Last September, I had an opportunity to travel to a part of the world I had never seen before - Nicaragua. With a small team of five, we made our way through the beautiful mountainside visiting communities and offering clean water options for the families who lived there. You would think that most people would jump at the chance to have clean water, but it's not quite that simple. Most do not realize that the illnesses experienced by their children and elderly are being caused by contaminants and parasites that exist in the water they use every day for drinking and cooking. And, to think we met with these people a year ago and we are just now returning is hard to believe, too, but there are so many things that have to be considered. We have worked around poor weather, coffee harvest season, volunteer schedules, country elections (which can cause a little unrest) and also communication. It is not easy to coordinate something like this when no one has email or phones.
To give you a little background on our visit last September, we identified two communities that were good prospects for a water purification system. The first town welcomed us in like we were royalty - music, poems, dances. They were so happy we had come to bring clean water to their community! After a discussion with community leaders, however, we found that not only did they need CLEAN water, but they just needed WATER . . . PERIOD! Thousands of people were living in a town with no water source - at all. And, a water purification system is useless without water. Needless to say, they were devastated and so were we. After such a warm, exciting welcome, we felt completely defeated. With our hearts heavy, we left that day promising to continue to look into other options for their community, but, so far, no solution has been found.
The next community we visited, however, was a go - citizens were willing to take the necessary steps to bring clean water to their community AND there was a natural water supply close by. Next week, we'll return to this small town near Matagalpa to finally see this project through. Our more mechanically inclined team members (definitely not me!) will install the system while I work with two other team members to teach the adults and children proper hygiene and how/when to use their new, clean water. Lots of fun things on my shopping list this week for our group activities like glitter, Play-Doh, beach balls and Oreos! At the end of the week, we will join the community in a celebration and all share a glass of fresh, clean, safe water together.
To see this project through from start to finish and bring hope of a healthier future is a amazing feeling. My bags are packed (two backpacks) and I am ready for a week in Central America (not thrilled that it's the rainy season, but ready!). It's extremely hard leaving my kids and husband behind next week having them depend on grandparents, neighbors and friends to get them through, but I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. When I hear complaints from the kids, I just remind them that these people cannot live without clean water . . . and I'll be back before they know it.
Here are a few images from last year's trip. I cannot wait to share new images with you when I return of lush, green coffee fields and gorgeous brown-eyes and big smiles.