Events & Newsletters


Two weeks! With PML's support, that’s how long it took the residents of San Carlos to accomplish building a new well at the local elementary school.

From identifyting a partner organization, to meeting its requirements, obtaining government permits, clearing land, building a platform, digging the well, installing the pump, and celebrating this great accomplishment ... well, how did they do it?

Thursday, November 3

As part of the strategy to get potable water to the community, PML’s project facilitator, Rosa Ulloa, procured a short list of relevant non-profits working in León. The Water Commission brought a letter describing the situation—a nonfunctioning well—to the office of Agua Viva* (Living Water, International—see "About Agua Viva" below), a US-based organization that mobilizes churches and communities to cultivate sustainable water programs.

The organization was closing out its financial year, and the last volunteer group would be leaving soon. Everyone would have to move quickly if Agua Viva was going to assist.

Agua Viva technical coordinator don Isidro was intrigued. Agua Viva did not have the resources to provide wells for individual families in San Carlos, but the grade school, as a public institution, might qualify. That same day he went out to San Carlos to see the situation for himself.

Indeed, the school’s well did not function, due to an invasion of tree roots. He noticed two children carrying a couple of pails of water hung on a stick between them. He heard that every student was required to bring a full water bottle to class daily in order to contribute to the making of a fruit drink sold at recess.

The technical coordinator complained, though, that the school grounds were overgrown. How could he send out volunteers to be greeted by such an unwelcoming mess?

Monday, November 7

The joint Water and Health Commission women mobilized. More than 20 people—from students to a 75-year-old—showed up to pick up trash, machete-cut straggly grass, rake, pull weeds, and cart or burn debris. Clean-up was completed in one long day!

What does cleaning the yard have to do with digging a well? Most likely, don Isidro wanted to see the community’s response and organizational capacity. He had to have been impressed!

Meanwhile, Agua Viva staff laid out the requirements for a well. Children and mothers would have to meet daily during the drilling, participate in creative workshops about hygiene and proper sanitation techniques, and hear Bible stories. The school principal agreed to let the children out of school one-half hour early to attend the daily meetings.

But no public project moves ahead without wrangling with bureaucracy. Because the well is on school property, Agua Viva required a signed authorization from the Ministry of Education (MINED) in order to proceed. The commission had four days to acquire the official document. The small school’s principal/lead teacher declined to take any responsibility to get the permission. Another teacher agreed to help, but reported that MINED rejected the proposal. (The commission suspected he never even tried.)

Thursday, November 10

Up against a deadline, six members of the Water Commission walked into the MINED office and requested the permission letter. They were told the letter had to go to Managua for approval from the central director of projects. Guess what? The projects director happened to be coming to León for a meeting that very day. The commission waited and pounced.

The central government project director said he would give authorization, but he was headed into the meeting. Just leave the request, he said, and he would take care of it next week. 

Not good enough, the women said. They pointed out they had all the necessary information, time was of the essence, … and the secretary in the local MINED office could type up the letter. They would wait until the meeting was over for him to sign it. Mission accomplished! 

Because San Carlos is located in the area under the auspices of the Indigenous Community of Sutiava, Agua Viva wanted a letter of agreement from this political agency as well. Fortunately, the document was procured without much fuss.

Don Isidro asked how the community was able to act so efficiently. The women shared that they have been meeting regularly as part of a process to analyze difficulties and create solutions. He wanted to know if Rosa was available to work in development for Agua Viva. “No!” responded the women. “She is our advisor, and we will not let her go.”

Monday, November 14

Finally work began. Agua Viva required five men from the community to provide labor. Martha Quezada announced she wasn’t interested in sitting in meetings with the women and children. Instead, she would be part of the labor crew. The San Carlos group worked alongside the small volunteer U.S. team and in-country drillers using a heavy-duty rig.

San Carlos residents were responsible for building the platform surrounding the well. PML loaned its truck to gather donations from individuals and large farm owners—a bag of cement here, a load of sand there. They carted in river rocks and wood forms until they had enough materials. Money was collected to provide the laborers’ lunch, cooked in a near-by home by a volunteer. 

After a spirited discussion about the correct water/sand/dry cement ratio for the platform, women hauled stones for a base, mixed and spread cement, and completed the base for the pump.













Thursday, November 17

Only two weeks after the water commission contacted Agua Viva, the community gathered for an inauguration celebration! Children broke piñatas, refreshments were provided, and group photos were taken. The Water Commission thanked Agua Viva, donors, laborers, and the community at large for their participation.

The commission also thanked PML, because without Rosa´s support for the past two years, they would not have been able to accomplish such an intensive project.

The larger problem remains to provide potable water for all of San Carlos. The Water Commission has been meeting regularly with an international non-profit organization dedicated to water projects, SulNica. But that process has stagnated because of government bureaucracy, as well as a virtual standstill during the November national elections and December holidays. The school well serves as a victory and an impetus to keep advocating for potable water in San Carlos.



Based in the United States, Agua Viva uses a development model fully compatible with PML’s. The organization’s website describes its approach: “We’re learning alongside the communities we serve that projects are most sustainable when they respond to both need and demand, when financing is carefully thought through, and when management is handled locally with lots of ongoing support.”