You may already know this, but just in case you don’t, 1 in 8 people do not have access to clean water, and dirty water kills more people than all forms of violence including war. I think it is just crazy that water - dirty water - has that much power. This past week I had the opportunity to go to El Salvador with LWI (Living Water International) and build a clean water well! I was going on this trip for a scout trip to take a group of High School students there next year! I was going by myself and meeting a larger group from Houston that was going there! A group of young adults that I had never met!
Before the trip I was loaded down with questions – will I be hot? Will I get bite by a bug? Will I get any sleep? Will the group I’m going with be a good group to hang out with or will they be a bunch of punks? Will I get sick from the water? Will I have any good food? Will I get muddy? Will I pack the right kind of clothes? I mean the list went on and on! But by the 1st few minutes in the village on Monday morning – none of the questions seemed to matter anymore!
You see by this time I had spent several hours getting to know the group from Texas and a man by the name of Rob from California, who I shared a room with on Saturday in Houston! Rob was on a scouting trip of his own because he wanted to take his 14 year old son on one of these trips next year and he was trying to figure out all of his questions as well! So a lot of these questions were answered by Monday morning! The rest would come but by Monday lunch time – all those questions didn’t seem to matter (I had to keep asking questions because of the trip I was on and I knew when I got back tons of students, parents and my boss would be asking them)! But they didn’t carry the same worries they did before the trip or as they did on Sunday night!
You see by Monday lunch time I had taking a 40 min ride to the village that we are building a well in – 25 min of which was on a very bumpy, hole filled dirt road! Which on several occasions thought we would get stuck but the LWI staff always had it under control and not once got stuck! But as you leave the main road to start your dirt road trek you discover something I had only seen on TV – tons of people walking around barefoot or in flip flops, mud houses, some walls in the houses covered by sheets, cows walking as free as people, enough Chickens to supply the CHICK FILA on Quarterfield Rd. for a year! Conditions that I had only seen on TV and was amazed by these people as they waved at us as we drove by.
When we finally got to the drill site we went on a walking tour of the village in which we were building the well! We walked for about an hour or so going from home to home! Each house was similar but very different! They were similar in regards to the fact they were all a lot lower condition to almost every house in the good old USA! But different because they were put together with whatever they could find – some was with mud, others with tin, some with bed sheets, sticks – if you were lucky, cinder block! The walkway to the house was a cut of the field in which you would have to squeeze through the little path they made in the fence! I am a little bigger so I had to really squeeze in some of the spots! During one part of our walk we walked past a river where they were washing their clothes and playing. LWI told us that it is this river that they wash their clothes, bathe, play, and get their water from! The water was dirty looking but LWI said this was the cleanest it would get and yet it was still very dirty and unfit to drink! Another part of our walk was through this field of grass that was well over my head and I felt like I was in a Rambo movie walking trough one of the villages in his movie trying to get away from the military! One of the more shocking things I found in these houses was electricity; I don’t think every house had it but almost all did, and those who had it had a small TV too! I was really blown away how they would have that but no clean water! But I guess it’s a lot easier to get electricity then it is to get clean water (which I found out later is 150 feet below the surface)!
I’m not going to bore you with the details of how the well is built! But we had a lot of problems during the week (injuries, trips to the hospital, machines braking, shortage of water at our spot, and so on) So we actually didn’t get to see our well finished! But I had the opportunity to go and do a couple of well repairs with a staff member of LWI! This was a very profitable time for me because I got the opportunity to go and fix 2 wells that had broken! You see these 2 spots – these 2 villages - had clean water for several years now! So their bodies had gotten use to drinking clean water. Young children had never had to drink dirty water, their stomachs had not been sick in years and when the well breaks – they either have to travel several miles to the next well site or get dirty water to use! So when a well breaks they call LWI (which was also a shocker to see so many villagers with cell phones – I found out cell phones are dirt cheap and so are the pre paid plans they have! The coverage in the middle of no where was shocking as well)! So when they call, LWI does everything they can to get to them and fix the well as fast as possible – which I believe is around $400 if I remember correctly! So as we were out there fixing these wells – a bunch of people came out to watch and when we fixed the well they cheered a little, clapped, smiles all around, and one lady ran to the van as we were leaving to tell us thank you with such joy and relief! As we were pulling away kids are running after the van waving at us! What a great experience!
Even though we did not get the well done while I was there – I know LWI is there in that same site as I type this drilling another well to make sure this village gets their clean water! I was so glad I got to be apart of this wonderful trip! I have done a lot of mission trips before, but this one takes the cake! The whole experience was an A+ from the house we stayed in, the food we ate, the questions there were asked and answered, the LWI staff, the way that they took care of the sick, and the villagers! I had the opportunity to be apart of a great organization that helps people write a better story of their life one glass of clean water at a time! And as a result of being apart of this story – my story is richer for it and forever changed!
I’m so excited about the opportunity to take 11 students (that’s the most the house will hold) next summer! Because I know as these students join apart of the LWI story – the story of their life will be forever changed as well! If you would like to help our team go to El Salvador next summer email me at Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also Help LWI in any project, visit them at http://www.water.cc/.