Hitting the Trifecta Part 5 – Inside HRI’s 2020 Trifecta project in Guatemala

Trifecta – a type of bet, especially on horse races, in which the bettor must select the first three finishers in exact order. In Part 1 of this series, we introduced Hunger Relief International’s concept of providing a “Trifecta” – a water filter, latrine, and safe cookstove to a single household as a means of significantly improving outcomes in that household. Parts 2-4 dived more deeply into each individual component of the Trifecta, explaining the core problems and the way that each component addresses them.

In this 5th and final installment of our series, we’re going to take a look inside the Trifecta project that HRI has initiated in 2020 for the village of Las Brisas, located in the southern region of Guatemala.

Walking in Las Brisas from home to home

Las Brisas is a village made up of about 20 families. Like many villages that sit in this mountainous area, access is limited – access to water, access to municipal services, even access to people outside of the village. The main source of income for the families of Las Brisas is from agriculture – corn and coffee are the most common, but there are lemon groves in Las Brisas as well. This school year, there is not a teacher assigned to the village to teach preschool (or preprimaria), so the school is only being used for elementary classes (primaria).

I’ve been to most of the houses in Las Brisas, and I’ve met most of the children. The people in the community are friendly and the children are like children you meet anywhere – curious, funny, and observant. My first day in the village, we started out at the school, and the kids kept creeping closer and closer to look at me, to look at what I was doing. The parents have already been working on a plan for a school feeding program, so our role is to help them make it better by providing a nutritious breakfast. This means that we can focus more on bringing in some programs to affect more profound change on an individual family level. And that makes Las Brisas a prime community for a Trifecta project.

In December 2019, the Giving Exchange, which is the charitable arm of Christian Brothers Automotive, gave Hunger Relief International a grant to provide 15 Trifectas. Because Las Brisas is so small, we focused on the idea of being able to impact nearly an entire community with one project.

Our goals for this project are twofold: 

1. First and foremost, we are excited about providing clean water, sanitation, and safe cookstoves to 15 of the 20 families in the village. 

2. Second, we want to study the families who receive the Trifectas and track outcomes for growth in height and weight, as well as track how often the children are sick, what their illnesses are, and how many days of school they miss due to illness. 

This information will be collected monthly. We are going to choose 15 families WITHOUT Trifectas as well, to act as a control group. We will track the same information for the control group so that we can compare outcomes between the two groups. What we expect to find is that the families with the Trifectas are experiencing greater rates of growth in their children, fewer sick days, and fewer absences from school (and work).

In order to choose our 15 families, we did an assessment of each family in Las Brisas. We started with the children at the school. We took weight, height, and MUAC (Mid Upper Arm Circumference, which is an indicator of malnutrition). Each child’s profile had their name, age, and family.

We then visited each house in the village. Did the family have a latrine? If so, could we inspect it? Some families did have a latrine, many did not. Of the families who did have a latrine, some of them were old and need to be replaced, and a couple of them were broken.

Next, we inspected their kitchen. What we found was that most families cook on an open fire. A few of them had stoves, but almost every kitchen we inspected had poor – or no – ventilation, meaning smoke was present in nearly all of them.

The last question we asked was if the family had a water filter. Not a single family in Las Brisas has a viable water filter. A few had filters that were older than 10 years, but no one had a filter that worked. When I asked, “How do you purify your water?” almost everyone said, “We don’t.”

We then repeated this assessment process in El Retiro, another village on the same mountain. We will most likely choose our control group families from El Retiro, which is a larger village. Our hope is that we can bring Trifectas to the 32 families in El Retiro SOON once funding is secured.

That’s the need. We are thankful that it is a need that we can address. And we are excited to see the long-term impact the Trifecta project will have on these families. Our next steps involve determining which 15 families will receive a Trifecta.

Once the families are chosen, we will begin planning the work and purchasing stoves, water filters, and materials for the latrines. This summer most of our short-term mission teams will work on bringing the Trifecta to life in Las Brisas. They will install water filters, put stoves together and install them, and build latrines.

We would love for you to be a part of this! We still have some open weeks in June and July for teams to come in and work on Trifectas. If you’d like more information about bringing a short-term mission team of at least 6 people to Guatemala this summer, please contact Trey Williams (twilliams@hungerreliefintl.org) or Jennifer Jones (jjones@hungerreliefintl.org).

Written by Trey Williams, HRI Community Liaison

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