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Dedication of Water Purification System at our Sister Parish

July 28, 2006

Here is an excerpt from a recent letter from Silvia, a parish council member at Santa Maria del Camino, where we just dedicated a water purification system on July 28:

    I want to share with you what is happening because of the water project. The school that I work for receives free water for the students so at least they have one glass of purifiedwater daily. A lot of times the students come very dirty because they do not have enough water to wash, so you can imagine what water they drink!. But now, they are very happy. After recess, I take them, one by one, to get a glass of water. I told them how my really good friends from USA donated that project to our community.

    On Saturdays when I go to the church to teach the First Communion class at 7 am, there are a lot of people in line waiting to buy their water. One lady, who comes from far away and carries the water on her head under the hot sun, said that it is God's blessing that allows her kids to have good water.

And there is also this recent letter:

    Dear Friends, It is for me a big joy to send this message of gratitude to such special people. What you have done for our community has been a great blessing for many families. If you could only see those faces full of joy when they get their jars of water on their heads! I hope that you never have a need of anything. We pray for God's blessings on your work and in all that you do. A big hug to everyone from our community and especially from Otto and Gladys.

On Friday, July 28, 2006, our sister parish in Guatemala celebrated the dedication of their new water purification system. Father Manny, Bill Norwalk, Alan Hyman, and Fred and Kay Tierney represented St. Joseph parish. Hundreds of people attended the dedication. Their gratitude was evident in their faces and their signs.

The Geisse Foundation provided most of the funding ($20,000), while St. Joseph community contributed the $3500 needed to install the plumbing and finish the needed structural improvements.

Special thanks goes to Bill Norwalk (shown here handing out a water jug) and the Andamos Unidos committee who spearheaded the project, and to Healing Waters, the organization that installed and supports the water systems.

On Saturday, longs lines of people waited patiently to fill their jugs.

People came with buckets, pots, pans, jugs...whatever they had. However, the only way to assure the purity of the water is to distribute it in sanitized jugs. People without jugs cannot get water. These children came with a large white bucket. Jugs cost about $4—a large amount when your family may be living on less then $100 a month.

Bill Norwalk helps sanitize the jugs before they are filled with purified water.

Few people have cars and most people must carry the water home any way they can.
A few lucky ones have wheelbarrows. This woman is preparing to wheel 120 pounds of water home.
And a very few lucky people won mulitas (little mules) to help them carry their water home. Single mulitas sell for $15; double muitas, which carry two jugs, cost $30.

While we in the U.S. take clean water for granted, Guatemalans do not. Many people cannot buy purified water at a cost of Q14 or Q15 ($1.85-2.00) for a five-gallon jug. Because of this price, people drink water from the tap and suffer from parasites and other intestinal illnesses. The new water system allows them to buy a five-gallon jug of water for Q4 (about 55 cents).

This father stated that he has been able to buy only one jug of water a week for his family of five. “Now,” he said, “I can afford enough water for my whole family.” Here he is wheeling 120 lbs. of water home.

Santa Maria del Camino is a parish of 4,500 people in the Villa Lobos 1 settlement (population 28,000). The community was founded in 1986 with little water, no drainage system, and no electricity. The community is more developed now, but on one side of the church is a squatter community that branches off into a dense village of small homes along narrow footpaths. Many of the homes are no larger than 18x38 feet. Most are constructed of scraps of tin and wood, and have no sewage.

Here one man heads from the squatter settlement to the church to get water.

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