Guillermo and Alejandra are Community Activists for Clean Water

By Orlando Montiel Salas – Clean Water Program Officer

Guillermito and Alejandra are water heroes!

64-year-old Guillermo serves as the Water and Sanitation Committee (CAPS) maintenance technician for his community, Cruz Verde, which is 25 km (approx. 15 mi) from the Self-Help International Nicaragua office.

Guillermito (“Little Guillermo,” as he’s known throughout the community) has eight children with his wife, Alejandra. They also have three grandchildren. Guillermito and Alejandra have lived in Cruz Verde for more than 20 years, and their entire family drinks and uses the water that comes from a gravity aqueduct that the non-profit Water, Sanitation, and Community Organization Programme (PASOC) built in 1999.

Guillermito served seven years directing and organizing Cruz Verde’s CAPS. The committee mainly consisted of women, including his wife Alejandra, who elected him to serve as the committee coordinator responsible for representing the CAPS and community to the project engineers who were installing the aqueduct.

On a recent visit to Cruz Verde, Guillermito and Alejandra wanted to tell Self-Help’s Clean Water Program staff the story of their commitment to the work of their community’s CAPS:

“I always accompanied the engineers and technicians who were carrying out the aqueduct project. I worked with a group of mostly women from the community because the women worried the most about having water access in their homes,” Guillermito said. “Women bear most of the burden of limited water access because they are the ones who have to travel long distances to bring water to the house or to wash clothes in a creek or river.

“When the truck arrived carrying the PVC pipe to build the aqueduct, I remember that the women and their older children unloaded the truck first. The men in the Cruz Verde were reluctant to collaborate in unloading the truck with the materials, so the women had to do it,” Guillermito added.

“Us women formed three groups to go house by house at night to try to convince the men to help lower the pipes out of the truck,” Alejandra said. “But the men hid quietly from us, and they left for their farms very early the next morning because they did not want to help.

Cruz Verde community members.

“The women were in the meetings with the engineers for the project because the men were absent,” Alejandra said. “We agreed that we would be in charge of collaborating on the project, which irritated the men. In the end, that motivated the men to get involved with us and the project.”

“For seven years, there was no need to formally charge community members for the water fees. If a problem arose or the water system needed maintenance, the CAPS visited house by house to ask community members for help and voluntary financial contribution,” Guillermito said.

“After seven years, we needed to find another natural source of water to attach to the catchment and conduction pipe to the water distribution tank,” Guillermito said. “This was when we had to start charging a fee for the water service that reached the homes of people in the community.

“Currently, the rate for water service is C $ 30 cordobas ($1 USD) per month for each house. There are 150 houses that have water service in the community. The service is divided into 4 sectors so that we all have water at different times of the day,” Guillermito said.

“I am not a CAPS manager – I just do the plumbing and maintenance,” Guillermito said. “The people and the members of the CAPS leadership look for me when any problems arise in the water system. I never refuse, because I am committed to helping to keep the water available in this community.

Guillermito inspecting Cruz Verde’s water system.

“Every time a pipeline failure happens, I repair it. If water isn’t reaching people’s houses, I check the chlorinator, the chlorine tablets, the catchment, and the water source. I almost always participate in all CAPS activities and the trainings provided by Orlando, Self-Help’s Water Program Officer,” Guillermito said.

“I am always at the service of the community so that we all have water,” Guillermito said.

Guillermito and Alejandra are natural leaders and committed to the Cruz Verde community. This community has been using the CTI-8 chlorinator and chlorine tablets since 2011, which were supplied by Self-Help International’s Clean Water Program.

Guillermito is always open to Self-Help’s advice and technical monitoring, he is the contact with the people of this community, and he and his wife are water heroes.

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