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Twenty-Three Years of El Porvenir
1989: El Porvenir (EP) is born in Las Calabazas, Ciudad Dario, as a project of the Wellspring Center. Three Habitat for Humanity project villages request and carry out water projects: an extension of an existing water system, a spring capture, and a wash station.
1990: EP becomes an official nonprofit in California. A North American volunteer provides staff services in Nicaragua. Three hand dug wells and an extension of an existing town water system are built, all in Habitat project communities.
1991: For the first time, EP receives requests from villages that are not Habitat project communities. EP helps villagers carry out 2 town water extension systems, two wash stations, and a large gravity flow project, all in Habitat project villages as well as one new well and 4 well rehab projects in villages not involved with Habitat. EP is still staffed by volunteer North Americans and a part-time Nicaraguan accountant.
1992: El Porvenir establishes a permanent presence in Ciudad Dario with a long-term staff member in residence. Seven villages carry out projects, including spring captures, hand dug wells, and well rehabs, mainly in the Dario area.
1993: EP becomes more comprehensive in its approach to clean water, realizing that you cannot protect the water in the wells if you do not contain human waste. In response to village requests, the first two latrine projects are built as well as 5 new and rehab well projects, all in or near Dario. El Porvenir now has two part-time Nicaraguan staff members.
1994: EP expands to Camoapa! Two full-time US staff members, living and working in Dario, visit Camoapa often and are overwhelmed with requests. A part-time Nicaraguan staff member is hired in Camoapa. EP supports 31 water and sanitation projects, 6,238 beneficiaries: tripling the number of projects and beneficiaries in two years!
1997: El Porvenir receives a major gift which is used to increase projects, improve staff compensation, purchase a work vehicle, and provide financial reserves. EP’s Nicaraguan accountant/administrator is made full-time coordinator. Over half the projects done this year are latrine projects. The great need for latrines rivals the great need for water.
1998: EP’s first efforts in reforestation. Two young reforesters are hired, who travel on horseback to help villagers learn to protect the aquifers on which their water projects depend. EP now has 2 US and 4 Nicaraguan staff members.
1999: El Porvenir decides to open a third regional office in El Sauce in response to the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in late 1998. El Porvenir now has 9 staff members.
2003: EP expands its program again: reforestation now includes fuel-efficient stoves that use 60% less wood than typical stoves. EP adds community health educator staff in every region, to begin work on the hardest piece of the puzzle: changing hygiene behaviors.
2004: EP hires its first full-time US-based staff member. Until now, all US operations were carried out by volunteers and part-time staff.
2006: EP expands into two additional regions: Terrabona and San Lorenzo. 63 projects are built in the five regions where EP now works. EP now has 19 staff members.
2008: EP, in alliance with Water for People, adds its sixth municipality: the very remote municipality of Wiwili in northern Nicaragua. EP pilots its first arsenic filter.
2009: 734 water and sanitation projects have been completed benefiting 105,000 villagers. In 5 of the 6 regions where EP works, the local government begins to contribute 10-15% of project costs.
In 2009, EP helps villagers build 584 latrines, 9 wash stations, 26 wells, 2 gravity flow systems, and 151 fuel-efficient stoves. EP works with villagers to plants 89,000 trees that have 89.5% survival rate. EP works with 23,332 villagers in the four program areas of water, sanitation, reforestation, and education.
2010: EP now has 23 staff: 20 in Nicaragua and 3 in the U.S. 19 are Nicaraguan. EP piloted composting toilets, school hand-washing stations, and biosand filters. Communities started contributing 8% of project material costs.
2011: Municipal governments now consistently contribute to project material costs as well. EP decided to only build double pit latrines to improve the sustainability of our sanitation program. EP began rehabilitating single pit latrines and doing more hygiene education to address the great need for latrine rehabilitation.
2012: Communities now contribute 10-30% of project costs. EP and the people of Caballo Blanco complete their biggest project ever serving 2,000 people in that community. EP began work in a complete watershed (reforestation has previously focused on micro-watersheds) with Nicaraguans and work trip participants building slope intercepts to reduce sheet erosion and promote absorption of rainwater.
120,000 Nicaraguans Supported
For 23 years, El Porvenir (EP) volunteers have worked side-by-side with rural families in Nicaragua to construct wells, latrines, village washing facilities, or support reforestation projects. In a country where 37% of rural people have no safe drinking water (UNICEF) and 47% of the forest cover has disappeared over the last 50 years (UN Food and Agriculture Organization), EP’s water, sanitation, and reforestation programs are a critical way to improve the living standards of the rural poor living on $1-2 a day, while conserving environmental resources.
Carole Harper, an attorney and judge in California, founded EP in 1990 after serving as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Nicaragua for four years. She launched EP to address the lack of clean drinking water in rural communities and respond to the determination of local people to improve their living standards with clean water and sanitation.
As EP developed, it grew into an integrated program that included water (hand-dug wells, gravity flow water systems), sanitation (latrines, washing facilities), hygiene and maintenance education, and reforestation (village nurseries, fuel-saving stoves, environmental education in local schools). When EP started its village work tours, Nicaragua was recovering from the aftermath of a civil war and didn’t have a tourism industry; it was difficult to find English-speaking guides, public transportation, or hotels outside of Managua. For North Americans to travel to Nicaragua and see EP’s rural development work first-hand, it was necessary for EP to serve as a tour organizer. Work trips were created, and small groups of North Americans were brought into rural villages to experience village life, working alongside local families on projects. The goal of the trips is to bring North Americans into rural Nicaraguan life, offering them a life-changing experience and engage them in EP’s transformative work.
EP’s achievements have attracted global interest and support. What was once an organization with one employee, who carried out four projects a year, has become a leading international nonprofit with 22 Nicaraguan staff members implementing 60 projects a year. The village work trips have helped the organization’s growth, producing committed supporters, donors, board members, and awareness of our work in Nicaragua.
After 23 successful years, EP has completed 864 water and sanitation projects that now supply 120,000 people with clean water and hygienic sanitation on a daily basis. EP has planted more than 700,000 trees and built 1,011 fuel-efficient cook stoves that use up to 60% less fuel.
In Nicaragua, EP has a central office in Managua and six regional offices in Cuidad Darío/Terrabona, Camoapa, San Lorenzo, El Sauce, and Wiwilí.