This past Friday, our team went out to the community of San Martín to celebrate with music, balloons, food, and a piñata for the children. The celebration was the culmination of the construction of a water system that has brought water to each home in this rural community. There were speeches, words of thanks, and smiles all around.
The community of San Martín was formed when the local government gave land titles to 86 families, most of whom subsist as day laborers on nearby coffee plantations, or more recently, in re-activated gold mines. Land titles are a big step forward for these families, but without a potable water system, families have to haul water from far away, often trespassing on private property. For this reason many families have not settled yet on their land. A water system means not only health and safety; it also means a chance to put down roots and develop a sense of permanence and belonging.
Starting in May of last year, we began the long process of legalizing the water source, establishing the Water Committee and getting them trained in their duties, and doing the necessary water tests and design trials to ensure that the system we wanted to build would serve the growing community and last for generations. Construction couldn’t begin until the driest part of the dry season (April), when water levels were at their lowest. Then we had to work against the clock to get the system ready before the rains started in June.
We have worked in many rural communities, but few were as active as the community of San Martín. They eagerly jumped into the different tasks that were asked of them, and they had the ditches dug for the pipes in record time. We were also very fortunate to work with Water Committees from other rural communities who came to share their invaluable knowledge and expertise. In a little over six weeks, the system was already working.
Though the system is complete, the work in San Martín has just begun. The task of the Water Committee is no small feat: not only do they have to continue their training in system maintenance, accounting, meter reading, etc., but they also have to train their fellow community members in the use and maintenance of the system, as well as ensuring that they make their monthly payments. Nevertheless, this potable water system opens a new chapter of health, safety, and community togetherness for the people of San Martín.