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Petrona's Story: Good hygiene and a healthy life

by Hannah Beighle | Sep 09, 2016

Life is hard when your children are constantly sick. This is the challenge Petrona faced in the town of Senahu, Guatemala—Petrona’s two children were sick so often, but she didn’t know why.

What she didn’t realize was that the answer was right outside her door. Petrona and her family live on a small home cut into the rural hillside. Without the money to build an outhouse, they used a hole in the ground up a small path from the house to go to the bathroom. When it rained, the path would become too slippery and muddy for Petrona to take her children up, so they would just use the land near their home -- the same area where the kids would play when the rains stopped.

Petrona_Family_Guatemala_HomePetrona had another problem, too—their family’s water came from a nearby stream, and the water wasn’t clean. Petrona wanted to keep her children healthy, but she didn’t know how.

Then, one day, Petrona heard the mothers in her community talking about Medical Teams International, who had begun working there.  She was very curious about the organization. Soon, one of the mother counselors who had been trained by Medical Teams came to Petrona’s home. She told Petrona that her children’s illness might be caused by the dirty water they were drinking, the dirty conditions outside the house, and the lack of handwashing in the family.

She took the advice to heart. The very next day, Petrona went to her neighbor’s house and received permission to share their water source so her family could have access to clean water. Within a few months, she heard that Medical Teams would be installing latrines in her community. She met with the community health coordinators, and was thrilled when they told her she could have a latrine.

Petrona_Family_Guatemala_Latrine_Community_Health“When I learned that I could get a latrine, I was very happy because I wouldn’t have to take the children far away or have them going in the yard,” she said. “I hoped they would be healthier.”

Petrona said the team members who came to install the latrine were friendly and played with her children, and she and her husband prayed with them after the work was finished. The team also provided a Tippy Tap—a bucket with a spigot and bar of soap—for the family to wash their hands. 

Now, Petrona’s children are healthy and she is teaching them how important it is to wash their hands before they eat and after they use the latrine. The new handwashing bucket and the latrine have truly changed her family’s life.