Project Gettysburg Leon (PGL) has worked with the rural community of Talolinga for over a decade as part of its sister city program in Nicaragua.

The city of Leon is the country’s second-largest population center but is also a department, meaning something akin to the state of Pennsylvania if there were also a city named Pennsylvania.

Within the department of Leon, high up in the mountains and only accessible by way of an extremely steep and rough road, the community of Talolinga sits on a plateau. Over 70 families and close to 400 people live in this isolated spot, and are dependent mostly upon agriculture for income.

Over the years, PGL has worked with Talolinga on small-scale agriculture programs by way of a revolving loan fund and scholarships for young people who want to learn better farming and veterinary techniques.

One young man has graduated from this program and two more will graduate this year. It has been a pretty big deal for them, as rural kids rarely get a chance to continue their education past sixth grade in Nicaragua. There is usually no money for tuition and no time to study. PGL has offered a bit of both for these Talolingans.

The most large-scale project for PGL in Talolinga is upcoming. The community has never had clean drinking water, but recently the nearest government office sank a tube well within the community.

That is only a first stage, as there is currently nothing but the tube – no pump, no system to draw the water up. PGL is taking on the task of not only a pump station and storage tank, but a full water distribution system for the community.

This does not mean families in Talolinga will suddenly have showers, flush toilets or even kitchen faucets. Each family will work to get a tap in their yard, nothing more, connected to a clean and plentiful water source.

PGL is raising the money for this system, but the people in Talolinga will do their share. Every family will volunteer at least 20 full days of labor, such as digging trenches for PVC pipe, hauling and mixing cement for the storage tank, and putting up fencing where needed for infrastructure. People who can’t do physical labor will help in other ways, such as food preparation or records-keeping. A water board was formed, in part to manage monthly payments once the system is completed so that the community itself can do any future repair work.

PGL was fortunate to receive a matching grant from the Gaguine Foundation of Juneau, Alaska, for this project, so that all donations are doubled. That has meant a lot, as this will be an expensive undertaking, but also an incredibly worthwhile one. In Gettysburg, no one thinks twice about good drinking water. Faucets are everywhere, water is taken for granted. That is not true for Talolinga. Contaminated water, in insufficient quantity, has been the norm of life for people in this community. Project Gettysburg Leon will change that, with the help of the Gettysburg and the Talolinga communities, sister communities as part of this sister city program.

Greg Bowles is the current director for Project Gettysburg Leon, the sister city program between Gettysburg and the country of Nicaragua that was founded in 1986.

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