November 7, 2013
SAN FELIPE, Guatemala
It’s surprising what two brothers can do when they are determined. That is what those gathered here for the Living Waters for the World International Networks Conference discovered when they traveled on Oct. 30 to visit the sites of several clean water system installations.
They learned what is working well at these sites, and what is challenging. And they met the Reyes brothers, Ottoniel and Hernen, who heard about Living Waters for the World and understood the possibilities for a whole community.
This is the first international networks conference for Living Waters for the World, a mission project of the Synod of Living Waters of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Representatives traveled from 10 nations to share best practices, learn collaboratively, and build relationships.
These networks are, along with their U.S. partners, installing systems to bring clean water to communities in their home countries, which include Haiti, Ghana, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.
On Oct. 30, the 47 conferees divided into four vans in order to visit area water installation sites. Attendees fromGhanaandHondurastraveled to the Nuevo Amencer church, where Ottoniel Reyes is the pastor. His brother, Hernen, works at the Guatemalan Health Department, and together they understood the broader implications a Living Waters for the World clean water system could have on a community.
The system was installed on Jan.16 of this year, in partnership with the Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva, Ill. The system currently produces 1,500 five-gallon bottles each month, a phenomenal rate for a system which has been in place a mere 10 months. They accomplished this in large part by enlisting the help of the local elementary school.
The Reyes brothers approached the director of the K-6 school and offered to supply the students with clean water. In addition, they also trained all of the teachers in Living Waters for the World’s hygiene curriculum so they could instruct the children in the importance of clean water.
And the children took this new knowledge, as well as news of the water system, into the homes. Parents began to come to the church to get clean water for their families. Teachers noticed that the stomach problems in their students were clearing up and they were more attentive in the classroom. The news of the positive health impact spread by word of mouth through this heavily impoverished community. The demand for water grew from there.
Because Hernen Reyes works for the Guatemalan Department of Health, the local health clinic near Nuevo Amencer Church learned of the water system and saw the marked health impact of the clean water on the community.
With the Reyes brothers’ help, they will have a system installed in the clinic on Nov. 15, which will serve the wider region and the very poorest families.
For the Nuevo Amencer congregation, this is a ministry to the community. They sell the water at a rate below local commercial water-sellers and use the proceeds to maintain the system by purchasing replacement parts and disinfectant. They also purchase more five-gallon bottles so that they can supply water to more people in need.
In addition, church members teach about hygiene and the health benefits of clean water. They train school teachers and teach the hygiene course directly in the schools, thus spreading the good news of clean water throughout the community.
As the use of clean water increases, overall health in the community increases and creates an environment where students can learn and healthy adults are more productive, impacting the stability of the whole village.
This is the bigger picture the Reyes brothers understood so well.