A good faith visit (May 6-9, 2018)

In prior newsletters, we had mentioned that Ricardo, our associate in Guatemala, and Antonio (agricultural engineer) will be taking a good faith visit to the village of Chajmaic.  This is common practice in Central America and is necessary because we don’t have the funds to begin the “Water for Life” project at this time.  Ricardo and Antonio are traveling this weekend.  The cost of their trip is $1,600 for three people (including a bodyguard) traveling 14 hours each direction and spending three days.

Ricardo and Antonio with Olivia’s family
Photo taken in Chajmaic, May 14, 2015

The purpose of this visit is to maintain good relationships and ensure to the mayor of the neighboring municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas as well as the COCODE (village leaders of Chajmaic) that we have the intention to carry out our mission to deliver clean and accessible water to the village.  We need to keep the door open while we seek a large donor to begin the project in earnest, now that we have our tax-exempt status.

Lillian García Contreras, Mayor of the Municipality de Fray Bartolomé, December 12, 2017

In December Ricardo and his team met with the mayor of Fray Bartolomé and she (the mayor) showed them the water filtration system on which Ricardo and his team will model the pump system for Chajmaic.

This is the piping leading from the river in Fray Bartolomé de las Casas to the pump house, to purify the river for the municipality.  Photo taken in Fray, December 12, 2017

This is the pump house in Fray, on which the one in Chajmaic will be modeled.  Photo taken in Fray, December 12, 2017

It is important to realize the historical significance of Ricardo bringing together the municipal government and the village leadership.   The government is mostly comprised of mestizos (mixed Amerindian-Spanish).  While the 26 indigenous Mayan groups in Guatemala constitute a majority of the population, they are very much treated as a minority.

This map represents the more than 20 indigenous groups in Guatemala, according to the Comisión de Oficialización de los Dialectos Indígenas de Guatemala.  The “Castilian” areas represent Spanish-speaking areas.

Throughout history, the indigenous have been ignored, meaning inequitable access to health care, education, and other resources.  Worse, they endure deep-rooted ethnic discrimination that has fueled many atrocities, including loss of land and rights, and most recently, the 36-year Guatemalan internal armed struggle, in which 200,000 unarmed, indigenous Mayan were slaughtered.

History of Guatemala
History of Guatemala

This has resulted in a distrust of outsiders among the indigenous and particularly regarding any government programs, which provide a paucity of options for education, family finances, and skill development.  So, Ricardo and Antonio’s efforts are nothing short of a peace mission, which are providing healing and developing collaborative relationships.

Ricardo is not operating alone; on the contrary, he is working closely with key trusted individuals within the village of Chajmaic, who are very much on board with his strategic plan.  The idea is to not only provide the villagers with potable, accessible water, but also growing food (agriculture) to sustain them, and a livelihood selling the food that they grow.

This entails renting a relatively small portion of land to build a tiered greenhouse, bringing in vegetables that are not native to Chajmaic.  The team will use the now clean water for growing crops.

Possible land site for greenhouse, Chajmaic.  Photo by Ricardo, December 2017.

This is a full project rather than partial, in that the villagers will have food and jobs to sustain them, as well as the education to maintain their livelihood – not only clean water.  This more fully fulfills the mission of Sowing Opportunities to cultivate self-sustainability, education, and wellness in rural Guatemala.

The total annual cost is $266,134*, and we need 1/3 up front to start the project, in order to pay for equipment, supplies, land rental, and partial salary, as in the U.S.  This includes the cost of pumping water that will deliver suctioned water uphill and draw it into a tank that they must build in order to purify the water.  They will send this water to the entire village by force of pressure and gravity push, approximately 450 gallons per hour, 24 hours a day.  This will eliminate gastrointestinal diseases.  The cost also includes maintenance of the system, the building of a greenhouse, renting land for erecting the greenhouse, and salaries for one year: project director, 2 agricultural engineers, greenhouse guardian, and assistant engineer.  This will provide clean water – eliminating gastrointestinal diseases – nourishment, and a livelihood for 1,750 people (250 families).

Annual costs of the water pump and agricultural system in Chajmaic, estimated in December 2017.


* Update: In the fall of 2018, these costs were updated because the municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas took on the water project.  By December 2018, a 600,000 gallon capacity water tank had been built at the top of a steep hill in Chajmaic, with inflow and outflow piping, going to faucets at each home.  In addition, a pump house and electricity had been installed alongside the road in Chajmaic.  All that remains is the electricity.  This has saved us $157,048.  The updated cost table is at the bottom of this news bulletin: Updates Since Returning from Guatemala .  In December 2018, we also learned that the village had grown to 3,000 people.  This is still 250 families, using the same resources (same number of homes and land).