The village of Los Regadillos in the Guatemalan highlands requested the assistance of UbF for the construction of a community-wide clean water system. During their site visit, the volunteers found the village in disarray, living in self-imposed isolation. There was much feuding between families, and they lacked local leadership. They were using a broken-down shanty as a school and the children looked sickly. UbF delegates were understandably cautious about whether Los Regadillos was capable of working in a cooperative manner on a community project but the people earnestly insisted that they could, especially since this was the first project on which all families were united. UbF agreed to assist them under the conditions that (1) all adults receive training on citizenship, (2) they form a water committee and (3) they provide the manual labor for the project. They eagerly agreed and together we went forward with the project.
UbF provided the construction materials; the regional county government provided the skilled labor; and the community worked hard together to haul sand, rock, and gravel for construction of the water tank where chlorination would take place; and they dug miles of trenches for the water lines. It was a true partnership.
When UbF returned the following year, we found a village completely transformed. The UbF delegates were welcomed amid a sea of smiles and handshakes. The community had learned how to participate in the democratic process. They now had elected leadership, and the new water committee was actively managing the distribution of clean water to each home. They referred to the water as “Our Vital Liquid”. Six men had taken a special training in how to chlorinate the system and repair the pipes. The leaders had been taught how to preserve their watershed. The local county government was so impressed at the change in Los Regadillos that they built a new school for the community. The new clean water system is not only a household convenience, but has also improved their health and provides a sustainable model of what they can do when the community works together.