Today Blanca, Cecilia, and I went to the canton of San Francisco for a celebration. They were celebrating the large water collection tanks that were installed in the community for 44 families and the Pastoral Team had been invited. I had also been invited since my church in the US has a partnership with San Francisco.
Since Kathy isn’t here to drive us and I can’t drive a standard we were off by foot to the community. It’s about an hour walk. However, after about 5 minutes of walking Blanca had managed to flag down a moto taxi. It was someone she knew and she asked if he’d drive us to San Francisco. He said yes so the three of us hopped in. I’ve never seen a moto taxi drive to San Francisco before and I’m pretty sure it’s not allowed by the guy who owns the moto taxis. So I think we lucked out. We arrived after only 15 minutes. Several people were already at the church which is where the signing of the act and the celebration was to be held. We went inside the church to wait for a while until more people showed up.
A little background info: The project was implemented through FONAES (Fondo Ambiental de El Salvador) which is the non-governmental organization (NGO) that worked using funds from France to get the water collection tanks into the community. The Berlín City Hall was also involved in the process. The first phase of the project was done about a year ago with 44 tanks installed (two for each family= 22 families) and they just completed the second phase with 22 new families receiving tanks. Since people do not have running water in their homes the water tanks are used to collect water during the rainy season for cooking, cleaning, bathing, drinking, etc. Each tank holds 5000 liters of water.
Around 9am the celebration began. The first person to speak was someone from FONAES. He spent time talking to the community about how the tanks worked. Basically, each house has two tanks with a roof overhead. When it rains the water runs off the roof and into the water tanks. Water can be taken out of the tanks using a pump system. The two tanks are connected so as water is taken out of one tank it is replaced by water in the other tank. He discussed how to keep the roofs clean, how to keep the tanks cleans, and how to use the water filter that was given to each family with the tanks.
He spent quite a bit of time talking and interacting with the group. He asked people questions and had them respond. He asked people when the rainy season began in Berlín and when it ended. He asked people what they were going to do once the rainy season ended and water would not be falling into their tanks. People responded that here in Berlín it stops raining in October, and without their water tanks they’d have to walk to the nearest water source to get their water. Hopefully the water in their tanks can last them part of the way through the dry season.
He then asked the group how many cántaros (water jugs) per day they needed for their family. People responded that it depends on the size of the family, but anywhere from 4 to 10 cántaros are needed daily. He talked about heavy the cántaros are and how hard it is to carry water from far away. But now they won’t have to do this because they have their water tanks. However, he said they needed to take care of their tanks in order to reap the benefits.
The man also spent quite a bit of time talking about using the filters. In order to avoid drinking contaminated water and to prevent sickness people need to use their filters. This means parents, as well as their kids, using water from the filter. This is an opportunity for parents to teach their kids about responsibility. He reminded people that the filters needed to be cleaned and how to go about cleaning them.
Much of what he said I’d heard before as I’m sure others in the community had as well. But people need repetition, repetition, repetition. And when someone in the group wasn’t listening he told them to pay attention. At one point a baby had been crying for a while and he suggested that the mom take the baby out of the church so others could hear and pay attention. It seemed kind of like a teacher/student setting with the teacher repeating things and telling the students to pay attention.
After he’d finished someone from City Hall got up to talk. Several people went to go sit at the table of honor, including the man from FONAES, the president of the Directiva in Berlín, and the mayor of San Francisco. At this point the El Salvador National Anthem was played while we all stood. The mayor spoke briefly about how the water tanks would help people live better lives with more dignity. Then the president of the Directiva, Miguel, spoke briefly about what the project meant to the community, thanking God and everyone involved.
Then a different person from FONAES got up to read the official act that everyone signed who received the water tanks. As with all communities, not everyone knows how to read, so it was important that people understood the act. A committee of 7 people in the community is going to be in charge of helping to maintain the water tanks. That means they’ll visit families to ensure people are using the tanks and filters correctly and that if people have problems with the tanks they can talk to someone on the committee. The members were sworn in and all given a hat.
Next came time for the ceremonial putting dirt in a hole. I’m not sure how else to describe it. I guess it’s a universal symbol of starting (digging a hole) or finishing (putting dirt in a hole) a project. So we all went outside where concrete had been made for this event. I think the hole in the ground with the pole in it was supposed to represent the poles that were put into the ground for the roofs over the water tanks. First Father Jacobo read from the Bible and then sprinkled holy water on the pole. Then several people picked up the shovel to put cement into the hole: the mayor, the guy from FONAES, the president of the Directiva, and the members of the committee. Everyone cheered and someone from the press was there to take pictures.
When this had ended we waited around inside for a while because we were told there was going to be lunch. I was a little confused since it was only 10:30am. Of course, I’d forgotten that I was in El Salvador. Lunch arrived an hour later at 11:30am. They served everyone a huge bowl of soup full with veggies, a big piece of chicken on the side, two tortillas, and a glass of pineapple juice. I didn’t think I could eat it all at first but managed to finish it all off. When we’d finished eating we said goodbye to people and headed back to Berlín. I’m glad I got to be a part of the special celebration.
Driving in the moto taxi to San Francisco
This was not easy to drive over
Sign about the project
Inside the church
The guy from FONAES talking
Someone from City Hall
The mayor of Berlin
The president of the Directiva
Reading the official act
Some of the members of the committee
Father Jacobo reading from the Bible
Blessing the pole with holy water
The mayor puts in the first bit of cement
Then the guy from FONAES
Member of the committee
A female member of the committee (one of two)
Father Jacobo helping out
Reyna being interviewed about the project