Last week’s water celebration in El Espabel felt much heavier than the typical lighthearted water system inaugurations we’ve witnessed in many communities over the years.
Hundreds of us anxiously gathered around the well and water tank – community members, Amigos team members, visiting missionaries. It was the moment we had all been waiting for: the ribbon would be cut and someone would open up the giant spigot at the base of the water tank. Water would gush out everywhere. The kids would be the first to jump in to get soaking wet, not a worry in the world that they were wearing their Sunday best. The adults would eventually join, some feeling especially thankful for the refreshing shower on a hot day. Within minutes everyone would be drenched in water, clean water, being pumped up from hundreds of feet below us.
This same water wouldn’t just be splashing all over us, it would be flowing to every home around us, through miles of water pipe that had been installed by the community themselves over the last year.
But this celebration was different.
As we gathered quietly, we were asked to turn our attention to an elderly woman standing at the base of the water tank. Amigos team member Marierling Mejia had her arm around the woman. Both women, holding back tears, were focused on a cement memorial. Over the loud speaker, another Amigos team member, Barney Garcia, began to speak:
Baudelio, 77, passed away just days before this celebration. He died from kidney disease, an illness we see all too often in rural communities like El Espabel. It’s typically caused by years of sustained dehydration, and often made worse for men like Baudelio who spend their days farming under the hot sun. They don’t drink enough water, and what little water they do have to drink is often contaminated.
Baudelio leaves behind an entire extended family in El Espabel. For his children, grandchildren, and neighbors, his presence in the community was one of strength. We could all feel the weight of the moment – as the community paid honor to such an important man that had been lost, while also knowing that the one thing this man had dreamt of most for his community, had just been gained. He would never get to turn a spigot on in his home, but his legacy will live on.
Clean water is just the start for El Espabel
This year, each family will build their own Modern Bathroom and destroy their latrine, the breeding ground for parasites. Slowly, beginning with their health, transformation will happen. Amigos will provide educational and economic development opportunities, and over the next few years, this community will advance in ways that never would have been possible before.