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How to Build a Latrine, Honduras Style

June 1, 2012

By noon on Monday it was time to break for lunch. All the children head home from school for the day, and many of the families take siestas after lunch. So our team reunited at the schoolhouse for our lunch break and shared stories from our morning’s work. Everyone seemed in high spirits and was easing right into their roles of serving. Once we had eaten the groups mixed up a little and everyone headed back to work.

Claire, Beverly and Ken enjoying a sandwich.

I returned to my original worksite, hoping to get more hands on time building the latrine. The women were still at work, keeping the cement from drying out, but the guys had yet to return. So, seizing the opportunity, Dan and I jumped down in the hole and got to work filling gaps in the walls. For those of you who have never built a latrine before, it goes a little something like this…

First, dig a hole. Most of them are about 4 feet by 4 feet square, around 8 feet deep. The families are each responsible for digging their own hole before the HOI team arrives. Since they don’t have a lot of modern tools, most of the digging happens with a long stick with a spade fastened on the end. It typically takes about 5 days to dig, or so we’re told. The next step is to lay a base of cement blocks, in a square, level and straight. From there you keep building up until you get to the top. Wooden boards covered the top, then a layer of rebar and concrete was poured over that to make the lid. A long pipe was attached to an opening that leads up to the back of the toilet seat, typically uphill from the holding tank to help things get moving. An outhouse is built with a cement floor, the toilet seat, and walls around it. Voila! You have a latrine.

Moncho and I working on a latrine.

So we were down in the hole laying blocks and filling them in. Moncho came back and joined me in the hole, a little unsure about having a woman down there with him doing this kind of labor. But, after a few minutes of showing him I had experience with latrines and knew exactly what I was doing, he didn’t question it and we worked well together the rest of the afternoon. Since he didn’t speak any English and I don’t speak much Spanish, we learned to communicate any way that we knew how. Moncho and Dan actually developed a system of speaking to each other simply by whistling. We were all working well together as a team, and gaining quite a crowd of onlookers from atop the hole.

Before we knew it, it was time to head home for the day. Time seems to fly by in an instant when you’re in the village. Back at the ranch we had recruited another victim for our triathlon training group, and we took Claire out for her first workout. Kinsey had managed to talk her way into borrowing a bike from one of our guards, Adan. So Devin, Scott, Dan, Claire and I went for a little run, while Kinsey rode the bike.  We found our way down a side road not far from the ranch that led straight toward the mountains. It truly was an incredible night as we ran past pastures and homes, free range cows, horses, chickens and more, and set our sights on the mountainous horizon before us. The sky was beautiful and the air was clean and the feeling of freedom was overwhelming. It was a perfect end to the day.

We made it back just in time for dinner then had our own group time for evening devotionals. Celebrating Pentecost a little late, we read the story from Acts 2 and talked about the Holy Spirit coming and being present among the disciples, and how the Spirit had come among us as well. Each evening this week we got a special mail delivery of personal letters collected from friends and family back home. This has been a highlight of each day, and reminds me that I carry so many people with me in my heart during this trip. Many of the letters I have received have been from various church members sharing meaningful scripture verses, words of encouragement and inspiration. It is truly touching to know that my church continues to pray for me and our team as we attempt to do God’s work, and I can’t wait to return to share a part of Honduras with each of them.

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