Transforming sanitary conditions at Los Elotes School Children at the rural Los Elotes School in Garcia, Mexico, are enjoying their education more and face a brighter future now that facilities have been improved by colleagues from Specialty Coatings based at Villa de Garcia. The school educates children of all ages at kindergarten, elementary and junior high school levels. Situated in an isolated village, it can only be reached by a dusty, unpaved dirt road. The relationship between Los Elotes and Specialty Coatings colleagues began in 2014, when volunteers renovated the high school classroom – but they very quickly realized there was much more to do. The junior high school toilets were in a terrible state of disrepair, with broken doors, no lighting and no proper water supply. There was only one real working toilet which had to be shared by boys, girls and teachers alike. As the school is so difficult to reach, teachers stay there from Monday to Friday instead of traveling in each day – and the insanitary conditions made it difficult for them to maintain their personal hygiene. With the support of the Community Program, the volunteers enthusiastically agreed their help was needed again and made further plans to improve the school. The bathroom facilities were transformed, with separate toilets built for boys and girls, a working sink, and a shower room installed for the teachers. The water supply was mended, the electrical system overhauled and a new, solid roof put in place. In addition, some further work was carried out in the classroom, with new blinds fitted to the windows, a ceiling fan provided and some cube storage for children to organize their books and materials. Trees were also donated to make the area a little less arid. “We believe children are Mexico’s future – education is the catalyst for success,” explained Irma Sabino Hernández, QHSE Manager and project coordinator. “Bad conditions such as those in the classroom and restroom can influence children to drop out of school and a potential successful career, so our contribution is to create a better place to study and provide the right conditions to promote learning.” “There are such hot temperatures so we try to avoid working in summertime. We also take a lot of water and cover to shade ourselves from the sunlight,” said Irma. “We also need to be aware of poisonous creatures such as scorpions and take care when removing old furniture or working in dark corners, where they could be hiding.” Working with Los Elotes has brought benefits to the volunteers too, strengthening feelings of belonging to a team and developing their own skills. “It was real teamwork,” said Irma. “As it was a voluntary activity, all the employees who took part were really flexible and happy to adapt to any situation they found in front of them, doing what was necessary to achieve our goals.” Some volunteers even took along their own children to share the experience. “It is very satisfying to know we are supporting a community in poverty, and to take our kids to be part of this too – it is something they will take with them all their lives,” said one volunteer.