Donations designated for Sanitation Improvement in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, Panamá will be used to construct 31 pit latrines in the Indigenous communities of Quebrada Cianca and Cerro Pita in Panamá. These communities were awarded a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant in 2020, in collaboration with Peace Corps Volunteer Jenna O’Brien, but the award was suspended when all Volunteers were evacuated in 2020 due to COVID-19.
The project seeks to bolster the capacity of community groups and households to locally construct pit latrines. The construction of 31 pit latrines will improve safety and sanitation in the communities. The project also enables the latrine committees to exercise their project management and organizational skills.
The communities of Cerro Pita and Quebrada Cianca are small Ngäbe communities in the district of Mirono in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé. The communities have a cumulative population of about 350 people. There are many families without latrines in each of the communities; the latrines that do exist are almost full of feces or damaged. To manage the construction of 31 pit latrines, the communities elected latrine committees — and the committees have undertaken fundraising despite the challenges that COVID-19 has presented.
While Jenna was serving in the communities, they embarked on grassroots fundraising: They collected small fees from all of the potential project beneficiaries, and they used that capital to organize raffles, food sales, and other fundraising events to further expand resources. The community members attended trainings on latrine design and construction, and they will be contributing all of the labor for the project. Many families have already dug the latrine holes and are only limited by the lack of funding to purchase the slab materials.
While Jenna O’Brien was evacuated from her service in March of 2020, she has remained in communication with her host community ever since. She will oversee the use of funds, while the latrine committee implements this project. A graduate of Virginia Tech University and former president of the university chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Jenna currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
NPCA invests 85 percent of the total donations directly to support this project and 15 percent where needed most to support service administration and our overall mission.