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Case Study: Building a Bridge to People in Need

You can understand Puente's model, and the value we provide, by learning about our work in Los Gajitos

Our first newsletter, released nearly 11 months ago, announced Puente as an organization that "provides infrastructure and training to support sustainable community development". Since then, dozens of you have weighed in to say that this was a horribly vague description, and you still struggle to describe Puente when others ask.
Unfortunately, Puente's model is a bit tough to summarize in an elevator pitch or catchy tagline. But the value we provide has become clear, especially through the lens of our recent success in the community of Los Gajitos. With that in mind, here's the story of how Puente helped an underserved community find sustainable solutions to critical health infrastructure problems.

Case Study: Enabling Healthier Lifestyles in Los Gajitos

In May, we began working to solve health and sanitation problems in the small community of Los Gajitos. Since then, we've helped bring new in-home bathrooms to 22 families that previously defecated into buckets and outdoor spaces. We've also distributed 24 clean water filters to families that previously drink dirty tap water. There is substantial overlap between bathroom and filter recipients, and we view the project as a full overhaul of sanitation infrastructure.
Our success in Los Gajitos required key contributions from local volunteers, US-based partner organizations, and of course, the Puente Data Collection app. The value Puente offers as an organization is found in our unique ability to unite disconnected parties and resources to create incredible outcomes for people in need. In other words, we are a bridge between people offering help and people needing it. Here's how the Los Gajitos project came together:
  • Puente Volunteers, who completed our training program last fall, stumbled upon Los Gajitos while surveying a nearby community. Noticing the community's poor housing infrastructure, they decided to survey residents to explore a potential floor or roof repair project.
  • Data collected through Puente's app showed that the most pressing need in Los Gajitos was not housing, but sanitation -- 39% of residents lacked bathroom access, and 68% drank unfiltered water. According to the World Health Organization, a lack of clean water and toilet facilities contributes to the spread of diseases like cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, polio, and diarrhea (note: diarrhea alone causes over 400,000 deaths annually). In Los Gajitos, 44% of water filter recipients reported frequent digestive problems prior to receiving a filter.
  • Our Wonderful Donors gave Puente the ability to start solving these problems as soon as the needs were recognized. Three bathrooms were complete within a week of our decision to move forward with sanitation improvements, and 10 bathrooms have been funded by Puente donors to date. This ability to execute quickly meant: 1) more families could begin using safe facilities right away, and 2) we were able to prove the project's viability with our own resources before pitching to...
  • Our Wonderful Partners, who helped Puente stretch the project to heights we could not have reached on our own. First, Constanza Medical Mission agreed to purchase water filters for 24 families in Los Gajitos, solving the clean water access issue we noticed in the initial survey data. Second, Friends of the Dominican Republic funded 12 more bathrooms in addition to the original 10 funded by Puente.
  • Puente's Team built the app, trained the volunteers, raised the money, and formed the partnerships well before the project began. Our work in Los Gajitos came together quickly, but it was only possible thanks to months of preparation that brought all these parties and resources together.   
If you see the Los Gajitos project as a simple 2-month construction effort, you're missing the big picture. Had we failed to train volunteers last September, we may have never set foot in Los Gajitos. Without our mobile app, we may have never uncovered the community's unmet sanitation needs -- or gathered the data needed to validate them with partner organizations abroad. Friends of the DR first got in touch with Puente because I misspelled the spanish word "miedo" while making a poop joke in our very first newsletter (seriously -- the first email they sent us was a spelling correction, and that turned into months of serious partnership discussion).
The key takeaway here is that good development requires the right blend of people and resources, brought together at the right time and in the right setting. Puente exists to bring all these elements together, and we do it using data (an international language!) and relationships (locally and abroad). The best part is that our work is scalable -- the 9+ months of preparation that enabled our success in Los Gajitos is already benefiting other communities, too. Our volunteers are still working; we're generating more useful data every day; our partnerships will stretch into many more communities this year alone. Your donations have been critical to not only building bathrooms, but building relationships and data assets that can be leveraged to help many, many more people in need.
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