Posted by: norapillard | June 17, 2011

Why I Ride 8 Hours in the Back of a Pickup Truck – A Trip to Waslala

Wil and I hiking through coffee fields in Waslala

By Nora Pillard, Water for Waslala Vice President

Two weeks ago, my husband, Wil Reynolds, and I were able to travel to Waslala.  For me, this was the longest period of time — two years! — that I had been away from Waslala since I took my first trip in 2002.

We only had a few days in Waslala, but we were able to visit El Guabo, where water system construction is currently underway.  When we arrived in the morning, community members were already hard at work.  On the day of our visit, there were more than ten community members digging trench line (including two women).

It was a blazing hot day and I could barely manage to stand in the sun for a few minutes at the time.  The community members had been digging the trench line since 6 am and would continue digging until 1 pm before heading home to eat lunch and cool off.  As community members worked, a woman from a nearby house came out to offer us chairs in the shade and fresh cut watermelon.

Members of El Guabo digging the trench where the pipes will eventually be laid.

In El Guabo, the community members have been digging the trench line for nine weeks! The community has organized itself into three separate groups and each group commits to spend two days per week working on the system until completion.  If a community member misses a work day for sickness or any other reason, they make up a day with one of the other work groups.

After they finished digging for the day, we were able to chat for a few minutes before everyone headed home.  When we asked a few folks how many days they had spent working on the trench line, they could each answer quickly- 25 days, 23 days, etc.  It is hard to imagine spending 25 days committed to grueling manual labor for no pay.  El Guabo community members have dedicated themselves to this work for access to drinking water and the well-being of the community as a whole.

During our visit to El Guabo, we were able to observe not only the organization and commitment of the community members, but also the work of our Water for Waslala team.  I left Waslala with great confidence and excitement about our team on the ground!

Iain Hunt, our project manager, brings with him great experience and new perspectives and ideas to push us in new directions and keep us learning as an organization.  After only four months in Waslala, I saw Iain totally immersed in our work. It was clear that he had quickly established relationships with our local partners and many community members.

The Waslala team: Denis, Virginia, Iain, and Nora

It was evident that Virginia, our director of community outreach, had facilitated Iain’s adjustment and immersion in Waslala.  It was wonderful to observe Virginia interacting with community members- she knew every person’s name and it was clear that she has developed close relationships and trust with people both in town and in the rural communities.  It was impossible to walk through town without stopping every few steps as someone called Virginia’s name and came running to chat with her.

I feel so lucky to work with such amazing individuals as we continue to push ourselves to continually learn and improve our work!  We could not have better people to represent the work of Water for Waslala!

Last, but certainly not least, it was so great to see old friends, catch up over a slice of pizza and a beer, and laugh as we rehashed old stories from past trips.

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