The in-country partner conference held in San Salvador on March 24 was by all measures a great success. It was attended by more than 50 operators, educators, and water committee members from sites throughout El Salvador – two of which had just signed covenants for a future installation! Living Waters for the World’s in-country team members Heidi Mihm and Denis Evangelista laid the groundwork for sharing knowledge, learning from other operators and educators, identifying ways water teams could be more helpful to their Salvadoran partners, and strengthening the bond between the water communities and the LWW water team with which they partner. Alex Rodas, In-country Technician for LWW’s Honduras Network, also helped lead sessions, sharing experiences from his side of the border.
We asked each team to draw (without using words) what clean water means to their community. Their “visual thoughts” about clean water showed the connection they saw between clean water, God, and good health.
Noting the strong connection between clean water and health made us think that there are health trainers from a LWW water team that should be proud of the work that they have done!
Breakout sessions dominated the conference format, providing operators with the opportunity to trade experiences and information. Here is where much of the learning took place. One participant commented that these sessions were “rich in instruction and the opportunity to learn from others!” Another noted that these sessions were “magnificent because we have been able to learn much from other operators.” Cross discussions concerning the legal issues of operating systems, training of operators, and education dominated the conversations.
One breakout session focused on what the LWW water teams could do to make their partnerships better. System operators and health educators were asked to provide answers to some specific questions: How could water teams make the education process better? How can we get children more involved in what we are doing? When water teams are helping in the installation process, what could they do better? How about the business plan-what could be improved? These listening sessions provide valuable input into the El Salvador Network’s continuous improvement efforts and feedback for us to share with all El Salvador water teams.
All of this was made even more palatable by the delicious lunch prepared by the talented Josefina Menjivar, of the Iglesia Reformada Calvinista at which the conference took place.
The El Salvador Network team not only offered the participants training and support during this conference, but we learned a great deal from participants as well. In particular, system operators raised the issue of their relationship with the Ministry of Health and their ability to comply with regulations – an issue affecting an increasing number of water partners in El Salvador and throughout Central America. Health educators also suggested a new way of promoting the health education curriculum – by videotaping in-country sessions and sharing them with other educators as examples.
We left the conference full of thought and the need for God’s continued guidance in our efforts. And, we were lifted by the knowledge that our Salvadoran partners had found the experience valuable. As one participant said, “[The conference was] excellent! We couldn’t have asked for more.”