Between March 18 - 22, 2015 nearly 500 people in multiple communities were provided with a way to drink clean water for the first time. Solea Water worked with All Saints Parish Mission Team to provide 60 families and several schools with Sawyer bucket filters.
3/18: Arrived in Belize City at 1 pm. After negotiating with customs officers, we agreed upon a "reasonable" duty for the water filters. We stopped in Belmopan, the capitol city of Belize, for provisions, linner (lunch+dinner), and the 60 five-gallon buckets that we had ordered from Javier. Finally at around 8pm we arrived at Tranquility Lodge. After enjoying refreshments with Lodge owners/great friends Lee and Suzy and company we returned to our rooms for a much- needed good night's sleep.
3/19: We stopped to say hello to Shantell and Juio and the students at Corazon Creek school. Next, we drove to Mabil ha to see if that village had bucket water filter systems. Our friends Candelaria, Concepcione, and Ruda were doing laundry in a creek near the road. We asked them to hop in the van, drove them home, set up water filter systems in their homes, tested the water at their village water pump, and finally drove them back to the creek. We stopped to visit Santiago and Margartia, who have a bucket filter system that has not been working. Rachael replaced the filter and reminded them to backwash it more often.
We had a little time to visit with the students in San Lucas and their teachers/our friends Phillip and Romana. Then, as promised, families came to the church at noon. We provided thirty bucket filters for the school and homes in San Lucas! Roy drilled holes in the buckets for the hose fittings and Rachael explained how to assemble and maintain the bucket filter systems. We all had a hand in helping with assembly and collected $5 BZ from each family, which we donated back to their at the end of the workshop.
After dinner, we had planned to prepare the buckets for the visit to Machakil ha. Within seconds Lee, Rick, Lester and Ingrid joined us to drill and file holes and remove the edging from the lids. With their help, we had thirty buckets ready and loaded in less then 30 minutes! It's a beautiful thing when Midwesterners, Belizeans, and Canadians join forces to help others!
3/20: After picking up Manuel in Otoxha, we drove to Dolores to load up the horses for our ride. Our guides bagged stacks of 30 buckets and lids and then strapped them to a disgruntled horse. We had heard that the trail was passable during the dry season, but I think most Americans would disagree. Marcos and the other guides had to coax the horses through hilly, horse-belly deep mud, over fallen trees, and over extremely narrow wooden bridges. Without stirrups, we just had to hold on with our legs and hope for the best! The teacher, Mr. Rash, had to abandon his dirt bike in the mud about ten minutes into the ride. We strapped the 50 lb suitcase of hygiene care bags to the back of Rachael's horse. Mine already carried assembled buckets and filters on each hip. Roy had a large duffle bag in his lap. Poor horses!
The 6+ KM ride lead us Machakilha where we waited for men from each household to join us in the village's church for a bucket filter purification system workshop. We felt like a well-oiled machine just two days in. Roy provided most of the step-by-step instructions while Rachael and I chimed in helping students requiring further assistance. Manuel translated and answered questions.The men seemed pleased with their handiwork and thanked us several times. After some water testing and a meeting with Guillermo, the village health worker, we were invited to Mr. Pukul's home for lunch with his family. Thomasa Pukul prepared eggs, stew beans and tortillas. Finally, we rode the horses back to Dolores, and drove Manuel home to Otoxha.
3/21: Today was both productive and enjoyable. After breakfast, we stopped by a coffee shop in Punta Gorda to meet with the Health Chair of the Toledo District. Health officials are well aware that many communities need lasting solutions to the water crisis and they are continually prioritizing future projects. Mr. Vernon said that the government of Belize would welcome any assistance provided by Solea Water.
A mission group from Colorado had scheduled a sports day at San Francisco De Jeronimo school in Pueblo Viejo. I didn't think that we'd get a chance to see any of our little friends, but they were all at the school when we arrived. Mr. Sho, the principal, invited us to have lunch at his home. It was nice to see his wife Marta again and meet their newest addition, two-month-old Stephen Jr. We discussed possible solutions to the village's water crisis and how our mission team might begin to address solutions when we return in June. Rachael measured elevations for a possible well and tested water from the pump from which the children were drinking.
A small crowd of curious kids gathered around to watch and ask questions, giving Rachael an opportunity to remind them of the importance of drinking clean water. Joshua was intrigued by the water testing. I think we have found our future "Community Water Committee"! After meeting with Mr. Sho again to discuss his many ideas for improving the school and community, we returned to the lodge. Marcelia and Nestor Assi invited some of our close friends to their home for dinner. Nestor had asked Marcelia to prepare a very special caldo dinner for Mr. Roy. It was so nice to catch up with, Nestor, Marcelia, Dorla, Shantell, Romana and Oscar.
3/22: Francis and Elliot arrived at 7am to take us to the airport. I really don't mind the four hour drive to Belize City rolling through the scenic Maya Mountains dotted with thatch homes and hillside crops of bananas, corn and oranges. It's nice to kick back and reflect on the success of another unforgettable trip to Belize.
(Adapted from Ann's original blog posts, found here.)