Project Gettysburg-León (PGL), sister cities, is currently raising funds to support a project to bring a sustainable water source to the mountain village of Talolinga near Santa Rosa, Nicaragua.

Talolinga, a village built on the side of a mountain, is home to about 75 families who dwell in mud brick houses. The community of over 200 cares for livestock and often travels long distances for work. Every day women travel to collect drinking and cooking water in five-gallon buckets.

PGL has a more than 30-year relationship with the Talolinga village community. PGL delegations have experienced the infamous mountain road to the village, which trucks can “sometimes” navigate, Communication Liaison Gretchen Carlson Natter said.

PGL has supported a number of projects and programs for the Talolinga community, including a granary, a medical clinic and an educational program through the Young Growers Alliance, which educates students about agriculture. However, the upcoming water project will meet a need directly voiced by the community during a forum with all the people of the Talolinga village.

“This water project came out of a community planning conversation,” Natter said.

PGL conducted a study on the needs of the Talolinga people through a Nicaraguan-based organization and invited all members of the village to join the conversation.

Since the culture of the village reflects a “machismo” society, the organization intentionally pulled the women of the village aside to ask for their opinion about the greatest needs of the village, Natter said.

“In planning for this, a procedure was put in place that we would know what the women desired as well as the men,” Co-President Karl Mattson said. “That increases democratic capacity.”

The two greatest needs voiced by the villagers were fixing either the water system or the road to the village; PGL decided to get behind establishing a water system.

Nearly 20 years ago PGL supported the creation of a center where villagers could collect water for their homes and wash clothes and animals. However, due to the dry season, the well that fed the water center has been running dry and was found to be contaminated.

“We’re seeing a big impact of climate change on the community of Talolinga,” Natter said. “They’re usually able to grow three out of the four seasons, but some years because the dryness has been so bad, they’ve only had maybe one or two growing seasons be successful.”

In response to this problem, the mayor of Santa Rosa recently sent a group to dig a “test well” in an attempt to find a new source of fresh water in March 2018. Testing showed the source could provide water to the village even during the dry season, Natter said.

PGL then began planning the water project, which will create a holding tank and a piping system for the village. For the first time, the people of Talolinga will experience clean, running water in their homes.

This goal will come with financial support from PGL but labor and administration from the Talolinga villagers. As plans were created for the water project, support was garnered from the community and more than 70 families volunteered to offer administrative support and labor to complete the project. This means the villagers will be in control of the physical completion of the well and responsible for its sustainability through the creation of a water committee.

Empowering villagers with the tools to complete the water project follows PGL’s mission of sustainability, Natter said. Instead of sending a group of volunteers to complete the water project, PGL is allowing the villagers to be directly involved with hopes that in the future, should there be problems with the well, the villagers will have the knowledge to resolve the issues.

“History tells us that these wells are built (and) pumps are installed with no training and no ownership on the part of the community, and when they break they’re broken and nothing gets fixed,” Natter said. “By making it community owned and community driven, the board of governors will make sure they have the training (and) resources to get those things fixed.”

The completion of this water project will bring a number of benefits to the community, particularly for the women of Talolinga. The installation of piping and spigots will give women more free time which could be used to further their educations or start new businesses, Natter said.

PGL is working to complete its fundraising goal by the end of July.

Visit www.gettysburg-leon.org/sponsorship-overview to learn about donating to the water or other PGL projects.

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