Recognizing What We Offer
On September 9, 2016, Desire Suero Mateo—who I first met as a 13-year-old girl in my Peace Corps youth group—graduated high school an award-winning, self-assured young woman. The next day, she walked with me to the wetland I was afraid to visit.
The plants were tiny stubs, stunted memories of the greenery I had last seen. Key members of the water committee I had worked with had abandoned the system to disrepair. Many residents weren’t paying maintenance fees.
But don’t be fooled: this system is a triumph.
The place had been recently cleaned. Two men were sifting through piles of papers, discussing next steps. A new water association had formed—with my former landlord as its president—with the plan of persecuting those who didn’t pay for water services, reinstating maintenance teams with new salaries, and digitizing records in case leadership were to change again. The water leaving the system was clean.
My greatest fear—seeing a broken system—was so short-sighted. As Wayan Vota and Boris Martin can attest, failure is often just a first step.
Sure, I played a role in launching this system. But now it’s Desire, bringing her unique computing knowledge to digitizing records, playing a role in keeping it going. Before I left, she slipped me a note that said, “I feel more mature now, capable of overcoming challenges, and so lucky… for our friendship that spans the world.”
The new narrative of volunteering includes courage, failure, broken egos and friendships that cross continents. If you ask me, the old narrative may be dead, but for the first time, we’ve found one that’s truly alive.
Summary of Fuentes de Vida Community Water Project:
The residents of Domingo Maiz worry every day about where their water comes from and whether or not it is safe to drink and use. Fuentes de Vida seeks to create a community water treatment plant and provide clean drinking water for the residents of Domingo Maiz, transforming the lives and living conditions of over 150 families in need. Fuentes de Vida is building a constructed wetland, a natural system that treats the community's sewage and insures that local aquifers are clean for drinking.
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