Written by Abe Wright, DO co-founder and chief technology officer
Editor’s note: The DO team recently visited four communities in Guatemala with field partner Water for Life. Here is a digest of DO Diaries: Stories from the Field compiled by DO Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Abe Wright. He was joined on the trip by Ray Ehrig, manufacturing engineer, and Daniel Wang, project engineer. The following are excerpts from social media posts made by Abe during the trip:
February 12—Day 1:
I have the opportunity to lead a DO team on a visit to one of our LifePump field partners, Water for Life—this time in Guatemala! Please pray for me, Ray, and Daniel as we work with Water for Life on four LifePump and LifePumpLink installations, provide training, and investigate some new R&D concepts for LifePump.
Personally, this is also a special trip for me. I spent two summers in college here, and God used my time in Guatemala to help solidify a calling to use engineering in missions. It has been 22 years since I was last here. I am grateful to be back, and it feels special to be representing Design Outreach, which was barely a spark of an idea back then.
We arrived this afternoon in Guatemala City, which is in the southern part of the country. Tomorrow we fly north to Flores where we will meet our field partner. We are excited to see what God has in store for us this week.
February 13—Day 2:
We arrived safely in Poptún, where Water for Life is based. The trip involved a flight from Guatemala City to Flores and then about an hour and half drive.
On our way, we stopped at the community of Santa Cruz to check on one of the LifePumps. Our remote monitor shows that it is used over nine hours a day but also has some days with little usage. We had the opportunity to ask a local man about it, which also gave me an opportunity to dust off my Spanish.
It turns out that they also have a rainwater harvesting system. So, when there is rain, they use that system, and when the rain stops, they use the LifePump. It was nice to see that the community has various options, and LifePump is part of the solution to providing water every single day.
February 14—Day 3:
Valentine’s Day, friends! Today we headed out to Sabaneta, a community of about 1,200 people, to install a LifePump. Like Santa Cruz yesterday, LifePump is the solution that makes sure water is available 365 days a year.
I talked to an elderly man who shared that the community had to walk one kilometer to get water before a couple hand pumps were installed by Water for Life. Many homes also had shallow wells, but they all dry up for months during the dry season and are usually contaminated. Water for Life installed a different style of hand pump but was having issues with breakdowns, so they decided to switch out the old pump for LifePump.
We also had a curious audience—a few boys who were my kids’ age—and like my kids, they asked a lot of questions and told me stories. That was fun! But it was also sad to hear some of their hard stories. I am grateful on this day of love to know that these kids and their families will have safe water for many years to come!
February 15—Day 4:
We drove four hours to the community of Samarack that is tucked away in a mountainous and jungle-covered portion of the Peten. The scenery seemed like something out of an Indiana Jones movie at times—very stunning and beautiful. The people of Samarack were extremely friendly and hospitable. They shared with us how there is a shallow well that is a 20-minute walk and a river where they do laundry, but both are on private property. They are often harassed by others who don’t want them there.
Most of the homes in Samarack do have rain barrels where they collect water from their rooftops. José (red jacket below) gave me a little tour and showed me his rain barrel and his neighbors’. This, of course, only works when it rains, and also the ladies complained that the water is dirty, and they often find little bugs swimming in their barrels.
Water for Life Installed a hand pump in Samarack two years ago, but it recently broke down. They were glad to be able put in LifePump instead. We were able to get the pump installed and enjoyed a delicious traditional Guatemalan meal prepared by the community afterwards. It was such a joy to celebrate with them! It really was a wonderful day with the community.
February 16—Day 5:
Today we had to switch gears when we discovered that we would not be able to install a pump because of a well casing issue. The Water for Life team plans to return soon with the correct equipment, and fortunately, the community already has a working hand pump, so they were not left empty handed. These types of issues are all part of the incredible challenge of working in the field! I am grateful for the Water for Life team and their hard work to provide water to the people of Guatemala.
On our way back to the shop, we were able to see some of the countryside. Guatemala is truly a beautiful country! Please pray for us tomorrow as we plan to install two LifePumps.
February 17—Day 6:
Two LifePump installations today in Esperanza, a community of about 500 people. One LifePump was placed at the school and the other at the church. It was a beautiful day in so many ways. Wonderful times of prayer with the community after each installation. Great time with the Water for Life team (our last day in the field together). Lots of welcoming and happy people—we even had one little girl give us all hugs before we left. And mucho food—they made sure we didn’t leave hungry! And of course, safe water for the people of Esperanza.
I thank God for our success today! Thank you for praying for us this week and for the communities that we had the privilege to serve. It has been wonderful to represent DO in Guatemala and to leave here knowing that many more communities will have a reliable source of water soon as our partner, Water for Life, has 24 more LifePumps to install.
February 18—Day 7:
Today is our last full day in Guatemala. We spent this morning going over installation reports with the Water for Life team to make sure we all have the same data and trained the team on how to use our new electronic installation report (it is WAY cooler than it sounds). Getting reports from the field can be a big challenge, and this helps both our field partners and DO—a win-win!
We got our Covid-19 tests around noon, and thankfully we are all negative. So, we can come home. We are staying the night in Flores and flying back early tomorrow. It is sad to say goodbye, but we are grateful for the ways that God worked this week. Thank you to those who prayed for us.