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Agua Para Nicaragua

Bill Roth

Bill Roth

Jacqueline Gill

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Junior year in Social Justice, Mrs. Dalton taught me that 884 million people worldwide lack access to sanitary water. At first, I was disgusted, but then, a week or two went by and it slipped from my mind. As hard as it is to admit, facts and statistics do not create lasting impressions. It was not until I travelled to Nicaragua to dig an irrigation system with my parish that I understood the concept of poverty. I no longer picture 884 million faceless people who drink contaminated water, but my friends, Wílbur, and Jacalín.

At first I was hesitant to go to Nicaragua. According to my mom (she had never been there) the temperature reaches over 100 degrees every day with 100 percent humidity, and there are clouds of malaria-infected mosquitoes so thick that you cannot see through them. Obviously, she exaggerated a bit.

Fortunately, my church group travelled to Nicaragua in the middle of the rainy season. Although the temperature was hot, the weather was not unbearable. Because I used profuse amounts of bug spray, I got two mosquito bites the entire time I was in Nicaragua.

The first day of the trip, the plan was to ‘hike’ to the top of El Cerro Negro, an active volcano. Even if we had to stay out past dark, our group would not leave the volcano until everyone had reached the top. There are three ways to climb El Cerro Negro: hard, harder and hardest. I, of course, picked the hardest route.

About two meters up the volcano, essentially a 700-meter pile of volcanic gravel, we discovered that it was impossible to continue climbing without using our hands. I would redefine our ascension of El Cerro Negro as something more along the lines of crawling or scaling rather than hiking.

Eventually everyone did, in fact, reach the top. The views from the top of El Cerro Negro were spectacular and you could see steam venting from cracks in the crater. Before our descent, our priest, Father Joe, prayed not only for the lives that we would change in the coming week, but that we too, would be changed.
The lesson of the day was that we are all capable of accomplishing more than we think possible- the perfect segue into a week of digging.

The next morning, before traveling to the village of El Chonco to begin adding to the irrigation system, we visited the Chinandega city dump. At breakfast time I felt a little queasy, but I wanted to see firsthand one of the dumps that Mrs. Dalton had described. Walking through the rotting garbage certainly did not help my stomach; I felt like I was going to throw up the entire time that I was there.

Yet, as I only spent half an hour in the dump, people of all ages worked among the trash, collecting bits of metal and plastic so that they could buy rice and beans for their families. I will never forget the excitement that the workers had over a new load of garbage or the disgust I felt at five capable men lounging around while old women and shoeless children scavenged through piles of reeking trash.

It was while travelling through the dump that I realized that the people of Nicaragua would teach me more than I could ever teach them.

When we finally reached El Chonco, I opted out of digging because the pain in my stomach was not improving, and instead, I chose to work with the kids in the school. Even though I originally thought that this work would be insignificant, I was quickly proven wrong.

The reason why Holy Spirit Church chose to work with Amigos for Christ is because this organization is not a charity. Rather than working for the Nicaraguans, we worked with them. Each day a certain number of villagers were required to work on the irrigation system. This requirement was hardly necessary as at least twice as many workers help on a daily basis.

Every morning, the founder of Amigos for Christ, John Bland, reminded us, “It’s not about getting as much work as possible done; the work will eventually get done. It’s about relationships. Don’t sacrifice a conversation with someone to get the work done.”

Through working with children in the school, I was able to develop the friendships that John had spoken about.

The first day that I worked in the El Chonco’s school, I started to play with a little boy during recess until it was time to return to class. As soon as we entered the preschool room, the little boy, clothed in a tattered school uniform proudly told me, “¡Este es mi escuela!” This 5-year-old boy already understood what I did not: an education is a blessing because it leads to opportunity.

In Nicaragua, schooling is only free through the sixth grade, and it is not mandatory. Only the rich are able to afford secondary school. That little boy knew that with the education he receives in his village school, he will have opportunities that his parents never knew.

Perhaps the closest friends from El Chonco were Wílbur and Jacalín. The three of us were selected to play on the same soccer team for a pick-up soccer game on El Chonco’s dirt “field” after school one day. During half time, Wílbur shared water from the jugs Amigos had brought to the village.

The most meaningful memory of my entire trip to Nicaragua was when Wílbur and Jacalín received clean water of their own. After several years of digging trenches for the pipelines, the system was ready to be tested. Benchmarks like this do not happen often, and the Holy Spirit group was truly blessed to be a part of the celebration.

The entire town gathered around the water tower atop a hill waiting in anticipation for the water to be turned on. Nobody mentioned the possibility of the system failing. The reaction of the crowd when the water began to gush out of the spigot was indescribable. Both children and grown men soaked their heads, and playfully splashed each other in the flow of water.

Simply witnessing their joy inspired me to do more. This year, I will be working with juniors Amy Linehan and Emma Roth to raise $800 by selling doughnuts on certain mornings throughout the school year. The money that we raise will contribute to Amigos for Christ’s goal of $100,000 to build irrigation systems in 14 towns in Chinandega.

There are 884 million people who lack access to clean water and I am helping to change that in Nicaragua.

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Jacqueline Gill, Copy Editor

Jacqueline Gill is a junior here at Presentation who enjoys reading, cuddling with kittens, and owning too many blankets. In fact, in the winter, she hoards...

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Agua Para Nicaragua