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Celebration – Guatemala Style
By Susie Stoughton
The joyful celebration of the newest Living Waters for the World system in Guatemala went smoothly, though a day earlier than we had expected. The system at El Paso de los Jalapas pumped out the first bottle of clean water 10 minutes before the start of the festivities on Feb. 18.
Middle school students had draped brightly colored daisy chains over the pipes and filters that will provide clean water for their classrooms. A banner with red, yellow and blue handprints of members of partner churches in Virginia and Texas flapped in the breezes.
The celebration marked SPC’s third water project in Guatemala, the first in El Paso de los Jalapas and our first with partners from Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church in Dallas. The village is about 20 minutes from Estancia de la Virgen, where SPC has installed systems in a church and an elementary school.
Ninth graders sang “Use This Water” in the English they had learned earlier that afternoon. Seventh and eighth graders enacted the parting of the Red Sea. A marimba band played as LWW team members and teachers danced.
Then everyone – students, teachers, parents and Gringos – drank the fresh, pure water.
“Gracias,” said the students, thirsty for clean water and eager to make friends with the Gringos. “Thank you,” some said, practicing their newly learned English.
Hundreds of times, “thank-you” was accompanied by a hug – Guatemalan style.
“Gracias,” said the smiling students as they slipped on friendship bracelets made by their “amigos” in North America.
“Gracias a Dios” (“thanks be to God”), repeated the teachers and the principal, Manuel de Jesús Hernández Pereira, grateful for the blessing of clean water.
For three days, Rob Saunders and Jack Stoughton had shown the local operators how to build, operate and maintain the system. The school staff plans to distribute water to other schools as well.
Miriam Mazariegos, our LWW coordinator in Guatemala, and Bob Thornton from Dallas, supervised the project, while Rachel Glass of Dallas shot pictures for a documentary of the trip and helped train the operators.
Each morning, Fran Alwood, Nancy Cisco, Mary Ann Saunders, Lizzie Mazariegos (Miriam’s daughter) and I trained the teachers to use the health, hygiene and spiritual lessons to educate the community about the need for clean drinking water and proper hygiene. Each afternoon, the teachers repeated those lessons for 116 students and about 40 parents. They will continue training on a regular basis.
Operators of three other area systems, who have formed a network to support one another, helped show the teachers how to assemble the pipes and filters.
The owner of a local seafood restaurant expressed his gratitude for our helping his community by twice treating us to lunch, the main meal of the day.
Developing long-term relationships is the key to sustainability, according to the LWW mantra. Sergio Ramirez and his family, our friends since 2008 when we installed a system in the church in Estancia de la Virgen, housed and fed us. Teachers at the school where we installed a system in 2010 treated us to dinner one night. And the wife of the school’s operator made us a decadent chocolate dessert – Guatemalan mole – to enjoy on our last evening before we had to say “adios” to our special friends.