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WaterAid & Aqwalife:  WASH in Schools for the Indigenous Wayuu

At Poromana and Santa Cruz Schools in La Guajira, Colombia, South America, six dedicated teachers serve over one hundred and fifty pre-k through 5th grade students. The students love to learn but it is often very difficult as the schools are falling apart and there is no clean water, handwashing stations, or toilets. The children are forced to go to the bathroom out in the open behind the school and teachers carry heavy buckets of dirty water to the schools every day, so the students have at least something to drink.

WaterAid is grateful for the opportunity to submit this proposal to Aqwailfe for a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program at Poromana and Santa Cruz Schools that will transform these children’s lives. We respectfully request $25,000 to bring lifesaving clean water, reliable toilets, and hygiene education to improve the health and well-being of students and teachers. The project will take place over a period of 9 months (January 2020 – September 2020).

The Indigenous Wayuu of Colombia

La Guajira, Colombia is an arid desert peninsula on the Caribbean coast that is home to the Wayuu people, the nation’s second largest indigenous group. Most of the Wayuu live in dispersed rural communities with extremely limited access to basic services. Years of marginalization have left only 16 percent of the Wayuu with access to water and a mere 4 percent with access to basic sanitation1.

According to a 2013 report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 30 percent of the population of La Guajira live below the poverty line with 26 percent of those families living in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day.  Currently, the UNDP estimates that 60 percent of the Wayuu population suffer from malnutrition and roughly one indigenous child under 5 has died of causes linked to malnutrition every week over the past two years. At WaterAid our mission is to focus on the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized as these communities are often left behind and forgotten. This is why we are committed to working with the Wayuu, because everyone, everywhere deserves access to clean water.

Project Activities

With support from Aqwalife, WaterAid will:

  • Repair a broken windmill powered water system to provide clean water to Poromana School
  • Build an entirely new running water system for students at Santa Cruz School
  • Build bathrooms in both schools with local, cost-effective materials to give students and teachers a sanitary place to use the bathroom
  • Construct handwashing stations to encourage good hygiene behaviors and decrease illness
  • Implement ‘Ponte Pilas!’ WaterAid’s innovative hygiene education program that utilizes fun and games to instill healthy hygiene behaviors


New multi-community water system bringing clean water to Poromana School

Project Update

WaterAid is thrilled to share the progress on the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in schools’ projects made possible by The Aqwalife Foundation.

Over the past 12 months, our team in Colombia has worked very hard to bring this lifesaving work to Poromana and Santa Cruz schools. This incredible team was able to accomplish this successful project work with your generous support.  This has changed the lives of children in Colombia for good. We are so grateful for Aqwalifes generosity and hope to have the opportunity to partner again in the future.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic created difficulties, we have been able to complete all of our work to improve WASH services at both schools while implementing measures to keep everyone safe. WaterAid is continuing to adapt our hygiene campaign strategies to effectively adjust to the realities of COVID-19 in Colombia.

Your support has changed the lives of children in Colombia for good. We are so grateful for your generosity and hope to have the opportunity to partner again in the future.

Poromana School

A community strategically located in the Wayuu territory, Poromana borders the main road that connects the capital city of La Guajira with other important urban areas and the border with Venezuela. For this reason, Poromana school is larger in size than most rural schools in La Guajira, serving 108 students from pre-k to the 5th grade. Despite its size and importance, Poromana School lacked the necessary resources to install working WASH services. Teachers and students would take long journeys from their community carrying heavy buckets of dirty water to bring to school. The community well was in a fragile state and was powered via a windmill pump which was often unreliable due to La Guajira’s climate. For days at a time, the community would be left with no water at all, resulting in illness and a decline in community well-being.

To solve the problem, WaterAid rehabilitated and optimized the community water system, disinfected the well, repaired the windmill pump and built an elevated water storage tank and piping system to bring water closer to the school and people’s homes. With the support of the Aqwalife Foundation, we were able to connect the rehabilitated water system to the school, provide independent storage capacity and install water filters to ensure access, continuity and quality of the water services. The water filters were placed in “safe water stations” accompanied by handwashing stations.

Additionally, we installed 4 toilet stalls to ensure services were enough to accommodate the size of the student and teacher population and included ecologic treatment systems to avoid ground water contamination. The school infrastructure was completed by rehabilitating the kitchen to encourage proper food hygiene.


New toilet stalls ready for use…

…and new handwashing stations.


Maireth, 3rd & 4th grade teacher

Maireth, a 3rd & 4th grade teacher

Meet Maireth

Maireth is a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at Poromana School.  Before WaterAid began work at Poromana, Maireth and her students did not have access to clean water or a private, safe place to go to the bathroom. Students and teachers would have to walk to the nearest water source that was never reliable. When the well was dry, classes would have to be canceled and students would have to return home. Children were falling behind in their education and teachers felt helpless. Students were getting sick from the unsanitary conditions in the kitchen where their lunch was prepared causing them to miss even more classes.

Below is the updated school building and the new kitchen area.


Now, teachers and students can focus on education knowing that they have access to a clean, reliable water source. The construction of toilets have allowed students to have a safe, private space to use the bathroom, and no longer have to go out in the open. Students and teachers can easily wash their hands, which is especially important in the prevention of COVID-19. Teachers can prepare food for their students in a clean, sanitary kitchen reducing the incidence of health or safety concerns.

Santa Cruz School

Santa Cruz is a small Wayuu community of 189 inhabitants located at about 15 kilometers from Poromana. The community has a school that serves 25 students from pre-K to 2nd grade with an urgent need of intervention. The community day care center functions in the same area of the school and has very poor hygienic conditions as there is no access to WASH services.

With the support of Aqwalife we were able to tap into a working nearby water system, provide adequate storage capacity and install water filters to ensure kids and teachers are drinking safe water. We rehabilitated the kitchen and toilet blocks which were in a state of disrepair. These renovations create a safe and dignified place for the students to learn, play and grow.

All the improved WASH services were adapted for the use of the small children at the daycare center.