An entrepreneur is transforming sanitation in a Peru town

With help from the Church and Water For People, one woman is helping families have better bathrooms in Cascas, Peru

Alexandra Valverde and her family have lived for her whole life in Cascas, Peru. After graduating college with a degree in administration, she found a local contest for young entrepreneurs to submit a business idea and earn seed money to start out.

She decided to enter — but first, she needed a business idea. So she asked herself, “What are we lacking here in Cascas?”

The first need that came to mind was bathrooms. At least 20% of families throughout the district did not have safe sanitation services, putting them at greater risk for water-borne illnesses.

Valverde joined a sanitation business training hosted by the local Water for People team in Peru. Water For People is a nonprofit working around the world to equip communities with lasting access to clean water and sanitation services.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Water For People began working together in 2014 to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services across nine countries. Previous efforts recorded by the Church News include examples of sustainability in Honduras and Guatemala, Bolivia, Rwanda and Uganda.

Valverde created a business plan for a hardware store that would focus on sanitation and bathroom products.

“Some people were discouraging me, saying, ‘You’re not going to be able to sell these types of products,” she said. “But I said, ‘No, everybody wants to improve their bathrooms. There is a market for this.’”

Alexandra Valverde shows some of the colors and tiles of bathroom supplies available in her shop in Cascas, Peru.
Alexandra Valverde shows some of the bathroom supplies available in her shop in Cascas, Peru. Her example was shared in July 2024 as a way that the Church and Water For People are helping improve hygiene services. | Water For People

Valverde was one of the contest winners and with the prize money, she quickly got to work starting her business and stocked her small store with as much inventory as she could — such as sinks, faucets, toilets, tiles and any materials families would need to complete their bathrooms.

Water For People and the Church are supporting Valverde’s business and local sanitation efforts by driving potential customers her way through sanitation fairs and promoting sanitation services.

Throughout Cascas, families are learning about the importance of having safe and hygienic bathrooms. They can find help in Valverde’s store, where they can buy the materials needed to construct household bathrooms. And then their own health and sanitation improves.

One of those families included Robert, a single dad with his 9-year-old son Victor. When Robert built their new, modest home, he knew he wanted to make sure it had a good bathroom. Having a bathroom has made their life happier and healthier — and Victor takes pride in practicing good handwashing and hygiene habits, explained Water For People.

Robert and Victor represent Valverde’s goal of helping families in her district have a safe and hygienic bathroom.

Rather than provide toilet hand-outs, Water For People supports entrepreneurs in providing sanitation products and services. This market-based approach is more sustainable, creates jobs and lifts local economies.

Clean water is a priority for the Church’s humanitarian efforts. In 2023, the Church participated in 206 clean water, hygiene and sanitation projects around the world. Initiatives focus on building sustainable solutions that promote self-reliance and dignity for all.

The Church also seeks to improve the well-being of women and children specifically through its global initiative led by the Relief Society.

Alexandra Valverde shows some of the bathroom supplies available in her shop in Cascas, Peru.
Alexandra Valverde shows a picture of completed bathrooms at her shop in Cascas, Peru, in a July 2024 story about her efforts. | Water For People
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