Today the delegation had the opportunity to visit the community of La Llanes. Though the Pastoral Team hasn’t known the community for long they are well aware of the many struggles of the families in the community. Not only is the community one of the poorest in the municipality of Berlín (including the other cantons) but they also have little access to water. The nearest rivers are far away and they have to walk over rough terrain to get there. There is a water pump they can use but it is also far away from their community (over an hour’s walk). In either case they have to use cántaros to collect the water and carry it back on their head. In the rainy season, access to water is a little easier, provided you have something to use for collection and storage. This community only has a few barrels they use for water collection for everyone.
But today the Pastoral Team and delegation was bringing good news to the community. Thanks to the efforts of several small churches in Iowa, the Central Presbyterian delegation, and the Pastoral Team, the community of La Llanes would be receiving a gift of water tanks for every family in the community. Everyone pitched in to buy the water tanks, which cost $117 each, to purchase 20 tanks for the community. With these tanks the families will be able to collect water when it rains to use for bathing, cooking, and cleaning.
I need to point out that the community didn’t ask for this gift; they didn’t ask for anything. But the Pastoral Team and people in Iowa who saw pictures of the community saw how poor the people in La Llanes were and wanted to do something to help. It is not only because of their lack of access to water that they received these gifts, but also in how they demonstrated leadership and a willingness to help others in the community.
The community of La Llanes was unknown to the Pastoral Team until they formed a committee and the canton of San Francisco told the Pastoral Team of the efforts of La Llanes to organize themselves. The Pastoral Team made an initial visit in early May to get to know the community. There they found the community had formed a committee to be leaders in decision making and to help be a voice for their community. The committee was well supported by other families in the community and those not on the committee were vocal about giving their opinions to the committee. Families shared with each other what they had and helped out when someone was in need. For all of these reasons, the Pastoral Team decided they needed to do something to help the community.
Some of the tanks inside the Pastoral House
Back to today. 20 water tanks were delivered to the Pastoral House this morning from where they were purchased in San Miguel. The tanks would be delivered to La Llanes in the afternoon. The delegation had gone to Corozal in the morning but I stayed behind to teach so I planned to go with the water tanks in the afternoon to La Llanes. We hired the big truck from Antonio and Raul to drive the tanks to La Llanes. Starting at 12:30pm people from La Llanes began to arrive to help load the tanks. By 1pm five men and one woman were here to load the tanks onto the truck and tie them down. With everyone working together the job got done quickly.
There was some discussion over where I should be on the truck. I did not want to be inside but everyone kept insisting. I finally convinced them that I was fine outside the truck with everyone else. It took well over an hour to drive to La Llanes in the big truck. The road was extremely bumpy and there were lots of “hazards” along the way. The road to La Llanes is narrow so the driver had to be very careful to stay on the road. Since we were higher up than when we’re in the pickup there were also several branches we had to duck under. Two of the branches were too low and big for the truck to pass so we stopped while a couple people hacked them down with a machete.
Then we came to a small, muddy hill. We made it halfway up and then couldn’t get up any further so we had to back down. Then the truck tried again but no such luck. Several people got out to evaluate the situation and try to figure out how to get the truck up the hill. Antonio got a large branch and tried putting that under the tires to get some traction. The truck tried again and got a little further but ultimately slid back down. At this point Alejandro suggested that he and I get out of the back of the truck for safety reasons. So we hopped out. They decided to put chains on the tires to get some traction and that finally worked to get us up the hill. Yay!
Loading the tanks up onto the truck
Driving to La Llanes
Standing on the back bumper
He was sitting on the corner
Holding on tight to the railing
Using a machete to cut down this branch
Lots of beans growing in the field
Uh oh. We're stuck!
Trying to figure out what to do
Putting chains on the tires
When we arrived in the community several people from every family was waiting for us. The people who rode along with the truck unloaded all the water tanks. I greeted and chatted with people while we waited for the delegation to return to where the truck was. They had gone off on a long trek to see the house with 14 children in order to get to know the community better. When they returned they greeted everyone.
Then Blanca and the leader of the committee, Ismael, spoke briefly with the community about the water tanks. Blanca said she hoped that they would be used well and maintained. The community all nodded their heads in agreement. Ismael spoke about how pleased he was that we had come back to visit the community and thanked us for the wonderful gifts. He reinforced the notion that everyone needed to take care of the water tanks.
Next began the process of signing for the tanks. Someone from each family was called to where the Pastoral Team and Ismael were sitting to sign for their tanks. Those people who couldn’t sign their name stamped a fingerprint on the paper. One little girl signed for her family (probably because she was the only one who could read or write). Then people carried the tanks away to a certain spot. It was a fast process since there were only 20 tanks.
After all the tanks had been handed out several members of the community, including people not on the committee, personally thanked the Pastoral Team, the small churches in Iowa, and the Central Presbyterian delegation. Everyone was so grateful not only for tanks but also for the friendship. It means so much to them that people know who they are. It also helps the community know that they are not alone.
Once people had finished saying thank you everyone gathered around Alejandro as he demonstrated how to set up the tanks. When he finished explaining things we said goodbye to everyone. There were lots of hugs and people said they hoped to see us again soon. We’re in luck because next week is their patron saint festival and the Pastoral Team is going to be attending the celebration mass. I’m excited to see everyone again!
Unloading the tanks in La Llanes
Carrying it away
Everyone lending a hand
The tank is as big as he is
They were unloaded quickly
Two of the girls I like to talk to
People gather around
Listening to Blanca and Ismael
The gringos watch the process
Carrying it a little ways down the hill
Gathered around Alejandro as he explain things
A praying mantis!
Cecilia and her little friend