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#455966 - 01/22/13 08:44 AM The reality of life in San Mateo
Marty Offline

An eye-opening glimpse on the day to day living in a community that struggles for the very basic

It’s just before ten on a Friday morning, and the island heat is beginning its climax. Miss Daisy turns around from the living room into the kitchen, without taking a step. She stirs the pot of rice, knowing it will last her exactly three days.

Daisy has lived in San Mateo for six years. The two room home she and her family of five live in now was built little by little after she obtained the plot of land from the government. Even though she had to walk along planks to get to her land, it did not change the fact that the land was hers.

“This has been our way of living from way back, so it really doesn’t worry us,” she says of life in San Mateo. “We came over because there were many persons just coming and squatting on the land. We wanted to keep an eye on ours.”

Miss Daisy’s day began just like any other mother’s. She woke at six a.m., cooked breakfast for the family and then sent her oldest child in the house to school. But today, instead of cleaning house, she is searching for electricity. Her home has been without any electricity for the past three months. Because light poles do not reach her area of San Mateo, she has to buy electricity from someone near the front of the community.

“I could not afford the amount I was being charged,” she explains. “They [electric companies] won’t allow any more electricity to be connected to those poles because they already have too many [lines] on them already.”

When Miss Daisy steps onto her front porch, she sees a string of ten or so power lines, cutting across from house to house. Most of these are going to families who are buying off of another family’s line. Not only is this a safety hazard, it is also expensive for some.

When Daisy has electricity, she pays $150 each month for the services, no matter how much or little she uses. She has friends who pay up to $300 per month. She says the cost all depends on who is providing the electricity. But it’s not the luxury of lighting she misses most, although it gets very dark at night in her section of the neighborhood.

“What was getting to me was washing with the bucket and pipe because I have blisters all over my hands now,” she says of not being able to use the washing machine. “Now that I am almost seven months pregnant, it is getting me a little tired now.”

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos in the San Pedro Sun

#456177 - 01/24/13 09:01 AM Re: The reality of life in San Mateo [Re: ]
crockhunter Offline
Here's a thought.

Donate a little of your time or money to Holy Cross School and help some of those children have a chance at a future.

#457012 - 02/01/13 08:18 AM Re: The reality of life in San Mateo [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

“San Mateo is a very difficult area to provide suitable water to… there are significant risks that remain,” claims EWB

Earlier in January, a group of volunteers from the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) were at the San Mateo Subdivision in San Pedro Town conducting a series of tests. The two main tests conducted were soil tests and a community health assessment of the area. The information gathered from the soil test will look at the feasibility of installing passive sewage treatment systems. On the other hand, the information gathered in the community health assessment provides a picture of the community’s health, as well as an indication of current and potential problems.

The gathering of information says John Fripp of Engineers Without Borders, “provides a guide to possible solutions.” Fripp explained that health assessments take into consideration a series of factors that are divided into three categories: 1-water quality measurements 2-measures of basic human health and 3- assessment of community infrastructure. “We are unable to sample every household so we tried to look at a distribution of houses. The people of San Mateo were very gracious in answering questions and welcoming us into their homes,” he explained. According to Fripp, as part of the health assessment the team measured body mass index, blood pressure and interviewed household members about their past medical history, noting whether or not anyone had visited the clinic in the past year due to water related incidents. “No one reported going to the hospital due to water contamination. The team did however note rashes on some residents, mostly on children. Chances are the rashes are related to direct contact with contaminated water. A few households reported having diarrhea that they believe to be water related,” Fripp pointed out.

While Fripp would not disclose initial findings of the assessment of water that residents are currently using, he described what the conditions are. “At this point, I can say that San Mateo is a very difficult area to provide suitable water to. However, things are much improved since last year. I think that this is a credit to the efforts of the Belize Health Department officials, local government, volunteers, the roads constructed by the empowerment group and the government, the distribution of the household Sawyer filters through Ann Kuffner of the Rotary, and the people of San Mateo. But there are significant risks that remain.The untreated or semi-treated sewage can transmit disease.Contact with standing water should be avoided. Frequent hand washing is recommended especially before preparing food.Special care should be taken of infants, pregnant mothers, the elderly or those with illness,” he noted. As it related to assessment of existing infrastructure, Fripp explained that “the major vector or source of health problems is sewage. This is fairly obvious. We are looking to see how and if this can enter human water supply which is very dangerous.”

During the January 2012 Texas A&M’s Engineers Without Borders (TAMU/EWB) visit, the team conducted water quality grab samples at five taps and two cisterns, where it was identified that the water had dangerous fecal contamination. Due to the nature of this dangerous condition, the team identified this issue to the authorities. Possible sources for this issue were identified, including standing sewage and inadequate water supply pipes. Bilingual recommendations for household chlorination were provided by TAMU/EWB and distributed by volunteers with Kim Shakelford of Old Miss. According to Fripp, in the most recent January 2013 visit, the team conducted a more thorough approach with regards to water quality testing, health and infrastructure assessments, surveys, and water quality surveys. This included over 200 water quality samples. Surface water as well as the water supply at residential units was examined. Over 30 sites were examined in detail. “The water quality testing includes tests that measured free and total chlorine, pH, nitrates, total dissolved solids, different types of coliform and whether or not bacteria were present in the water.

Since fecal contamination was of significant concern, a minimum of two different types of tests were conducted at all sites,” detailed Fripp, who indicated that a report is being completed and will be released after a panel of experts review the results.

Another purpose of the visit by the group was to conduct a comprehensive soil test in the area. The purpose of analysis done by the team was to assess the feasibility of installing passive sewage treatment. “We needed to know what the ground could absorb in terms of grey water effluent, and what the ground could support in terms of the weight of anything that is to be constructed. While the analysis was for our design interest, it may be useful for other construction efforts in the community. We are preparing a report that will detail these findings,” Fripp said. One area of soil tests done was permeability. Such test will help see how fast the water can soak into the ground, water table height and soil texture. Fripp explained a compressive strength of the soil was also conducted. “It will help show how much weight can be put on the soil withoutthe construction sinking into the ground. The tests and analysis that we conducted is standard civil engineering type work,” said Fripp. The test included mainly the drilling of holes to different depths and analyzing the material. “While it might looked like we were playing in the mud, the TAMU/EWB students were conducting systematic tests and evaluations. Careful records are kept of the material.We also used various field instruments to assess soil strength,” added Fripp who indicated that two lots were examined in detail. Fripp explained that the “passive system” referred to would be “something like a septic tank and drain field or a modification thereof.” Such system would not require power or inputs but just periodic maintenance. “Anything that is constructed will interact with the soil that is there. Of particular interest to the Engineers Without Borders team was the permeability of the soil and its compressive strength. These properties are needed in the analysis and design of possible sewage treatment facilities. Our field analysis found very weak soils. We had hoped to use some modern approaches to place material but do not believe it is economical. Construction will need to be supported with piles. This is something that the local residents had already known but we needed to confirm that there was not another option.”

Fripp said that Engineers Without Borders will be preparing a detailed report of both tests conducted by the team.Those findings will be provided through Holy Cross Volunteer Coordinator Lydia Brown, who will then pass on the results to the relevant local government officials and the media by mid-2013.

San Pedro Sun

#457030 - 02/01/13 10:08 AM Re: The reality of life in San Mateo [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
San Mateo has multiple issues.
Baba was brave enough to point out an important one. Not unique to San Mateo though and probably a useful discussion on another thread. Overpopulation is at the heart of so many of the worlds problems - and where it is not causal, it certainly exacerbates issues from traffic to disease control and food distribution. (Education is said to be at the heart of women choosing to have smaller families, so the suggestion to help Holy Cross is not without merit in addressing this issue).
From a residential planning standpoint, San Mateo is an example of making a mistake (creating lots there) and then trying to fix it bit by bit (expensively and never all that well) instead of starting over elsewhere.
Under current circumstances it's just too hard to put the San Mateo genie back in the bottle (and the Town Board is really doing its best to make life better there) - but we will have some serious rethinking to do when a hurricane turns it into a messy, wet soup of broken dreams and household debris. It is likely that every penny being spent (by the lot-owners, Government, charities and volunteers) now will be for naught after one strong storm.
IMHO, if we are going to give lots to the less fortunate, we should give them something decent and livable - dry land - not bits of mud under water.

#457032 - 02/01/13 10:43 AM Re: The reality of life in San Mateo [Re: Marty]
ScubaLdy Offline
So right on Diane. But the truth is 'THEY DIDN'T GIVE THE LOTS;' THEY LEASED THEM OUT. I would like a survey of the people in San Mateo who think they own their lot. They each paid $300 BZ and were given a few years to'buy.' My caretaker learned this when someone wanted to buy his lot.
Last February he paid $1,500 BZ and so did I to meet the buying requirement. We are still waiting to get the title. This has been nerve wracking.
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

#457034 - 02/01/13 11:02 AM Re: The reality of life in San Mateo [Re: Marty]
Amanda Syme Offline
The lease is very standard in Belize. First you pay for the survey work and then there is a very nominal price set on the land as the "lease" payment, once you have fulfilled the terms of the lease, which is usually some type of development to the lot and you make the nominal payment the lease can be converted to a fee simple title. You have to chase up the title constantly in order to get it. The squeaky wheel gets the grease when it comes to that part of the process. Have him check on it as the title work usually only takes about 8 weeks.


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