Thursday, May 18, 2017


Often a good project starts with the quiet reflection of a need and the solution. It was just so for the village of Xecano located 4 hours by foot up the trail from Eden Ixil.  The need was clear and simple- there was no potable water. Families were dependent on the collection of rain water. The poverty was extreme and money for barrels, gutters or tanks nonexistent.  Four years ago T.R.E. started visiting the families of Xecano and together we started dreaming about a better way.
     A family collecting rain in a bucket
 A pit well for collecting the rain that falls off the metal roofing beside it. The log ladder let's the famly descend to collect buckets of water.
 But I know there is a beter way.

Dreams to make the world a better place often start simple and easy. Meetings in comfortable homes, listening to motivational speakers, joining with groups of likeminded people with the desire to make a difference. The start of this project flows a similar path and every time I started to make the trip up the mountain I felt like I was taking a nice walk in a park as we crossed streams in the shade of the forest.

But the path to fulfill the simple dream of clean potable water was no walk in the park. Like the path to the village that quickly leaves the valley floor and starts a hard ascent this project and these photos chronical the suffering and effort of a year of work for the families of the village. It also honors Jim and Barb Knepshield who financed the project for a people who they will probably never meet. Together, the vilage, the sponors and T.R.E. have left a lasting positive change that will bless the grandchildren of this small mountain village.

The solution to the need for water rested in a small mountain spring two and a half hours walk up the trail. Sand, gravel, cement and rebar were carried up the mountain from Chel.
 Board for forms used to construct the collection tank were chainsawed from the surrounding forrest.

Rebar needed to reinforce the tank was bent and strapped to the backs of the men. 56 years old Francisco never once told me how hard the work was or how tired he was but many, many times he shared his smile, his thanks and joy for a better future.
A kilometer of piping was packed up the mountain. These trails are not made for long loads and snakeing the pipe around switchbacks required constant care.

 Ths rough trail is the highway the families that  travel it as they seek their place in the world.  For those fortunate enough to have a pack animal "car seats" are made of sacks filled with the things they cannot grow  or make by hand.


                        When the collection tank was finished Pedro was excited to see the pressure. Now the hardest part of the project begins- the ditch.
 Over a kilometer of ditch and piping must be laid. It required months of work as they dug a ditch across the mountain. The semi tropical forest does not give passage easily. The tangle of roots, rocks and steep terrain made progress slow and costly. For seven months the men would work one week on the ditch and then one week in their fields to support their families. All of this labor they donated. It is their part of the sweat equity they have in this project.

- When the ditch was finished two plastic water tanks were hiked up the mountain. The trail not only is steep but narrow, with curves, rocks and trees that make passage of something as big as the tank difficult. These photos were taken in the easier part of the trail.

Arrival! Success is in sight! The water is now flowing over a kilometer to this site above the village.  As the village grows new tanks can be added to the two in place. There is enough water for 30 famlies.

Why?- Why all of this effort? For a drink of clean water. Those of you who know the thirst from hiking in the mountain can appreciate these photos. The sweet flavor of cool clean water.

                                                               Tired and sore feet.
Pedro working under the load of carrying the water tank.
I begin with the statement that this project chronicles some of the suffering and effort of the men and women of Xecono. No matter how powerful the photos might be they only tell a part. As the men of the community stood around the newly place tank the demonstrated community development. It is more than pipes and bags of cement. It is more than dollars and a count of how many peopleare  helped. It is families who have bound together to reach a goal and are stronger because of it. 

Today there is joy and celebration in Xecano. This celebration and thankfulness will not stop tomorrow or the day after. For the first time in the history of the village, the men, women and children of Xecano can open a faucet and smile. 
  During this project we have planted fruit trees, distributed water filters, clothes, eyeglasses, garden seeds and more. The trees we planted when we first started dreaming together are already giving their first harvest of apples, oranges and peaches. 50 new trees were planted this week. Sustainability, positive change are bywords in humanitarian work. I am glad they are a reality in Xecano.

One mountain village united for a better future. Thanks Jim and Barb. If you are ever in the area stop by and the village will butcher a chicken and offer you a meal and a heartfelt thanks that is so deep there is no translation needed. I wish all of our sponsors could realize the impact they help us make. Today is a good day to celebrate for us all.