Story and photos by Water Mission www.watermission.org
As we usher in 2020, we want to highlight the communities we serve. They are, after all, the reason why we do what we do 365 days a year: putting an end to the global water crisis through partnerships, innovative technology, and engineering expertise. Every one of these communities – from Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa and Asia – invest various resources that help initiate, implement, operate, and maintain safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects around the world.
At Water Mission, we believe that the global water crisis can be solved if we take a comprehensive approach to combating it. We design customized solutions for each community we serve and partner with the recipients throughout the process. A successful project results in more time for work and education, improved health, and increased productivity for the community.
Without the input of community members, safe water systems won’t be as successfully installed, run, and kept up. Community investment is the piece that completes the puzzle. A community’s contribution is invaluable for many reasons: they know their communities best, they foster relationships with individuals and entities that support the work, and their investment of time, knowledge, and materials help ensure the long-term viability of our projects.
Below are some of the ways that community members further the impact of our WASH projects:
Assessing specific problems
Water Mission works with community members to identify their specific needs. With them, we consider climate, geography, topography, current water sources, economic barriers, and more. Through our Restore Survey, we collect data about a community’s strengths and weaknesses before, during, and after a project’s implementation cycle. This data allows us to assess a community’s management skills, socioeconomic, material, and emotional health, and knowledge and practice of healthy WASH behaviors. The surveys are audio-recorded in the local language and presented with a mobile touch-screen device so participants can respond anonymously. Data can then be collected, analyzed, and shared with community leaders on the same day the survey is administered. This way, data is turned into insight that guides the different decisions made for a WASH project.
Community members connect our mission and expertise with those of local entities, such as churches and various divisions of government. Through community members’ cultivation of these relationships, we can strengthen the long-term viability of our projects and make sure that we are conducting our work with excellence and integrity—by listening first and listening intently.
Materials and muscle
Community members invest materials such as rock, sand, and gravel. Often, they contribute hours to digging trenches that protect piping, getting trained in WASH promotion (more below), and in operating and maintaining safe water systems.
Operation and maintenance
After a series of trainings, community members can become operators of systems in their locales. These operators help ensure that their community has reliable access to safe water. They perform tasks that range from testing water for contamination to monitoring water levels. They also make financial investments that support the operation and maintenance of safe water systems, as guided by Water Mission financial specialists and economic factors specific to the community.
The health of an individual community relies on awareness and practice of healthy WASH behaviors. We use a variety of approaches for WASH promotion including the use of local volunteers known as “WASH Promoters.” These men and women are trained to promote healthy WASH behaviors in their neighborhoods, schools, and hospitals:
- Learning how water can get contaminated
- Treating water and storing it in a safe manner
- Washing hands with soap
- Eliminating open defecation by using proper sanitation facilities
The local church
We believe that local churches are the catalysts for change in communities around the world. Through pastoral and counseling training and resourcing, we help equip church leaders so that they can better serve their congregations. With them, we host ministry activities that support a community’s overall wellbeing. In Mexico, our staff has hosted services and children’s programs. In refugee settings, we have held trauma healing initiatives. As with all that we do and offer, these activities are open to people of all races, nationalities, faiths and creeds, genders, and socioeconomic standing. Community members are invited to participate though are not required to do so to receive access to safe water.
Follow-up and support
Water Mission regularly monitors technical operation and verifies water quality once a project has been implemented. We also provide community members with a series of trainings that inform them of best practices in operation, management, and WASH promotion. Before a project is transitioned to a community, they receive all the knowledge they need to successfully and continually implement the solutions that we all worked hard to set in place. After a project has been transitioned into their hands, we keep offering long-term support, ensuring that safe water flows continuously!
All these steps are necessary in designing, building, and implementing best-in-class WASH solutions around the world. Without the men and women that partner with us locally, we cannot achieve our mission of sharing safe water and God’s love with all. With them, and only with them, can we be agents of change in the fight against the global water crisis.