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WORLD WATER DAY: Coca-Cola PH, PBSP provide clean water to Negros Occ. school

By: PR March 23,2019 - 11:52 AM

Children at the Cunalum Elementary School now have access to clean water. /Contributed Photo

CEBU CITY, Philippines – On her first year as principal of Cunalum Elementary School (ES) in 2015, Jessica Castrillo had to stop pupils from drinking through the school’s water tank and other surrounding sources when one of her kindergarten pupils got ill.

After drinking from the tank, the girl suffered from vomiting and severe bowel movement for more than a week. Her father had to eventually bring the child to the hospital to get treatment.

“Her situation was very bad. Our pupil had a 50 percent chance of survival which would have gone worse if she was not brought to the hospital sooner. It was one of the most alarming situations I encountered,” Castrillo recalled.

The lack of potable water has always been a pressing issue of the school and the community in general. Cunalum is located approximately 23 kilometers from the city proper of Himamaylan in Negros Occidental.

Most of the residents are indigenous people and come from poor families that spending for their own water system is very difficult to achieve. The community used to drink water from springs until these sources of water have slowly dried up and started getting contaminated.

Since Cunalum’s residents couldn’t afford to buy drinking water, they would only source water through pipes they manually connected from the 13-year-old school tank to their own homes. However, the initial neglect on tank maintenance and the community’s manual assembly and disconnection of pipes further contributed to the possible contamination of water, making it more unreliable for drinking.

To ensure that the school children get safe drinking water in their school, Castrillo had to buy many containers of drinking water from the city and would often even carry it herself, with the help of fellow teachers.

Coca-Cola and PBSP representatives test the water system which they donated to children at the Cunalum Elementary School. / Contributed Photo

“This is an elementary school, so we couldn’t have our pupils go out and get their own drinking water, could we? Since we only relied on this tank, the adults had to carry pails of water to our classrooms because we did not have any connecting pipes from the tank to our rooms. Sometimes, the parents would come and help but they also had to take care of their own livelihood. We didn’t want to burden them that much. Conducting feeding activities here was even more demanding because we had to buy more water. But we’d rather have this sacrifice to make sure our pupils were safe,” Castrillo added.

Clean Water for Everyone

She was finally able to put her worries to rest when Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) came and fixed the school’s water system through a grant given by the Coca-Cola Foundation.

Through PBSP’s Potable Water Project , schools previously constructed under Coca-Cola’s Little Red Schoolhouse Project are given improved access to safe, drinking water.  The Little Red Schoolhouse project is Coca-Cola’s response to government’s call for assistance to augment classroom shortage in the country a few years back. A typical Little Red Schoolhouse is a three-classroom school building that comes with a toilet in each room.  Though initially, all schools were equipped with their own water tanks or rain collectors, the tanks and pipes originally installed, if at all used, eventually wears out or needs to be repaired.

In Cunalum, the school received one drinking station with 10 faucets and three additional tap stands for the use of the community outside the school. The project also rehabilitated its existing water tank and provided distribution lines from the source to the different classrooms.

Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines is committed to ensure that safe water flows in the faucets of their Little Red Schoolhouses.  Upgrading the schools’ water systems so that the students and teachers are assured of clean and adequate water for drinking, handwashing and sanitation is Coca-Cola’s way to help keep students in good health and in school.

At the end of five years, the Potable Water Project is expected to have repaired water access to over 50 Little Red Schoolhouses benefitting at least 6,000 school children just like what happened in Cunalum Elementary School.

“This project has indeed been helpful to us.  We can finally get water from our own classrooms’ faucets. The best part is that we now have the drinking station where our students now can drink clean and safe water.  I feel at ease knowing our water problem has been solved.” Castrillo added.

Aside from providing clean drinking water for students, the systems are climate-resilient with appropriate treatment mechanisms to ensure water potability. The project also developed the capacities of PTAs to operate and maintain the water systems as well as integrated a water education component in relevant subjects for schoolchildren.  /dcb

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TAGS: Coca-cola, day, Negros, Occidental, PBSP, ph, water, world

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