Toilets have a fascinating history, from the communal latrines of classical Rome to the 18-carat gold toilet at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. However, even today, 4.5 billion people live without a safe toilet, and 892 million practice open defecation. As social media attention focuses on sanitary systems across the globe for World Toilet Day, Reach Beyond’s latrine projects in Ecuador, South America come into the spotlight.
This summer, throughout the month of June, intern Rachael Holsgrove joined our Community Development team in Ecuador to design pit latrines, septic tanks, and aqua privies for the community of Loma de Pacay, high in the Andes. As a qualified Water Engineer, Rachael was able to use her expertise in a new community context. This involved measuring the dimensions of standard bathrooms, interrogating possible latrine options and then sketching designs for the completed products. With plans prepared, the community development team intended to install the latrine system at the beginning of September. However, on 7th September a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the nearby area halting the progress of this project. Now construction of the system is rescheduled for December and will be completed by the New Year.
Alongside the installation of latrines, Reach Beyond has worked with numerous local communities to provide sustainable, long-term sources of clean water. According to the United Nations, poor sanitation kills 1.5 million children a year; the lack of uncontaminated drinking water can lead to diarrhoea, the world’s second leading killer of children.
Back in 2013, plans for a full water system in the village of Iwia, Ecuador began. Working with the local community, an essential part of all Reach Beyond projects, we sought to address both the physical and spiritual needs of the village.
There can be many stages to clean water and latrine projects and complete plans can take years to fulfil. That’s why we partner with the local community not work for them. It is essential, for the effectiveness and long-term durability of the system, that the community have a distinct sense of ownership over the project. That includes providing labour, undergoing training and carrying out maintenance for the system. Reach Beyond stand alongside the community bringing expertise in engineering and educating families on essential health and sanitation practices.
The relationships that are built through partnership reflect the transformation that these projects can bring. After four years, the system was finally inaugurated in March 2018. Here, our team was welcomed by schoolchildren with signs saying,
“To all of you at Reach Beyond. From The Achuar community, Iwia. We infinitely appreciate your unconditional support in constructing the water system.”
Similarly, previous projects have also shown much-improved quality of life among isolated communities. The established clean water system in the remote farming community of Pichan, high in Ecuador’s highlands, has done just that. Local pastor Bladimir remarked how the water project united the community, whereas past events had sometimes served as an excuse for drunkenness and occasional fights. Similarly, one elderly lady said,
"Thank you so much for coming here to live and work among us. We never thought we would see the day when clean water flowed in this community,"
The trenches dug, pipes laid, reservoirs filled and toilets built brought renewed life and hope to this community and prompted new energies in the local church.
Today, on World Toilet Day, the percentage of remote communities without safe toilets or clean water sources remains alarmingly high. You can support Reach Beyond’s projects by raising awareness of our work in South America and around the world. You can become an advocate. Or if you are able, you can give to support community development just like those mentioned. Most importantly, join us in praying for God’s favour and blessing on all our teams as they work to bring much-needed improvements to sanitary systems in Ecuador and elsewhere.