From August 14-28, a team of 8 students (some from the Refresh Bolivia board and volunteers) from Harvard, Texas Women’s University, Howard University, and the University of Toronto traveled to Cochabamba to work on this year’s project. The team helped to fundraise for the project materials before arriving. Helping them out each day was a different group of local high schoolers from the Hughes School, an English-speaking school.
This year, the team partnered with an NGO called Red de Acción Comunitaria that aids poor urban communities in issues of housing and habitation. They work underneath the larger organization Slum Dwellers International. In Bolivia, they collaborate with the people in these impoverished communities to help come up with solutions for a better quality of living.
The project took place in a barrio called Carolinas in the outskirts of Cochabamba. There were ten different families who were receiving ecological bathrooms. Local architects, engineers, and carpenters were all involved in the professional work that the construction entailed.
Previously, in this barrio, there was only one bathroom for seventy families. People had to walk five kilometers to an area whenever they needed to use the bathroom, which at times was a difficult task to complete. After the completion of this summer’s project, there are now ten ecological bathrooms in Carolinas.
To decide who would get bathrooms, the women of the barrio kept track of who accumulated the most community service hours the previous year. Whoever logged in the most hours would be on the top of the list of families to receive a bathroom this year.
Each bathroom was its own little stall made of bricks and cement with a toilet and a shower. The toilets were “dry” or “ecological,” meaning their design did not use any water but involved pipes and a pit going into the ground instead. Showers were supplied with water through pipes connected to a separate water tank. Volunteers helped out in the construction by performing the non-professional tasks such as moving materials to the different sites (many times inaccessible by truck and road) and mixing cement, whereas the construction was performed by the local carpenters.