We are firm believers in the power of improved living standards, better education, and rising incomes for everyone in the world. Without a full belly, decent health, and a place to learn, the developing regions around the world and here in the US would have a much harder time enjoying the high standard of life that many of us have become accustomed to.
Last summer I traveled to a rural Nicaraguan village to help install water filters with an organization dedicated to improving the lives of the people who live in the poorest of poor conditions. The village is named La Consulta and it lies in an extremely remote area about 120 miles from the capital Managua.
What would take less than 2 hours to travel on proper highways takes about 5 hours because the last half of the drive is through a wasteland filled with dirt roads, washed out river beds, and impassable conditions without a rugged 4-wheel drive vehicle.
The village is a farming community that depends on the wet season in the summer to replenish their well water and to water the crops. Last summer was unseasonably dry and hot so the village was in even more dire straits than usual.
From the village’s water well comes unclean water that, left untreated, causes life threatening illnesses for the people drinking it. A simple case of diarrhea is deadly for a person in the village because there are few medical resources and the nearest hospital is a full day’s walk away.
One of the projects we were there to accomplish was to replace and fix the simple water filters in the village. AMOS, a non-profit organization in Nicaragua, had provided water filters for the village, but many of the filters were broken because of poor upkeep and lack of maintenance.
About 90% of the problems with those filters is solved by continuous usage. As long as the family was using the filter every day, the filtering component would stay wet and continue to work. The problem was many families stopped using them because of ignorance or it was simply one more step that had to be done before they could drink water. While it seemed simple to me for the people to just use the filter, I quickly realized that when a person does not know where their next meal will come from, having clean water to drink is less of a priority.
However, the filters work and by using them they would save lives. So another main project was simple education as to why the filters must be utilized and utilized correctly. Working alongside the village health promoter, we replaced all the broken filters in the village and helped institute continuous education of the importance of using the filters the right way.
At night we slept on cots in an open room to the elements. Bats, dogs, scorpions, chickens, and who knows what other creatures wandered through the building while we slept. Sleep was difficult because between the 95 degree nights and the constant howling and barking of the village dogs came the knowledge that the nearest bathroom was a mysterious hole in the ground 200 feet away.
The perspective I gained being there and living among the people for a week is something I’ll carry with me forever. It is so easy to take what I have for granted. I’ll always appreciate having clean running water, 4 walls and a roof over my head, a toilet, and having all the other material things I use every day at my fingertips. I know that I will continue to support AMOS in the hope that they will improve and even save more lives.
“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” – Paul Farmer