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World Water Day: When the Sun Shines Make a Clean Water System in 45 Days

March 22, 2017

World Water Day: When the Sun Shines Make a Clean Water System in 45 Days

March 22, 2017
(March 22, 2017 - stories by Ralph Kurtenbach)  Reach Beyond, which has been assisting with clean water systems for more than three decades dating back to Ecuador in the early 1980s, is celebrating World Water Day today. According to the U.N., over 663 million people worldwide are living without safe water. In 2016 alone Reach Beyond helped complete 15 clean water projects: nine in West Africa (Benin and Ghana) and six in Ecuador. The following stories detail the latest clean water project that took place high in the Ecuadorian Andes.

The scenic community of Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto is nestled high in the Andes.When the sun shines you make hay because tomorrow may bring rain. The rural folk of Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto in Ecuador know this well, as weather-related challenges are certain to accompany their livelihood amid the clouds and fog of the Andes.

With spectacular mountain vistas, these families—many related to each other—adapt to delays by working more diligently when time allows.

This fact wasn’t lost on Reach Beyond’s César Cortez who came to know the people of the community in early 2016 when the community and Reach Beyond’s community development team began collaborating on a clean water project.

Preparing to lay pipes for the water system.Regularly, clouds drift up from the neighboring coastal province of Guayas, then bank up, Cortez said, and “it was a long waiting process more than anything.” Fog prolonged his topographic survey, which is critical to the process of setting up a gravity-feed water system.

Additionally, the farmers postponed any trenching so they could first harvest their crops, but then dug nearly eight miles of trenches to bury the pipes. An earlier water system had fallen into disrepair, and erosion on a trail exposed the shallowly laid plastic pipes that had been installed with less care.

The new pipes—some installed at altitudes of up to 12,000 feet—are buried more than a yard deep and will remain undisturbed by cultivation when planting everything from cabbages to corn. “So we had to wait this whole year,” Cortez explained. “The work itself only took 45 days.”

Edison Caiza cuts the ribbon to inaugurate a clean water system at Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto while project chairman Pedro Huilca (left front) observes the ceremony.At the system’s inauguration on Thursday, Feb. 16, a band played, a ribbon was cut symbolically and a politician railed against what he said was an unjust jailing of the mayor who arranged gravel and rock deliveries to Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto for the project. (The official allegedly could not produce receipts to account for financial transactions.)

Large leaves, washed in water from the new system, were then dried and used to wrap tamales that were then cooked on an open fire. When pork, potatoes and other food was served, a few mongrel dogs were shooed away.

Clear, fresh water from two area springs is now piped to 53 homes, following the work by community residents. Their efforts were complemented by the help of two North American church congregations that visited Ecuador. From Germany, Mennonitisches Hilfswerk supplied needed funds to match the in-kind donations of time and talents of the local people.

Large leaves, washed in water from the new system, were then dried and used to wrap tamales that were then cooked on an open fire. When pork, potatoes and other food was served, a few mongrel dogs were shooed away.Edison Caiza, an Ecuadorian water technician contracted by Reach Beyond, along with missionary Martha Craymer, who was the mission’s first point of contact with Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto, attended the ceremony.

Trained in nursing and community development, Craymer ministers with Linda Arens, a Crossworld missionary. Together they work to empower teenagers—primarily girls—to develop skills and attitudes to advance themselves and live a holy life. Craymer also offers support and training at the town’s hospital, seeking to help reduce infant and new mother mortality rates.

A trombone player was part of the local band that provided some of the entertainment at the project dedication.The two women have maintained a home in Chillanes, a town of 5,000, since 1985. When the cantón (county) of Chillanes was declared in a state of emergency two years ago due to flooding, Craymer responded by helping displaced persons find refuge.

Wim de Groen, the mission’s director of community development, congratulated the farming families on their work, then in question/response he elicited the project’s significance. “Clean water is what?” he asked several times, to a growing response of “Life.”

“If you know how to make the best decision—that of drinking water from the tap water, not the river water, because it is life—so too, we as humans choose about sinning,” de Groen related. “These [sins] are the bad things—things that we should not do. The Bible tells us we do not have to sin and that we do need to take care of our sisters and brothers.”

Cortez, during visits to the village, helped built bridges of communication and friendship. At one meeting he gave a short message about following Jesus. Recounting the incident afterwards, he said when he asked of the crowd who wanted to follow Christ, all those present raised their hands. He plans to follow up with additional teaching from the Bible.

Building Trust Goes with Constructing Water Project

César Cortez says that using Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto’s only church building as a venue for residents to gather and plan a clean water project was one thing. Winning their confidence to then talk of a personal relationship with Jesus—now that was another.

Appreciation plaques were awarded by Loma de Pacay-Guacualgoto to (left to right) Martha Craymer, Edison Caiza, Hermann Schirmacher, César Cortez and Wim de Groen.Direct opposition to Cortez initially came from the rural community’s catechist, a middle-aged woman named Rita. Cortez said her assertion was plain enough—he was “sent from the devil.” But in time the rocky relations warmed as he went about his work the best he could, given additional difficulties of designing an appropriate system for the Ecuadorian village.

On trench digging days, Cortez vied for a place beside Rita. Then engaging her in conversation as they rested on their spades or shovels in the rarefied air of the high plain, he aimed to come across as productive, not merely as espousing a different doctrine.

“Basically it is a very hard working community and the challenges had nothing to do with administration or work, but rather with nature … with the climate of the sector.” The work continued, with periodic sessions to educate people on hygiene and health habits. “And along with that, of course, to change values,” added Cortez. “To do so, it was necessary to teach the Word of God.”

Reach Beyond's César Cortez tests one of the newly installed faucets installed at 53 homes in the community.“So we were evangelizing them during different stages of the project, and when the time came to ask them if they had understood and wanted to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, the whole entire community accepted,” Cortez recounted. “During the couple of days we were there, I also asked them if they want to form a [evangelical] church.”

On the eve of the system’s inauguration, people gathered to exchange thoughts again with Cortez, and he reminded them that charging for metered use of water would help Loma de Pacay-Guacalgoto’s water committee build up a financial reserve for system maintenance costs. In fact, he said, some communities have even been able to make short-term loans to residents from their reserve.

Afterwards, Cortez and this writer were invited to Rita’s house, where they sat in a kitchen lit by one bare lightbulb. Rita placed steaming bowls of soup on the table before her guests, and soon she and Cortez were engaged in lively conversation of doctrinal matters and theology. In an ambience of mutual respect, they exchanged views.

The catechist didn’t automatically accept Cortez’s invitation to join a series of pastor training seminars that he’s working to organize in the community, saying she has crops to plant. Undeterred, Cortez carried on an extended discussion with her, referring to different descriptions of love in the Bible’s original languages, for example. She offered a glowing account of miracles that supposedly accompanied the life of her patron saint, Saint Rita.

Cortez is satisfied that things have advanced to this point where “I am no longer for her as one sent by the devil but sent by God.”

Source: Reach Beyond