The Pila Project


The Pila Project

The Pila Project

Thank you for visiting our page to consider helping us fund a beautiful project for the women of La Suiza. During the second week of January, James and I along with our friends Matt and Franklin of As Green As it Gets were fortunate enough to visit the village of La Suiza, bond with the community, and assist them in a couple of projects that they needed help with.

During an earthquake in November of 2012, the community lost power to a majority of the village after the generator's outlet channel was damaged, causing uncontrolled flow from the generator to erode away a huge chunk of the ground and collapsing a portion of the community center in the subsequent landslide. As Franklin and a donor visited the community to discuss this problem, the women approached with a request: what was most important to them was to improve their lives around the home. For them, this could happen with the help of a pila.

About the Project

The women of La Suiza spend their days primarily focused around the home. They wash up, they launder, they clean, they cook, and take care of their rapidly growing families. The community has asked for assistance in providing pilas to every family in the community. A pila can be simply described as a concrete sink used for storing water, laundering, cooking, and washing up. Only one or two households in the whole village have their own pilas; everyone else uses a single communal one in the center of the village or they use the nearby rivers.

As the only woman in the group, Kayla was asked to lead this project to help provide encouragement and facilitate participation by leading the women in the pila construction, a task that they  had never been even close to involved in.

The goals of the project are the following:

Providing an Improved Quality of Life for Women:
One of the primary goals of the project is to provide the women a better way of life as their activities in the village are heavily focused on activities around the home. Being able to perform many basic household activities using fresh water in their own home was very important to the women of the community, even more important than electricity when it came time to prioritize the materials we had funding for.

Empowering the Women:
The second major focus of the project came from our end, which was to empower the women by teaching them how to construct pilas on their own. This was a very important and challenging task. In the beginning, the women were very timid to get involved. I attempted to lead by doing and jumped right in to filling buckets with sand, carrying heavy bags of concrete, picking up a shovel and a trowel, and getting to work. As the women inched closer and began to observe, I would offer them my tool and they were surprisingly happy to snatch up the tool and help. This task will require a bit of breaking down a few gender barriers that have been long engrained in the community.

Bringing Business to the Community:
By teaching the women to make the pilas, we are teaching them a new skill that is apparently in demand in the region. After building the first 116 pilas (one for every family in the community, if funding provides us to do so), the women should be well-trained and confident in beginning a business selling pilas to many surrounding villages that are also in need of pilas.

About the Community

La Suiza is a beautiful coffee farming community, a secluded community just south of the Mexican border, secluded about two hours up a windy gravel road from the closest town. La Suiza was founded in the 1920's by German and Swiss farmers who left at the end of WWII (hence the name La Suiza, meaning The Swiss). The land then changed hands an unknown number of times before being purchased by the current community of 116 families about 12 years ago.The land was purchased on loan which the community has since been trying to pay back.

Our Goal

Here's where we need your help!  We are proposing to raise enough money to purchase a mould so that the women can begin building the pilas on their own.

The first set of pilas that we were able to fund provided materials for 25 pilas, six of which were built in our time there, but the women were having to pay a hefty fee to rent the moulds, doubling the cost of the pila production. We are proposing to raise enough money to purchase a mould for the women in order to not only fund their training in producing pilas, but to reduce the cost of the next 91 pilas that are still needed for the community.

The idea is that after the women practice with 116 pilas, they will be confident and well-trained in pila production, allowing them to begin producing pilas for the communities in surrounding villages. After discussing this with the women, they were enthusiastic about this prospect and encouraged to learn how to produce them on their own.

This is what we're trying to raise:

$600 for the purchase of a pila mould (quoted by a local mould producer).

$150 for transportation back to the village in order to deliver the mould and to hold a training workshop for the women on using their new mould.

$750 for the purchase of materials for 30 more pilas. This will allow about half of the families to have pilas including the 25 already produced.

If we are so lucky and you're feeling extra generous, any extra donations will help fund the materials of more pilas, which are about US$25 in materials per pila. To produce the last 61, we would need to raise an additional $1525 (totalling $3025 total fundraising for full support of this project).

We are so grateful for each dollar you are willing to donate!  We'll be sure to give all of our donors any photo updates that we can once the As Green As it Gets group returns to La Suiza in March, 2013.

If you'd like to learn more about this project and our time in Guatemala, please check out Kayla's blog There are many photos and stories of our time in La Suiza and the rest of Guatemala.

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