In March, I traveled to Honduras with a water team from The Presbytery of Northern Kansas (PNK). For years I had heard the stories, and I was finally getting to experience an installation trip for myself! The nine of us headed to the town of Santa Lucia in the department (equivalent to a state in the US) of Yoro, to install a water system and health education program with the community.
An impressive, newly-constructed water building was ready and waiting. Over the next week, I spent a day with each of the PNK sub-teams – project and partnership management, system installation, community health education, and Vacation Bible School.
Photo: Carie (on left) sands PVC pipe for the water purification system with Brenda, a member of Santa Lucia's system installation team
I had many memorable moments during my visit to Honduras, but the scene that is most deeply seared into my mind took place while conducting a Water Issues Survey in the remote village of Tapiquilares. While the PNK water team and community members worked together back in Santa Lucia, PNK team leader Dave Parks, LWW Honduras In-country Director Edwin Rodriguez and I took a day to visit Tapiquilares, a community in need of clean water. We visited to test their water and better understand the needs of the community.
While we were there, a local man invited us inside his home and led us to a shaded back porch. Dave asked the man if we could test their water, and he nodded his head yes. Then, as the man’s young daughter looked on, I saw the faucet – the only source of water for this home.
Wrapped around the faucet and over the spout, was a dirty rag. Anytime this family turned on their tap, the water flowed through the dirty rag. Dave removed the rag to perform a water hardness test. He then needed a cup to complete the second test, and he asked the little girl if there was one he could use. She came back with a brightly colored plastic cup, and she dipped it in the large outdoor sink of open, standing water to wash it for him. She dried it with the skirt of her dress and proudly handed it to Dave.
When Dave turned on the faucet to perform the second test, no water came out. He instead tested water that the family had earlier filled from their faucet into a two liter Pepsi bottle. I turned and looked in the doorway of the house and smiled at the young mother and the baby boy she held.
One of the questions we ask students at Clean Water U is why they are called to bring clean water to others. I saw my "why" on that back porch in Tapiqulares.
That little girl needs and deserves to have water that will not make her and her family sick.
An LWW system in her community would give her and her family the safe, readily-available water they need, in five gallon bottles. I knew this in my head. I now know it more deeply. My soul remembers her face.
We returned to Santa Lucia for their water celebration. The community had “sewn” together four large blue tarps and positioned them up and in front of the water building, now brightly decorated by paper chains made by Santa Lucia's newly trained health educators.
Photo: The people of Santa Lucia, Honduras and the water team from the Presbytery of Northern Kansas celebrate the opening of Santa Lucia's Living Waters for the World water purification system.
As the final preparations were being made, I poured into cups some of the very first clean water that would be served to the community. At the conclusion of the celebration, our newly trained educators passed these cups of water around to the 150 guests. Together we sipped and celebrated clean water in Santa Lucia.
I am grateful for my week in Honduras - for being adopted by eight brothers and sisters from Kansas, for the loving people of Santa Lucia and for a little girl in Tapiqulares that taught me my clean water "why."