A delighted kitchen worker stands with a child at the Emanuel Student Center and shows off the running water. The cistern, a large holding tank combined with a water pump, now saves the kitchen staff hours each week because they don't have to spend time collecting water.
At the Compassion-assisted Emanuel Student Center in Aldea Chizuixji, San Pedro Carcha, Guatemala, teachers patiently nod at eagerly waving hands in their classrooms. They can't help but smile as children repeatedly ask, "May I go to the bathroom?"
Franciso Botzoc, Project Director at Emanuel, explains that after the center received a cistern that holds large supplies of water, new restrooms were added much to the children's delight: "The restrooms became so popular with the children that (they) wanted to go all the time. & It was so exciting to them be able to go to use the new toilets. They had never seen (any like those) before."
A Sleepless Summer
In Aldea Chizuixji and the surrounding communities, access to running water is made nearly impossible by rocky soil that prevents the laying of water lines. Villagers collect rainwater, but their collection techniques are elementary, and most are only able to store enough water to last a week. During the three-month dry period each summer, the situation becomes desperate.
A typical summer day for women in Aldea Chizuixji is grueling. They travel an hour by foot to one of only two water wells in the area. Once arriving at the well, they wait for hours in the heat for their turn. The water, located in a cave 10 meters underground, is only accessible by a slippery, dangerous ascent through dark passageways on narrow, rickety ladders and sharp rocks. Women emerge from the cave exhausted, clutching heavy buckets of water and dreading the long, dark walk home.
"In Aldea Chizuixji, there is the saying 'There is no sleep during the summer,'" says Franciso. "Mothers leave their homes in the afternoon after lunch and they come back sometimes even at two in the morning, and then get back up at four or five."
Staff workers at Emanuel were not immune to the difficulties of collecting water. Workers would spend hours each week collecting water and would sometimes have to send a truck to town to purchase bottles of water that would last only one week. Lack of water also contributed to sickness and disease, as many little ones did not have water at home to bathe in and stay clean. In fact, nearly half of those in rural Guatemala have no access to adequate sanitation facilities, leading to often deadly cases of parasites and diarrhea.
Six months ago, project children had no clean, fresh water or bathrooms, and the situation in Aldea Chizuixji had become increasingly desperate. Little ones were sick and listless, and Emanuel Student Center workers were exhausted and frustrated. They continued to pray, with faith that God had an answer that was far better than any solution they could come up with on their own.
Fountains of Hope
The answer to their prayers came one day when a rumbling pickup truck delivered a water tank and cistern made possible by Compassion donors. The water tank and cistern would collect enough water to last the project five months, making the hot, dry summers bearable. Parents watched in awe as the cistern was assembled, and children and project workers cheered when water splashed out into waiting buckets.
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