Camp Director Helps Create Miracles with Living Waters for the World Project
Yendy Tejada, director of the World Vision training camp El Tule in Chiquimula, Guatemala, has witnessed several miracles this year. The first was in the spring when the global pandemic shut down the camp operations. She convinced World Vision officials to keep the Living Waters for the World (LWW) water system running to honor the covenant with LWW to provide clean, affordable drinking water. The second was in the summer when World Vision helped her distribute free water to residents who were confined to their homes because of government restrictions.
Then as COVID-19 spread throughout eastern Guatemala, Tejada realized she needed another miracle - someone to teach the water recipients how to keep the water clean, when to use it, and the importance of proper hand washing.
“We were delivering water,” she said, “but we couldn’t let the education fall behind.” She knew the health and spiritual classes were an essential part of the LWW mission. She had observed the lessons taught by the team from Suffolk Presbyterian Church in Virginia when they helped install the reverse osmosis softener (ROS) system at the camp in 2018. The El Tule system was LWW’s first ROS installation in Guatemala. This system now has its sanitary license.
But the teachers they had trained were no longer available. Tejada had to send most of the El Tule staff home in April when the government imposed a lockdown. She opened the box of materials that was stored in her office and read the LWW training manual. “I had the recipe!” she told her Suffolk partners in a video conference call on the LWW Zoom network. In the box were banners to reinforce when to wash your hands, games to show how to keep water bottles clean, and materials to stress saving the clean water for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, and bathing babies.
In August and September, she worked the latest miracle, teaching nearly 100 residents of two rural communities about 30 minutes away. Madison Carrillo, a World Vision staff member at El Tule, recorded the sessions for future training and publicity.
Classes were held in a school and a community center since she could no longer bring groups to the El Tule campus. Even with special permission from health officials, she could only teach 20 at a time, so she had to repeat each of the three lessons five times. She also included tips on COVID-19 prevention and child protection.
World Vision, which works to improve the nutrition of residents in surrounding communities, paid for 4,555 5-gallon bottles of water for the special project. El Tule’s operators distributed them from July 20 until the end of September, when the government lifted the restrictions.
“These communities couldn’t get out and buy water because of the quarantine and curfew,” Tejada said, noting that water companies could go into the rural areas because they were considered essential businesses. To receive the free water, families were required to have someone attend the classes. Most who came were mothers.
Tejada cradled “Tulita” - a washable doll the Suffolk team had brought her last year - and demonstrated how babies can splash water into their mouths when being bathed. Use clean water for anything that goes in the mouth, she emphasized.
El Tule sells clean drinking water in the area for an affordable price. They also provide free water to an indigenous hamlet. And they recently started donating water to a shelter for persons affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota that have ravaged Central America.
Their Suffolk Presbyterian partners were unable to travel for a planned inspection this fall. Instead, they had a virtual visit on the LWW Zoom network to check on El Tule’s needs and how they could help. The team used proceeds from a semi-annual plant sale to help with system maintenance and parts. Earlier, they bought extra bottles so El Tule could expand its customer base.
“This has been a very difficult year for them at El Tule,” said Pablo Pérez Siliézar, LWW’s in-country coordinator, who deftly interprets conversations between the partners. “They know the Lord has kept them safe.”
Since the camp was shut down, El Tule has survived with income only from water sales and donations and with support from World Vision and their partners in Virginia. Tejada had seen God’s hand in the water project from the beginning. “It’s hard to put into words,” she said. “The only thing I can say is ‘This was a miracle!’”
Susie Stoughton is a member of the Suffolk Presbyterian Church water team. She is a Clean Water U Health Education (102) graduate.