PLATTSBURGH — There is one outdoor latrine for girls at Solano School in Nicaragua and another for boys, woefully inadequate for the 180-plus children there.
But there was a time there were no facilities at all.
“Because there wasn’t a way to relieve themselves, the school day was only three hours or so,” longtime Mission of Hope volunteer and Plattsburgh Rotary Club member Bonnie Black said from Nicaragua.
As well, many girls missed about a week of school every month due to lack of facilities, she said.
In response to the obvious need, she said, the two latrines were among 204 built several years ago with a Rotary Foundation matching grant and collaboration among the Rotary Clubs of Plattsburgh, Managua and Bergen-Highlands-Ramsey in New Jersey.
Those simple facilities allowed full school days and improved attendance by girls, Black said.
And they provided opportunity for lessons on hand washing and other hygiene practices, she added, which in turn has reduced illness among students and improved attendance as well.”
During this week’s mission, volunteer Olivia Colantuoni of New Hampshire helped replace two badly rusted pipes of the framework of the boy’s latrine.
While knowing what an immeasurable gift the outhouses are to the school, she couldn’t help but compare them to the restrooms at home in the United States.
“I was heartbroken at how 181 children had to use (two latrines),” she said, “as well the teachers and others.”