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Pure Water - Making a Difference for Young and Old

Steve Young, executive director of Living Waters for the World (LWW), has said, “A picture is worth a thousand words, but I want to remind you that a story is worth a thousand pictures.”

I want to tell you a story about my experience as a health education teacher on our installation trip to El Chico, Guatemala.

El Chico is a very remote village on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. There, we were fortunate to have three wonderful Guatemalan teachers whom I call the Trinidad Trio of Terrific Teachers. Their last name was Trinidad. Antonieta and Yeniker are sisters, and Lydia is their cousin.

Yeniker, Antonieta, and Lydia preparing for afternoon health education lessons

They quickly caught onto the main message of the health curriculum: appropriate uses of purified water and the importance of handwashing. They proved to be dynamic presenters in the afternoon lessons to the dozen or so adults who came to learn from them.

We returned a year later for our first sustainability visit. As we disembarked from the boat that Osmundo used to ferry us across the bay for the 20-minute trip to El Chico, we were met by the residents of the village, young and old, welcoming us holding signs that said, Welcome Home, Thanks for Pure Water, Welcome Dear Brothers and Sisters.

Our sustainability visit was a wonderful time to reestablish our friendships and to hear all that had happened the past year. Yeniker informed our 102 team that Antonieta and she had gone to the homes to meet with families who did not attend any of their health education lessons they provided in the church to convince them of the importance of handwashing and uses of purified water. Antonieta told us that the village nurse had reported an 85% reduction in children under the age of five with intestinal problems such as stomach aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. We made three visits to families’ homes to hear first-hand how the pure water had made a difference in the health of the family, especially the children.

As we were preparing to leave that afternoon, we were giving hugs and saying thanks for their hospitality and congratulations on how well the water installation and health education were proceeding in El Chico. I received hugs and smiles from Antonieta and Lydia, but when Yeniker hugged me she spoke her first words of English, softly but clearly, “I love you.”

I knew what she meant. She had seen and heard what this water purification system had meant to her family, friends, and the entire village. She was appreciative, grateful, and thankful for our coming to El Chico to partner with them on this mutual goal to bring pure, safe water to her village.

I was shocked to hear Yeniker speak her first words in English, but I quickly replied, “I love you, Yeniker.”

She knew what I meant. Through this sustainability visit, I saw and heard what this system meant to the health and well-being of the people of El Chico, young and old. I was appreciative, grateful, and thankful to her, Antonieta, Lydia, the water committee, the operators, and the church pastor for allowing us the privilege to be their full and true partners in bringing to reality here in this remote Guatemalan village our Living Waters for the World motto that all God’s people deserve safe, pure water.

Before LWW, I used to nod my head when someone in my church returned from a mission trip and exclaimed, “This experience changed my life!” Now, I know what they meant. Living Waters for the World has changed my life.

I have learned so much from our partners about what is really important in our lives here on Earth. We are all truly citizens of the world. I saw that the strength of family and communal bonds is truly priceless. I have learned first-hand that we are all pretty much alike.

To join in this mission - prepare to be changed, your hearts opened, and your lives to be touched and enriched like you can’t imagine.


Rick Johnson is a member of the water team at Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church in Crystal Lake, IL. He attended Clean Water U and is a health education graduate (102).

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