Cajolá Latrine Project – Guatemala

This project is to build 20 latrines in the Municipality of (Santa Cruz) Cajolá, Department of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.

Cajolá Latrine Project – Guatemala


Cajolá is a town of 16,000, located in the department (state) of Quetzaltenango. 93% of the people are Maya Mam. The Mam are one of the largest Maya groups of Guatemala, and still speak their own language.

Cajolá was founded more than 500 years ago. The name means “Son of water” because of the rivers. 25% of the people live in the central, urbanized section while the other 75% live in the outlying rural area. 41% of the residents are less than 15 years old, and many are unable to attend school. Agriculture is the most important economic activity.

The community is located less than 10 miles from a nearby city that was deeply affected by the devastating 7.2 earthquake that shook Guatemala and killed dozens of people in November 2012.

The culture of Cajolá is very traditional. Sadly, Cajolá has a very high poverty index, 94% of the people live in poverty, and 57% are in extreme poverty (which means that there isn’t enough to eat each day). Half of the children are chronically malnourished. 69% of the people are illiterate, 77% of the housing is in bad condition, 41% of the houses are overcrowded, 49% lack potable water, and 46% lack sanitary services.


Twenty latrines will be built on the property of the participating families deemed most in-need of sanitary infrastructure in the municipality of Cajolá. They are families that currently have no access to a latrine or toilet.

Building standards indicate that the latrine must be located far enough from any well or water source so as not to risk contamination. Each latrine pit will be at least 8 meters deep, and will not interfere with any other water source or construction.

Group History and Family Selection
In April, 2012, Health Center workers approached the municipal leaders about forming womens’ groups to educate the community in preventive health. Hogares Saludables groups were formed in May 2012, and have met 12 times to receive health classes and plan and develop this project.

Participants took part in the Hogares Saludables Preventive Health course. The groups elected their own leaders, who decided on the graduation requirements of the course (that the same family representative must attend at least 8 of the first 10 classes in order to graduate the course).

Together, the Health Team and Conejos Communitarians de DeBartolo de Cajolá (COCODE) designed this project in order to educate and empower the participants.

It was determined that 20 latrines and 20 concrete floors would be built for the 40 families of Canton Xetalbiljoj who upon graduation of the health course, were found most in-need.

Womens’ group leaders approached the municipal government to request financial support for the project in October 2012. From October to December 2012, Health Center Staff, COCODE, the Peace Corps volunteer, and womens’ group leaders collaborated to visit the houses of each family who graduated the course to complete the Plan Para Vivir Mejor diagnostic and give each participant guidance on how to improve the health of their family.

The families who met all project requirements were prioritized by Health Center Staff, and the 20 neediest families who lack a latrine were selected.

Participants are of Maya Mam descent, and the majority of group members are single mothers or widows. 94% of the municipality falls below the poverty line, and the project includes many of the poorest families of the entire community. These families live in sub-standard housing with very little income and struggle to keep food on the table.

This construction of pit latrines will be carried out according to the recommendations of Peace Corps Guatemala staff. The model is sometimes referred to as the “Peace Corps Guatemala, Healthy Homes Model.” A specific design is utilized and the masonry workers are trained using the designated manual. In mid-March, 2013, mason workers will participate in two days of training on this particular latrine construction.

Steps to be Taken
The year of educational health courses has already been completed. Project design and management has been led by Peace Corps Volunteer Kathryn Lee, and supported by community health worker Julissa Garcia (Tecnica en Salud Rural) and community leaders Arnulfo Vail (COCODE de Caserio Los Vailes), Juana Melchor (Presidenta de Hogares Saludables), and Efrain Vail (Secretario de Asociacion APROEM).

Julissa Garcia will lead the purchase of materials from collaborating hardware store Ferreteria Colima, and families will receive the materials only upon completion of the excavation of their latrine pit and providing their share of the materials.

The latrines will be built by masons who have been trained in the Peace Corps-approved design. Each family will be responsible for digging the latrine pit to a depth of at least 8 meters.

The masons will construct the “casita” or house of the latrine, consisting of the floor, walls, seat, roof and doors.

The masons will coordinate with the families to have all latrines constructed within three weeks.

Kathryn Lee will lead a team of health workers through house visits to ensure that the construction was completely satisfactorily and that the family is well-educated in the use and maintenance of their latrine, as well as reminded of the proper handwashing and hygiene techniques necessary to achieve a decrease in the incidence of diarrheal disease.

Use of Water Charity Funds
The Water Charity funds will be used to pay the qualified and trained masons. They will also be used for materials, including wooden frames, toilet seats, sheets of zinc laminate for walls and roof, and nails.


209 people will benefit from this project, comprised as follows: Age 25+: 26 Male, 31 Female. Age 15-24: 8 Male, 20 Female. Age 0-15: 63 Male, 61 Female.

The Water Charity participation in this project has been fully funded, through the generosity of Michael and Carla Boyle, of Nelsonville, OH, USA.

You may continue to contribute using the Donate button below. Any contributions in excess of the project amount will be allocated to other projects directed by this PCV and/or projects of other PCVs in this country.

This project has been finished. To read about the conclusion of the project, CLICK HERE.

Cajolá Latrine Project – GuatemalaCajolá Latrine Project – Guatemala