Puente believes in the power of data to make the world a better place. Our software gives development organizations and local residents the ability to learn more about communities and make better informed decisions on how to improve them. We have built a robust mobile-first platform for managing community assessments, monitoring, and evaluation with local stakeholders playing an integral role every step of the way. We are using data to make international development more collaborative and efficient, so that together we can have a bigger impact.
At Puente, we believe that community development should be led by those with most at stake: the residents. Our model hinges upon a thorough educational program that teaches local residents how to collect and use data to plan and implement community development projects. Graduates of our Community Leader training program become Puente volunteers, armed with free access to our data collection application and non-profit network so that they can put their neighborhoods on the map and find the right partners to enact change.
A staggering 16% of Dominican residents still lack access to proper sanitation facilities, including toilets and latrines. Access to a sanitary toilet is not only a basic human right, but it also prevents critical illnesses, such as chronic diarrhea, enabling individuals to lead healthy lives. Our bathrooms project aims to improve this health infrastructure problem in the most vulnerable communities by providing residents with high-quality latrines. We use the Puente application to identify the number of households who lack access to a bathroom or latrine, as well as related health conditions that could be due to a lack of proper sanitation facilities. We then build high-quality latrines for these same families, directly boosting each individual’s quality of life.
Throughout the Dominican Republic, 1.6 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Without a source of clean water, individuals and children in particular are susceptible to diseases, parasitic infection, and diarrhea as a result of drinking contaminated water. Using Puente software, we are able to identify the households throughout the D.R. that rely on contaminated tap water as their main access to drinking water; we also track medical conditions that might be related to the consumption of contaminated water. Our water filters project seeks to supply a clean water source to these families to improve health outcomes: a ceramic water filtration system removes contaminated materials from tap water, resulting in clean and safe drinking water. In addition to a water filter, families also receive sanitation and health education in order to provide them with the building blocks needed to lead a healthy life in all aspects.
Only half of the population across the Dominican Republic has access to running water; the remaining half, most likely to be concentrated in rural parts of the country, experience intermittent and unreliable water service. Without consistent access to water, it is difficult to practice hand-washing and properly disinfect common areas. As a result, communities with a systemic deficit of water are more susceptible to contract preventable diseases. Through our data collection, Puente pinpoints households with limited access to water. These same households receive a rainwater collection system, designed to filter and store up to 400 gallons of rainwater at a time. As a result, families are able to store and use clean rainwater to fulfill routine household tasks, such as hand-washing, bathing, and cleaning, enabling them to improve health outcomes.
Dirt floors make people sick, and yet 300 million families worldwide live in homes built directly on the ground. Parasitic and respiratory illnesses spread easily in homes with dirt floors, and germs stay put, simply because it is impossible to clean dirt surfaces. Replacing dirt floors with cement significantly improves individuals’ quality of life, particularly children: the World Bank found that paving dirt floors with cement leads to a 78% reduction in parasitic infestations in kids. Through Puente software, we are able to identify which households lack proper flooring, as well as have health conditions such as chronic diarrhea that are linked back to dirt floors. When a community experiences significant rates of dirt flooring, we implement project plans to construct cement floors in order to improve the health outcomes of families in the community.
Without a reliable water source, many households across the Dominican Republic are unable to consistently and correctly practice hand-washing. This is important, because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that washing hands with soap and water can reduce diarrheal-related deaths by up to 50%. Using the Puente app, we are able to identify households that do not have reliable access to water: we know that without running water, these families may lack the necessary water supply to wash their hands regularly. We then install our signature hand-washing station. On water supply days, recipient households use a large container to collect and store water specifically for hand-washing, and a convenient nozzle releases a slow water stream so that individuals can wash their hands with soap and water as necessary. Project recipients also receive educational training so that they are equipped with knowledge of proper hand-washing techniques.
Puente provides more than just data collection software and education. We use our community assessment data and volunteer network to identify problems and design sustainable solutions that improve life for generations to come. Our team works with partner organizations and local institutions to utilize existing resources and bring in new ones that help bring a project to life.
We chose Puente as our name because in Spanish it means bridge. Through our mobile application Puente-Collect and community leader trainings, we act as a bridge that connects communities, governments, and non-profit organizations. We believe that everyone has the ability to contribute to community development and that is why we center our projects around the voices of community residents. Using data, we align priorities around verified community needs and then design projects that are centered around the involvement of stakeholders.
Successful and sustainable community development requires collaboration from a wide variety of collaborators. Our work is made possible thanks to the generous support of individuals, partner organizations, and foundations. Together, we are making a difference, one individual at a time.