When Bridges first began working with the community members of Caimonial, the Dominican Republic, the majority of homes were in poor condition and there were few formal bathrooms. Most families in this region are subsistence farmers, meaning that they survive on what they can grow and if they are lucky, the little extra they can sell. This leaves no resources to improve their housing or personal sanitation.
In most of our partner communities, several families either share a latrine in poor condition or may not have access to a latrine at all; this can lead to contamination of water sources and the spread of disease. We construct sanitary latrines where pits can be dug deep enough to not affect water sources. Also, being able to close and lock a door while using the restroom increases the sense of safety and privacy among family and community members, especially women and girls who are more vulnerable when using a neighbor’s latrine or using the bathroom in the open.
By the end of 2019, Bridges will have built a total of 12 sanitary latrines in this community this year.
Five families will receive latrines from Bridges in September/October – a total of 23 beneficiaries. As always, the families are chosen for the project based on need. Three of the families do not have latrines and relieve themselves outside or are permitted to use a neighbor’s latrine.
Carmencita Mendez says, “We used to go to the bathroom outside and it was difficult. Even though we wanted to construct our own latrine, we weren’t able to save enough money to do so. This new latrine is so important. Even when it is raining, we will be able to go to the bathroom without fear of getting wet.”
Fonsi Paniagua Terrero says, “I am very happy to have a new latrine. I am happy that my three daughters, 5 years old, 3 years old, and 1 month old will be [safe] using this latrine. We will have a better quality of life and health.”
The other two families had latrines in danger of collapsing. Milagros Morillo says, “I am grateful for the new bathroom because our old latrine was in such a terrible condition. It was hard when a friend or family member was visiting us because we couldn’t offer them the bathroom. We would have to beg a neighbor to let them use their latrine.”
Orfelina Rodriguez Encarnación says, “We are so grateful to be benefited with the latrine because we wouldn’t have been able to build a new one on our own. We are more comfortable now. Before, if we got sick, we had to ask the neighbor to use a latrine, and now we have our own.”
As part of the latrine program, the families dig the hole themselves, and, when finished, Bridges provides the materials and labor to build the surrounding structure and seat of the latrine.
Having access to a proper latrine is crucial for the public health of a community. Doña Claudia, a former beneficiary said “Having a latrine as a sanitary system is a primary service that each house needs to have. This project benefited our home and improved not just our health condition, but also our privacy and self-esteem,” says Doña Claudia.