Puente cares deeply about the real impact of our platform. We have trained 27 community residents how to use the Puente application to survey and understand the needs of target communities within the Dominican Republic. But, our model would be incomplete without addressing the urgent needs that this data reveals. As a nonprofit, we’re able to leverage our network of partners and take action when lives can be changed or saved. We seek funding to support community projects that are data-driven, community-led, and collaborative.
The data we’ve collected from thousands of surveys tells us that individuals consistently experience several key health and wellness challenges due to their environment. While we will create and fund any project in response to new data, we have developed five signature Puente projects that address common community needs. In addition to providing health infrastructure, our signature projects also include health and sanitation training to teach families how to integrate healthy choices into all aspects of their lives.
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 has helped me create change in my home community, using the resources that are available to us. I never knew my community was so rich in natural resources! Thanks to Puente, my community now has many things that make it better, including bathrooms, cement floors, and water filters" -Pedro, Puente Volunteer
Our mission to use data to make a difference is more important than ever. In the Dominican Republic, many families lack the health infrastructure necessary to lead healthy lives on a good day. During the COVID-19 crisis, these same families are particularly vulnerable to infection. Puente data pinpoints the gaps in health resources, such as running water, needed to fight the spread of COVID-19. To support the health and well-being of individuals across the Dominican Republic, we have deployed the following initiatives in direct response to COVID-19:
Hand-washing is one of the most effective methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But, without access to a consistent source of running water, it can be difficult to practice hand-washing effectively. Since March, Puente has distributed more than 200 hand-washing stations in the Dominican Republic to tackle this issue head-on. In order to maximize our impact, Puente volunteers identified high-traffic areas, such as grocery stores and clinics, to place the stations so that individuals can properly wash their hands before interacting with others. Finally, as part of our maintenance plan, we regularly disinfect the hand-washing stations so that they can continue to do their job.
Personal Protective Equipment
It is critical that medical professionals and other frontline workers are protected against COVID-19 while on-duty, so that they can continue to give lifesaving care to infected individuals. In response to the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Puente has distributed more than 10,000 pieces of PPE to essential workers, including hospital staff and sanitation workers. Equipped with N95 masks, gloves, and more, frontline staff throughout the Dominican Republic have been able to safely continue their line of work.
Emergency Food Kits
In order to respond to families’ basic needs during the pandemic, Puente has distributed over 100 emergency food and supply kits to families in the Dominican Republic. Our kits contain essential items, including Dominican food staples, health supplies, and toiletries. Using Puente technology, we identify families that do not qualify for government assistance and might otherwise lack access to food and other essential items. Our emergency supply kits allow these same families to stay nourished, healthy, and safe amidst the challenges of the pandemic.
At Puente, we know that the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis extend beyond just staying healthy. Many individuals in the Dominican Republic are experiencing job insecurity as a result of the pandemic; others face unexpected and steep medical expenses after contracting COVID-19. In recognition of this financial hardship, we have distributed over $1,000 USD in direct financial aid to our volunteers and their families to help keep them afloat during this uncertain time.