July 15, 2016:
This fourth and final week at San Lucas has been amazing, productive, and sad all at the same time. In the last week of being here, we have gone to Xejuyú to collect samples, analyzed the last groups of samples, and typed up all of our interview data. We got to sample the natural spring in Xejuyú that the majority of the women collect water from. They go early in the mornings down one of the steepest, most treacherous and narrow paths for about 20 minutes to arrive here. It is really beautiful, and you feel like you are walking in a thick jungle to get there. We also got to sample the Santo Tomás Ranch, another farther location where water is drawn.
It was sad knowing that our time with Lesvia and Elcia was drawing to a close. The other two students working with us here, Brianna and Emily, were also becoming sad at the notion of leaving their staff member partner, Felipa. We all have grown really close over the last month through the work here.
The last day that we were with Elcia and Lesvia we took a lot of time to ask evaluation questions about our project. We asked questions about all sorts of topics, including our work to future projects to analyzing results.
In total, we sampled 105 of the 110 households that have filters installed in Xejuyú, conducting 210 water tests. We also conducted 68 interviews, which is over half of the entire community and a very representative sample of Xejuyú. The results were overall very good, with a large majority of the samples clean. There were some samples, especially those testing the water quality from the storage containers that did turn out to have bacteria or coliform colonies when tested. The staff members will return these results to those family members with gentle instructions on how to properly clean the container. The few filters that are not working properly will be examined and have the sand compositions and bio-layers corrected in order to filter the water effectively.
Overall, we were really hopeful and thankful for the work we were able to do together, even though some things went differently than expected and we had to learn to deal with unexpected problems. We have each loved being here a lot and we are going to miss San Lucas, though we are really excited to go home and see our families and friends as well. But with 7 weeks in total of being in Guatemala, we are sure that the relationships formed here will be hard to leave.
Next week, our last week in Guatemala, we be back in Xela again and will analyze all of our results even further to make conclusions from the data as we write a full report for our project. We are also going to be taking another week of Spanish lessons at CELAS Maya and stay at our homestays again while we do that. We are going to have wrap up meetings with Jessica and debrief some more when we get back to the United States with Dr. Burt and with others involved in our project. We also would like to thank the Center for Global Health at UVA for generously helping to fund our project and allowing everything that happened this summer to be possible. We also would like to thank the Office of African American affairs for helping to fund our project as well. This summer has been a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never forget. It has been very worthwhile and transformative for all involved, not only for the project in Guatemala, but also for us a student team of US students.
Sarah collecting a water sample from the nacimiento (“natural spring/well”) with Elcia (left) and Lesvia (right).
Pictured above is Elcia doing the protocol completely for the first time. Lesvia and Felipa also learned it as well! Aurora is assisting on the right. This was a great moment of realizing a greater sustainability for the future of the project. Now the new staff members, Elcia and Lesvia, as well as Felipa can conduct the water quality testing throughout the year! Another accomplishment for sustainability from this year’s project was that with grant funds available to us we purchased a working refrigerator to be used at the lab! This enables every part of the laboratory procedure to be done at the lab. Before, we had been using the Rigoberta Menchú Foundation to refrigerate samples and test plates. Now it can all be done at the lab.