Water partners Rev. Victorino Rodriquez, Richard Porter, and
Rev. Victorino's son Rafael.
The installation of a water purification system can feel like the pinnacle of a Living Waters for the World partnership. But for my church, First Presbyterian Church of Hartsville, South Carolina, our first installation felt like the beginning of an ongoing, life-changing partnership.
Let’s begin this story at the beginning. In 2014, the Mission Committee of First Presbyterian Church, Hartsville, South Carolina became interested in Living Waters for the World. To learn more, Mike Zold, a mission committee member, went on a trip with another Living Waters mission team. Mike got a feel for the Living Waters ministry during the installation of a water system and health education program with a Honduran community.
Mike’s experience gave us the confidence we needed to form our own Living Waters for the World water team. So, six additional church members traveled to Oxford, Mississippi for a week of Clean Water U training.
At the Clean Water U training I was invited to travel with another water team - this time to Dominican Republic. Little did we realize this trip would set the future course of our water ministry. While there, I visited Sabana Larga, a very isolated community in northwest Dominican Republic on the Haitian border. I felt that God had directed me - and us - to that site.
In 2015, Hartsville First Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Cheraw, South Carolina covenanted with the people of Sabana Larga to teach them to install and maintain a water purification system and health education program. In June of that year, a team of 16 people traveled to Dominican Republic and worked side-by-side with our partners to install a standard LWW water purification system and conduct health education classes. Together we celebrated the opening of their system and the flow of clean water.
During health education training, partners demonstrate proper hand washing techniques.
A mother from Sabana Larga gives her daughter her first drink of clean water
from their newly opened LWW water system.
But our story does not end there.
After operating the system for six months, it was clear there was an issue. Although the water was safe to drink, the people wouldn’t drink it because they didn’t like the taste. In response, we added a reverse osmosis unit to the water system.
The ROS system added to the Sabana Larga water purification system
The results were outstanding. The water was sold in five gallon bottles at half the cost of water sold in the cities. The sick and elderly were given their water free. And the people wanted to drink Living Waters for the World water!
One year after the installation, on another follow-up visit, our Dominican partners determined that they needed a way to deliver the water to reach even more community members. Our church helped purchase a delivery truck that could haul 90 bottles per load. Water is now supplied to twelve communities within a five mile radius of Sabana Larga. The water system and the truck operate six days per week and furnish four full-time jobs.
The truck is ready to haul clean water to surrounding communities.
But still, God had more to accomplish through our partnership. In the spring of 2017, we talked with our partners about how to increase production. Together we decided that the problem was the limited availability of electrical power. A local solar contractor gave us a $13,500 quote for a system that would meet our requirement. Even at this amount, we were undeterred. First Presbyterian Hartsville conducted a “Be a Part, Buy a Part” fundraiser and raised the full $13,500 needed to install the solar system.
Between July 2016 and May 2017, the water system averaged 2,870 gallons per week produced and delivered. After the system was switched to solar in May 2017, the average increased to 4,750 gallons per week. We celebrate this success, yet our story continues.
Living Waters for the World emphasizes follow-up to support sustainability, and for us, that has certainly been key. We have also had the advantage of committed and creative Operating Partners, a water team that is willing to closely listen to their ideas, and an engaged and informed congregation. Through ongoing communication and regular updates from the water system operators, we trust we can improve the system’s ability to meet the needs of the people.
This project is almost complete and self-sustaining. We feel confident it will provide pure water to Sabana Larga and the surrounding isolated communities for years to come.