Stu Campana and Clara Blakelock are our current CIDA IYIP interns based in San Fernando, Philippines. They recently managed to attract 80 youth from local universities to talk about waste management – nice work!
Septage management, or the proper construction and maintenance of septic tanks, is not a topic that many people get very excited about. It’s a tough sell to get people to care about managing wastewater, because it can be hard to connect the source of the problem to the consequences: illness and death due to water-borne diseases. As part of our internship, we’re assisting in the USAID Rotary San Fernando City Septage and Sewerage Management project. The project involves the construction of a Septage Treatment Facility and the implementation of regular desludging of septic tanks in San Fernando. A large part of our role in the project consists of assisting with promotions: we need people to understand the program, why they have to pay a wastewater management fee, and why they should cooperate when desludgers arrive to empty their septic tanks.
One of the main mandates of our internships are to engage youth in all our projects. While both of us are convinced of the importance of septage management, we did not at first see many opportunities for youth engagement. Youth are generally not homeowners and so will not pay the wastewater management fee or get their septic tanks desludged, so we expected it to be difficult to include them in promotions. However, we were proven completely wrong at a Youth Sanitation Symposium held on April 15, 2011. The 80 youth from local universities who attended impressed us with their commitment to sanitation and their many ideas about how they can be a part of the promotions campaign in their communities.
The session began with a presentation about the importance of wastewater management and what is being done in San Fernando, and then Stu and I led an asset mapping session where we invited groups of 8-10 to brainstorm elements within and outside their communities that could be used to help promote septage management and sanitation. Each group presented their ideas, which ranged from clubs and newspapers within their universities, to community organizations, to churches, and much more. As outsiders in this city, we were incredibly lucky to get this input from local youth. Promoting this project is a tough job, and it is neither possible nor effective for the city government to give presentations to every citizen of San Fernando. We encouraged the attendees of the symposium to go out and talk to the organizations and groups they identified and we were impressed that they responded so enthusiastically.
While the participants in the Youth Sanitation Symposium may not be the ones who need to get their septic tanks desludged in the near future, they will benefit the most from the improved water quality that the success of this program will bring. A cleaner, safer San Fernando will be a better place for them to live, work, and raise their families in!