News from the field: We just finished up a great week with a mission team from Brazos Pointe Fellowship in Lake Jackson, Texas. The team, along with the Agua:Yaku staff, took a river trip down the Rio Ichilo in Cochabamba to drill a water well for a new boarding school for indigenous children who live in isolated communities along the river. The school is located in Nueva Capernaum, about a four hour boat ride from the nearest road. Sixty kids (1st through 8th grade) and six teachers study and live at the school during the school year. How would you like to send your 1stgrader off to boarding school for nine months a year? It is hard on these parents and children as well, but this is one of the few options to these families who live difficult lives hunting, fishing, and selling timber along these inaccessible rivers. If the parents dream of a better life for their children, they need an education so they can find work outside of the traditional subsistence lifestyle. The kids come from a mix of Yuracare, Yuqui, and Trinitario communities where they speak distinct indigenous languages in the home. They learn Spanish at school and also learn about Bolivia and the world outside of their isolated river communities.
The kids and teachers are responsible for carrying out all the daily chores; which includes carrying water, collecting firewood, cooking on a wood fire, washing clothes, sweeping, etc. Every morning they have to carry water up from the river to drink and to cook with and in the evening they bathe and wash their own clothes in the river. The government provides basic food supplies for the children, but it is not enough. The teachers still have to look for food donations from NGO’s and they even hunt and fish to bring meat into their diets. Until now they have been drinking dirty untreated water from the river. Along with help from the community, our team drilled a well 160 feet deep in search of clean water. When we left we were still not able to get much water out of the well, but if the water flow does not improve over the next couple of weeks we will go back and drill another well, placing the filter in a different aquifer. If we cannot get a good well in this area, we will help them construct a rainwater capture system and then filter the water for drinking.
While we are certainly concerned with the physical well being of these kids, we are even more concerned about their spiritual development. The children are in classes from 8:30 to 12:30 Monday through Friday. The remainder of their time is taken up with daily chores, homework, soccer, and free time. Because they do not have electricity, the kids finish up dinner by six in the evening and are in their bunks going to sleep by seven (since we are near the equator it gets dark around 6:00 PM year round). This is a government school, so the teachers do not train the students in moral or spiritual disciplines. It would be so great if we could find a national missionary couple who could live near the school and lead Bible studies, teach music, provide recreational activities, and be a Christian light for these kids so far away from home. Please be praying for this great need.
I want to thank everyone for their interest in the Agua:Yaku water well drilling project. We are scheduling a number of mission teams to help us drill wells in the coming year. While we certainly appreciate volunteers, we also need monthly support to pay salaries for our growing staff, travel expenses, and material costs for our ongoing well drilling program. We are expanding our program into four of the nine departments in Bolivia—Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, and Beni. It seems like for every well we drill, we hear of ten more families who need water. We now have two teams out drilling full time. Two new Agua:Yaku employees, Irai and Netino, are both from Brazil and have been trained as missionaries with YWAM. They are both quick to share their faith with everyone they meet and are a great addition to our team. It would be such a blessing if you would consider making a monthly commitment to our ministry, or if you would like to sponsor individual wells—they cost about $500 each.
Agua:Yaku is also excited to announce a new partnership with a Canadian Christian NGO called The Water School in 2010. Warren McCaig (my EFCCM partner in Agua:Yaku) and I will begin implementing a water disinfection program called SODIS in many communities around Bolivia. SODIS is a simple method developed by a Swiss NGO to disinfect contaminated water using two liter plastic bottles and the sun. This is an inexpensive way to treat contaminated water in places where we cannot drill wells—where the water is too deep, or the soil is too rocky to drill. People can get water from surface sources such as ponds, rivers, springs, or rain runoff and can disinfect it before drinking. This is much simpler and safer than boiling, filtering, or chemically treating water. If the water is turbid we will also teach families how to make inexpensive bio-sand filters out of two five-gallon buckets. The water school will provide the funding to implement this new program. Our goal is to see 25,000 people using SODIS by the end of 2010. This will also give us a great opportunity to survey the water needs of Bolivia and begin mapping out where it would be appropriate to expand our well drilling program.
I know this is a long newsletter this month, but I also want to update you on the progress of the girls transition house, now officially called the Ruth and Noemi Support House. The house currently has two girls, Betty and Paula. Please pray for them as well as for the live-in coordinator, Marizabel. A team coming from Kentucky next month will work on some landscaping, interior decorating, and will throw a dinner for girls in Talita Cumi who will be coming to the home next year. Also remember in pray, Rudy Friesen, our missionary colleague with the EFCCM who had a heart attack yesterday and will be in the hospital for the next five or six days.