It was little more than a water-filled pit, an open-air cistern exposed to filth and wild animals. But this was Juana and Florencio’s only source of water in the rural highlands of Guatemala.

Juana and Florencio would use the pit to harvest rainwater, which ran through metal piping connected on the roof of their home. To collect the water, they had to haul it out of the tank using a bucket-and-pulley system. Every day, either Florencio or Juana hauled the water up from the pit, straining to maneuver the pulley, the bucket swaying in the open breeze. Their muscles flexed and heaved until the buckets were aloft. Juana could barely do it because the buckets became heavy over time. The water was often contaminated, so Juana and Florencio would spend hours making it safe to drink. They boiled it over an open flame and then added chlorine tablets. They would often add too much chlorine, thinking that was safer than the alternative—contaminated water.

Florencio and Juana warned their three children not to play too close to the tank. You could fall in, they’d say. Nothing about the water was safe. In rural communities such as this, water represents two competing functions—the giver of life, and its opponent.

Juana, a local Guatemalan, holding a bucket she used to fill with water and pull up from her previous water systemJuana holds the bucket she used to fill with water and pull up from her previous water system. The heavy buckets of water were often difficult for Juana to carry.

A New Water System

Medical Teams International works in Juana and Florencio’s community of Ojo de Agua. Translated, the community’s name means “eye of water.” When we heard about the family and their struggles acquiring safe drinking water, we offered to build a better system. In these rural villages, far removed from the cities, we develop and build clean-water harvesting systems to keep families healthy. Around the world, 1.8 million children die each year from diarrhea caused by unclean water. Meanwhile, millions of women spend hours a day collecting water.

The family’s water system now has a water pump. It’s so simple that Juana and her children can easily withdraw the water whenever they need it. Without any heavy lifting required, the system provides water on demand. And it’s cleaner. The water system has a built-in purification device, so Juana doesn’t need to boil the water as often. They burn less firewood as a result.

A Guatemalan baby, Eric, smiling into the camera

Little Eric now has safe drinking water because of his family’s water harvesting system.

Mother Counselors Spread Knowledge

The new system has an enclosed tank and collects water from the entire surface of the roof rather than from a small pipe.

Mother Counselors—specially-trained local volunteers—taught the family how to use and maintain the water system and its filtration device. Along with the new water system, Juana and Florencio were taught the importance of maintaining proper hygiene and sanitation practices, and how to properly cook and clean food. They were also trained on how to add the proper amount of chlorine in the water, by measuring it based on the amount of water they used.

Juana and Florencio say their children are much healthier now because of their new water system. They thanked you for answering their prayers, bringing the simple-but-restorative power of clean water to their rural community.

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