Volume 44 Number 7
World Spotlight: Central America -- A Water Professional’s View of `Water For People’ Program
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There’s a vast distance between hope and despair, and sometimes what spans that distance is water. Clean, safe, abundant water.
You might expect that this would be an article about the types of equipment and technologies used to treat the water in developing countries. Let’s save that for the engineers. I would rather talk about people and places and feelings.
Roaming the island
Water For People is a non-profit organization started in 1991 by a dedicated handful of North American water professionals from the American Water Works Association (AWWA). These people understood the importance of water and wanted to help. WFP has a vision -- a world where all people have access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and basic health services. A world where no child dies from a water-related disease. The WFP work is done primarily in Honduras, Guatemala and Bolivia in Latin America and Malawi in Africa, and the goal for each project is to work with communities to build sustainable water treatment systems.
Imagine for a moment that you wake your children in the morning and, before they go to school, they must walk two-and-a-half hours to get safe water for the family to use that day. Or, imagine getting drinking water from the same river in which you wash your clothes and from where animals drink. Then, imagine carrying that water uphill in five-gallon buckets.
Think what it would be like to be a community leader asking for help to bring safe water to your village, and then you learn that there’s no money for new projects. How would you tell the people that there’s no help for them?
He said, “Welcome to our community. We are very content for you to see the people you have helped. You can see this with your own eyes. We waited a very long time (10 years) for the project. We hope you feel very welcome here.” We were given coffee to drink that was hot and sweet and tasted unlike any coffee I have ever had. Of course, Andreas grew the beans and his family roasted and ground them that day. As I sipped my coffee from an orange cup, I felt a great sense of welcome.
There were so many villages to visit, and some of my favorite memories are of the children in the schools. At the school in San Jose, the children were thrilled to show us their new latrines and one little boy showed us a new tap with running water. Their little faces were filled with joy. One of the men in our group had a digital camera, which he used to take pictures of the children. When he showed them their pictures, it was like magic before their eyes.
In Vilamieto Villejo, I met the most wonderful older man. Even though we spoke different languages, there was a connection as he hugged me. Another elderly man on the path to San Francisco pulled large leaves off a tree and placed them on the ground so I could rest in the shade. My favorite was an old woman at a tent city, whose face lit up when we arrived. Meeting all these people was a wonderful gift.
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