San Juan de Dios, El Salvador

Project Overview and Community The mountain village of San Juan de Dios, El Salvador includes about 2,000 residents. Most of the villagers earn a living working in the surrounding coffee fields. Their primary source of drinking water is a small lake located in the crater of a nearby volcano. The water is potable, but bacterial contamination is a problem. In addition, many community members did not have ready access to functioning latrines. Gastrointestinal problems are an ongoing issue, especially for the children.

The village has benefited from the presence of back-to-back Peace Corps volunteers living and working with amongst them. In late 2008, the first Peace Corps volunteer contacted EWB about the possibility of working in San Juan de Dios. She recognized that the ability to take advantage of incremental technological improvements could dramatically improve the quality of life for her community. With daily wages of approximately US $3.00, San Juan de Dios is challenged to meet the basic human needs of many of its citizens.

In late August of 2009, a team of six EWB engineers spent time in the community to establish direct relationships, gather data and to evaluate the economic, social, and technical viability of a variety of projects. The team received direct feedback that the improvement of the water supply and the construction of new latrines were the community’s top priorities.

2009 Activities Based on feedback and data gathered during the site assessment, the team prepared for the construction of new latrines in critical areas. From November 2009 through January 2010, an EWB resident engineer lived and worked in the community. He was joined at various times by 3 other EWB members. His responsibilities included providing latrine designs, specifying suitable locations, purchasing local materials and coordinating labor. As of January 2010, 10 latrines were fully operational.

2010 Following the success of the latrine project, EWB began work on the community’s next priority; replacing an antiquated diesel pump that was their sole source of water. The EWB team worked closely with the community and local government officials to resolve a host of technical, political and land use issues. From August to October of 2010 six EWB members traveled to El Salvador, and one resident engineer spent nearly 3 months in-country. In addition to working on the pump project, the team started a pilot education program in the local school to teach students simple science and engineering concepts related to our work in the area.

2011 A follow up trip took place in June 2011, with the goal of beginning a new project in the region in the fall.