Field Note #211
International Programs Director Josh Elliot had the opportunity to travel to the Amazon with Jhonny Anderson, Wine To Water Colombia's national program manager. After their time together in the field, Josh took time to reflect on Jhonny's enduring passion in the face of challenges. This is his story.
When you step off the plane in Leticia, Colombia, the heat presses into you and then quickly surrounds you like a thick sweater. It always takes a few days to adjust to its weight. I’ve been traveling to the region, at least once per year, since 2014. The remote landscape and the clash of the old and new world have become familiar friends. Like good friends, they always challenge me to think differently and to lean into the wisdom of others.
Jhonny, our national program manager in Colombia, is one of those people. He’s the founding member of Wine To Water Colombia and the first person I met in the Amazon. He carries a quiet confidence and a contagious laugh that I’ve seen comfort even the most nervous volunteer. He reminds me of Marc Anthony when he pulls out his guitar and starts singing one of his favorite Colombian tunes.
Jhonny started as a volunteer for Wine To Water in 2013. I used to call him the “fixer,” because he always had the answer, knew the right person, or had the solution before I knew there was a problem. So, when we began the process of opening our 3rd international field office, Jhonny’s name quickly rose to the top of the list. He didn’t have any experience running an office and his only water experience was with us. However, what he did have was something even more valuable, more authentic, and more core to the Wine To Water story.
He possessed a deeply ingrained, uncompromising, and relentless passion for serving people. It didn’t just show up when volunteers were there or when it was convenient, Jhonny’s passion for service was his purpose. I’ve had the opportunity to see that passion grow and mature over the years, and its been inspiring to say the least. Granted, that passion doesn’t make it any easier to work in Colombia, much less the Amazon. I actually think it makes it harder. You may be saying, “Wait, what? Passion makes it harder?” In my experience, the answer is yes.
True relentless passion won’t allow you to cut corners. It obligates you to take the road - or should I say the river - less traveled. It calls you to uncertain destinations where unfamiliarity awaits and almost always leads you to those worthy of serving. Jhonny has taught me that the difficult lessons learned and the friends you make along the way are worth more than any other pursuit in life.
So, as I step off the plane in Leticia and those old familiar friends meet me, I think about Jhonny and the sacrifices he makes every day following his passion. It propels me forward and I hope it does the same for you.
International Programs Director