Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ordinary Hero: Katie McKenna

The visiting nurse told Peace Corps volunteer Katie McKenna that her Guatemalan village of Chuisac had one of the highest rates of childhood diarrhea in the region. The cause: Inadequate sanitation facilities. As many as fourteen people in the village of 140 families shared a single latrine. Lacking proper toilets, children frequently defecated in their yards and patios. Desperate to save their children and improve overall health, the villagers planned to build a latrine for every household that did not have one--about one hundred. Cost per latrine was $150, and the villagers could provide half that in labor and materials.

Water Charity, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide clean water and sanitation to people who don't have it, learned about Katie's work with the village and offered to provide the additional funding.

While Katie and the villagers worked to dig and begin building the latrines, Water Charity raised the remaining funds, one small donation at a time. Katie pulled a substantial portion of the funds herself, hitting up family and friends back in the States.

Water Charity credits Katie's determination and perseverance for the success of the program.

Villagers building latrine
In many cases, we have 13 people currently using 1 latrine, and the picture of the men building the latrine is in a house where there is NO latrine. They had the hole dug, but they didn't have the money to buy the little house around it and the seat.

These families worked day and night to get the holes and latrines done, digging holes 23 to 50 feet deep! It is scary work in a hole that deep and narrow. For the latrine you see being built, the family went down 120 feet!!


Water Charity Progress Report
on Katie M's Latrines



All told, Katie and the villagers built 91 latrines. They also educated the children on safety and hygiene practices.

Family with new latrine




The faces of one family, shown here standing in front of their new toilet, tell us exactly how important this asset is to their lives.







It is easy in our land of plenty, where many of us enjoy multiple bathrooms in our homes, complete with hot and cold running water, to forget the enormity of sanitary waste disposal. We flush, wash and go. For billions of people elsewhere, a simple toilet can be the difference between life and death.

According to the United Nations World Health Organization, every year there are 1.6 million diarrheal deaths related to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene—the vast majority among children under 5.

Water Charity





For giving selflessly of her time, energy, skills and talents as a volunteer in the United States Peace Corps; for working respectfully with the villagers of Chuisac in their quest to improve the health of their children; for building cooperation through partnership with local Guatemalan organizations as well as international organizations such as Water Charity; for providing a perfect example of a conscious and conscientious member of our world village, and thereby bringing the Village of Ordinary a little closer to reality, the Ordinary Heroes Award is kindly offered to Katie McKenna with humble gratitude.


Image credits: Images of Katie and the villagers courtesy Water Charity. Used with permission.





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1 comment:

  1. We are tremendously proud of the work done by Katie, and grateful for her recognition. Her enthusiasm, persistence, and competence will serve as model for us all.

    ReplyDelete

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