Community Wins - A Clean Water Story
by James Stork
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This past December, I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic (DR) with Healing Waters International (HWI) to visit their project sites and see their work firsthand – a life-changing trip for sure. On Day Two, we travelled to Olivero.
J.J. and Alex, our two hosts (DR HWI staff), picked us up bright and early – we had a long day ahead, with 9 hours of drive time and plans to visit at least three project sites. After 4 hours on the road (driving in the DR should be an extreme sport), we arrived at Olivero, a remote community in the western region of the DR, not far from the Haitian border. We met up with community leaders in a multi-use building, and set up folding chairs in a circle for our time together. To start, there was a lot of casual conversation in Spanish … right, no hablo Español. So I laughed when everyone else laughed and looked intrigued when everyone else looked intrigued. Fortunately, when the conversation shifted from meet-and-greet to discussion, our HWI hosts were great to translate both ways. It was at this meeting where we met Alphonso (pictured right).
To say Alphonso has charisma is an understatement: He is an amazing story teller. He shared the story of how his community negotiated gaining access to a municipal water supply a few miles up the road: They would get some assistance from a stateside nonprofit for obtaining the necessary piping, but he and his community would be responsible for digging the ditch between his community and the water supply that would house the pipes. With no access to commercial digging equipment, they cut over a mile of ditch by hand with pickaxes and shovels. It was grueling work. One day Alphonso saw a bulldozer driving up the road while they were busy at work. After looking down at his calloused, bleeding hands, he knew what he needed to do; they still had about a half a mile to dig. So he stepped out in front of the dozer and dropped to his knees in the middle of the road, forcing the driver to stop. Hands raised in the air, he pleaded with the driver to help them finish the ditch, and he didn’t move until the driver agreed. Alphonso was determined to help bring clean water to Olivero.
HWI partnered with the community to provide a water treatment system, leadership training, and health and hygiene education. Now, the people of Olivero are able to join the locally-owned co-op and enjoy clean water for drinking, bathing, and cooking – changing the paradigm for their community. Clean water is a game changer. Alphonso’s story is just another reason we are supporting HWI and its clean water projects.
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