This project took place in Puerto Vallarta, an international tourist resort and one of the top five places visited by Americans each year. It was also the main project which benefited from our ‘Change my Water – Change my Life‘ appeal.
Puerto Vallarta itself is located right in the middle of the Bay of Banderas, approximately four hours’ drive from Guadalajara, the capital of the State of Jalisco. The region is on the same parallel as the Hawaiian Islands: the climate is tropical and humid, with an average of 300 sunny days per year. Temperatures average at 28 degrees Centigrade (82 degrees Fahrenheit); however, humidity can reach 100% in the rainy season, which extends from late June to early October.
The project was absolutely crucial to the lives of approximately 570 children (and 30 teachers) attending Lazaro Cardenez Primary School (aged 6-13). These children are under-nourished, live in slum conditions and are surrounded by danger, crime and drug cartels. The majority of these children currently have no access at all to clean water, go weeks without cleaning, have no concept of hygiene and therefore suffer all the health implications that arise from this type of poverty. Approximately 40% of the pupils at Lazaro Cardenez also work part-time before, during or after school to support themselves and their families.
The area is currently supplied by the local government water company Sepal and is, in theory, clean. When it leaves the Sepal plant it is safe to drink (by Mexican, rather than international standards of ‘clean water’). However, the pipe and drainage system in Puerto Vallarta is archaic and thus the water becomes contaminated by the time it reaches a tap.
Most of these children do not have running water at home and were getting it from these local water points. In addition, the School had no clean drinking water available to students. Taps were connected to the principal water mains and the school had no other alternative but to let students drink this ‘dirty water’.
Filtered water is sold on trucks (by companies owned by Coke and Pepsi) to all residents* in 20 litre water bottles, at a cost of £1.20. Families living in deprived areas or living on the minimum wage ($58 pesos per 8 hours’ work – just under £3) are unable to afford the cost of filtered water and therefore drink the contaminated water, or water from the rivers, leading to multiple health issues. In the summer months many children also suffer from severe dehydration.
Drinking contaminated water causes significant health problems that the children’s families are too poor to be able to resolve with medicine. All of these factors impact not only on the children’s health but also on the attendance levels in this school, and therefore on the prospects of these children ever avoiding the life of crime, addiction and violence they are surrounded by.
What we did
Just a Drop launched the ‘Change my Water – Change my Life’ appeal to raise funds to connect this school to the mains water supply, install a filtration system to purify the water and build a water house at the school where the children can fill their water bottles.
A Water House has now been built to provide clean drinking water. Just a Drop’s local partner, New Life Mexico, will maintain this on a monthly basis, in addition to being on call to the school for leaks, floods or broken taps.
The great thing about having a clean water supply at the school is that it will most likely encourage attendance and therefore hopefully life prospects and will also allow these children to fill up bottles to take home too to their parents and siblings. So this project will be far-reaching, benefiting families throughout the area.
Approximately 570 children and 30 teachers now receive clean drinking water. In addition, a tap has been fitted to the side of the system block to allow the 20L plastic bottles to be filled for the classrooms. Children also fill bottles up to take home. Teachers tell us that they believe each student drinks at least four bottles of water a day from the system (staff and classroom water is additional).
Thank you very much to all the individuals, companies and schools who made this project possible. Special thanks to Soothing Showers, the Open Gate Foundation, the Evan Cornish Foundation, St Paul’s Girls’ School, Blaydon West Primary School and Berrington Water.