When the COVID pandemic hit Mexico in early 2020, public health authorities emphasized the importance of washing hands in order to reduce the spread of the virus. Other common diseases in Mexico like diarrhea, digestive tract and respiratory infections can also be avoided by washing hands. Unfortunately, public bathrooms in small towns often don’t exist, or are not working.
Travler responded to this public health challenge by designing portable handwashing stations primarily from recycled materials. Beginning in March 2020 we built and deployed several of these “Lavamanos” stations in busy public areas of San Pancho and Sayulita including the town square, parks, a hospital entrance, a playground, near the town entrance and at food stands.
The COVID pandemic has subsided, but the handwashing stations at these public sites continue to be useful. People welcome the opportunity to wash their hands before and after a meal, while enjoying the public park, while shopping in town or after a visit to the beach. This project contributes directly to Travler’s sustainable community goals of improved public health, and access to clean water and sanitation.
The handwashing stations require regular maintenance to refill with water and soap, add chlorine to prevent mosquito larvae, wash out the sink, and occasionally repair a broken part. Maintaining the stations is a good full-time job opportunity for a local resident, because there are not many other unskilled work options in these rural towns. The labor cost for one person to maintain handwashing stations in one town, a part-time job, is about $420 USD per month. Maintenance supplies and replacement parts cost about $35 USD per month for 6 to 8 stations. Unfortunately, as of 2023 many of the stations are in disuse because we don’t have the funds to pay to service them.
In 2022 each handwashing station cost about $65 USD to build. Most parts are recycled, but the large plastic drum (originally used to transport bulk powdered goods like flour) costs about $45 USD from recycling dealers, and the water and soap pumps cost about $10 each. Travler’s goal is to teach and employ at least 2 local youth to build and maintain at least 8 more of these portable handwashing stations.
Based on the success of this program we believe it could be repeatedly easily at low cost in rural areas around the world, especially where water is scarce and few facilities exist for hygiene. Travler’s long-term goal is to publish and host a multi-lingual online video guide with support resources to show anyone how they can build and deploy these handwashing stations in developing areas around the world. We estimate a cost of $4,500 to launch that project.
Please consider contributing to our handwashing station project goals with a donation.