The Guatemala Water Project will soon bring clean water to the rural town of San Juan Cotzal, Guatemala, thanks in part to the sponsorship of the John Brown University chapter of Enactus.
Senior Andrea Morales and sophomore Ernesto Lopez Chan visited the town with Joe Walenciak, associate dean of the college of business, on Jan. 2. They went to check out a building for setting up a water purification system.
As they explored this community surrounded by mountains and a wide landscape of plains and hills, Morales, Chan and Walenciak witnessed firsthand the conditions of the residents.
“The people are poor,” Joe Walenciak said. “There is lack of employment, income and access to clean water.”
The available water originated from a rusty pipe contaminated with bacteria, such as fecal coliform bacteria, which caused malnutrition and diarrhea. Adults and children missed work and school because of the sickness contracted from their water system.
Morales, Chan and Walenciak took in all that they saw and knew these people needed the water system for a better life for their family, community and generations to come.
“JBU has always helped Guatemala,” said coproject head Morales. “We have the resources and the knowledge, so we can give help to these people.”
According to the project’s website, implementation costs about $30,000. In order for the water purification machine to be set up, a secure building is needed to protect the machine from robbery and frequent earthquakes.
An option that Walenciak considered was a room in the local student center. However, the room lacked both adequate plumbing and electricity to sustain the machine.
The local residents then tore down the room in hopes of constructing a secure building with quality space for classrooms and other uses.
“We were helping adapt the current building. It was a surprise to us,” Walenciak said. “What they want to build there is probably a square block building with two levels.”
In addition to rebuilding an infrastructure for the waterpurifying machine, the people of San Juan Cotzal also provided funding by selling their own used clothes, bringing in $150 in U.S. currency.
“It shows their commitment because they don’t have very much,” said Chan, the other project leader. “They are basically giving all they have. We should commit as much as they do.”
Juanita, a resident in the area, said, “For us faith is action, that is all we have.”
The Guatemala Water Project raised more than $10,000 for the cause. Under the support and advice of Enactus, Morales and Chan hope to increase the funds with donations from a concert the Dance Ministry will perform in April.
Buttons and artwork created by Guatemalan children were sold at the Guatemala Art Expo in November to raise money.
Walenciak said the people of San Juan Cotzal motivated him by their determination and faith. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you realize you haven’t,” he said. “They are doing what they can to make this a reality for the community. It humbled me. Do we think it is a commitment? They challenged me to do all that I can.”
For more information on how to help, email either Chan or Morales at lopezer@jbu. edu or firstname.lastname@example.org.