteers to serve in 77 countries throughout the developing world.

"... In the end I wanted to help give the tools to others so that they may find health and happiness in their own lives," said Pagel, who majored in environmental studies and geography in college. "The Peace Corps sounded like the perfect way to reach my own personal goals while giving back, and sharing some of what I've learned through my own past opportunities and experiences."

Pagel said Las Auyamas families are driving the project. Some are members of a committee that has met to discuss logistics. One resident is setting aside a room of his house for materials storage. Others are providing skilled labor for families who need a latrine but can't provide capable workers.

Pagel and health promoters who worked on the latrine construction plan to visit families one month after the project's completion.

"We will be checking to see that only bathroom waste is being placed in the pit, and that everything is in working order," Pagel said. "During those visits we will also discuss with the families the effectiveness of the hand-washing device, verify its use and review the importance of proper hygiene."

Proof of the project's sustainability already stands in the Dominican Republic.
"We will be using the same design used in a project from five years ago, where all of the latrines built are still in use," Pagel said. "The beneficiaries of the project will gain first-hand experience in the process of constructing and maintaining a latrine."




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: February, 2011; Peace Corps Dominican Republic; Directory of Dominican Republic RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Dominican Republic RPCVs; Public Health





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Story Source: Post Crescent

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Dominican Republic; Public Health

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