Posted by: joannabowen | September 12, 2011

Reflections on a First Visit to Waslala

By Joanna Bowen, Co-Director of Villanova University Partnership

Water flowing from the El Guabo tap stand

As hard as I try, I can’t seem to remember the first time I heard about Water for Waslala.  Without realizing, WfW seeped quietly into my life as a student at Villanova as I participated annually in the Walk for Water and put Waslala on my list of places I hoped to get to.  Now, in my role as the Service Break Coordinator at Villanova University, I often cite WfW as an example of students taking action after returning home from a Service Break Experience.  After all, it is my hope that students will do exactly what the founders of WfW did: Identify a need and figure out how they can become part of the solution.

So, after several years of hearing and telling the story of WfW, coupled with my new role as the Advisor to the Student group on VU’s campus, it seemed that it was time for me to experience Waslala firsthand!  In July, I traveled with four friends (including board members Jerica and Brian) to visit Waslala.  Upon arriving in Waslala, we were welcomed by members of the parish and had the opportunity to learn from Iain and various community members about exactly what the impact of WfW is the surrounding communities.  While I felt very familiar with the WfW US operations, l had the opportunity to learn much more about how water systems become a reality for the people in Waslala.

There were many moments from this trip that I will keep with me for quite some time.  These include witnessing the first drops of water pour from a tap in El Guabo, meeting volunteers from around the world who are working in different ministries in Waslala, meeting in person for the first time individuals whose names I have heard for years, and even hiking through the jungle to buy cookies from a local family!

One highlight of the trip was an overnight stay in the community Santa Maria Kubali.  While in the Santa Maria Kubali, we had the opportunity to meet with the community’s water committee.  This group of men (and one woman!) work to make sure that the implementation of a water system is possible and meets the community’s needs.  In essence, it is the water committee’s responsibility to make sure the system is maintained and functioning in its desired manner.  They collect dues from individuals that are recipients of the water system, decide where tap stands should be, and help represent the general needs of the community.  This structure is a true example of the Catholic Social Teaching principle of subsidiarity; that any organization must allow the individuals the right to accomplish what they are able.  An intervention when not necessary is a disturbance of the desire to work for the common good.  WfW is doing exactly this; they are in partnership with those in Waslala.

There were many highlights during our week in Waslala.  However, nothing topped the opportunity to be in conversation with individuals who have been empowered to make such an important change in their community.



  1. Dear Joanna Bowen:

    First of all, I want to congratulate you and the rest of the members of the NGO Water for Waslala staff for all the support, work and efforts you have made in the pursuit of bettering the lives of the people of Waslala by providing them with the possibility of having access to fresh water. And more than congratulate, I want to thank you all for your solidarity and concern towards a community in our country showing a great amount of philanthropy in your actions.

    My name is Francisco García and I live in a community near La Fonseca in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region, RASS. Since ever, our community has confronted problems with access to fresh and clean water. But the heavy and continuous rains of the past months have worsened the situation. Today, the natural water supplies are more contaminated than ever rising waterborne diseases at levels never seen before, being our children the most affected. This problem has reached a point of unsustainability. That’s why a group of friends and members of the community had agreed in looking forward for a solution conceding this matter a top priority.

    In a preliminary analysis we found out two major set backs. First, we haven´t got the knowledge required to design a project that in the shortest time possible and with a minimum cost, could fulfill our goal. Second, although we are a community of hard working families, we are a community of low incomes. Because oh this, we cannot afford the funding of a major project to cope with our water problem and we have failed to obtain resources from governmental institutions. We could not even drove attention to us in the past election campaign. Now we are hopeless of receiving any kind of assistance or resources.

    Just yesterday a visiting cousin of a friend of mine who lives in the city of Waslala told us about your project in communities near that site. We looked for that project in the internet learning about your NGO. When we read about the things you were doing in Waslala a light of hope illuminated us.
    Now I´m writing to you with great expectations that some how, based on your experience, you could help or assist us in starting a similar project in our community. We would like to receive recommendations, ideas, ways of doing, basics or anything that could help us in the designing of a project to give our community the possibility of having access to clean and potable water which will improve health and quality of life as you well put in your blog.

    I´m writing to your blog because it was the only way I found to get in touch with someone I believe has the knowledge and heart to provide us with some support in achieving our goal. I hope, with the help of god, to hear from you soon. This is my e-mail: which I´ll be opening everyday looking for that ray of light that you represent. Thank you very much.

    Truly yours,
    Francisco Garcia.

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