Witnessing the Impact in Ocosingo, Mexico


Witnessing the Impact in Ocosingo, Mexico

Field Note #222

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In October of 2018, the Manos de Cristo clinic team in Chiapas, Mexico, visited various members of the community after their filters were delivered. Nurse Carolyn Vogel shared the story of this experience with our organization. This is her story.

Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico, but this does not diminish the beauty of its local scenery. There are rivers, forests, jungles, mountains, and plenty of rainfall, however, all of the fresh water is contaminated. Both animals and people pollute the rivers, directly dumping waste into the waterways. There is also a severe lack of sewage control and water filtration plants. Few people even have access to running water of any sort. 

The vast majority of people use water directly from pipes and boil water for drinking or purchase the large bottles of purified water. All of these options still cause major health and economic concerns. 

The advent of the Sawyer filters will slowly revitalize the lives of the local people. As a nurse and frequent traveler to this area, I have had the privilege of being part of the filtered water revolution here! Our short term medical caravan travelers have carried these filters down by hand. Our brother Sebastian has taken this task to heart. He and the nurses in the clinic have worked together to distribute the filters to patients with water-related illnesses. I have had the privilege of working in the clinic, advising and educating patients on hygiene and disease prevention while recommending the filters. I then was able to accompany Sebastian to make follow-up visits to the families of filter users. Here are a few of their stories!

Sebastian demonstrating how to use the Sawyer filter.

Sebastian demonstrating how to use the Sawyer filter.

MIGUEL lives on the outskirts of Ocosingo, up the steep hill near the clinic. Our team met him working in the yard of his auto repair business. Miguel is actively using the filter without issue and speaks highly of the clean water and the economic benefit it provides. During our visit, he asked if he should also brush his teeth with the clean water. I, of course, said yes.

MANUEL is a friendly, stately man of some years. His house is made of cement, built in levels going down and clinging to the side of the mountain. His halls felt like tunnels in a Mayan ruin! He initially bought one filter, and then returned and purchased six more for the rest of his extended family. Manuel is also a major advocate for the Sawyer filter, saying it has definitely made his family feel better with less stomach issues. I encouraged him to also wash his dishes in the clean water. 

IRIS is a young mother with a baby. She has a large tank of water in her front yard that she cleanses with her own water filter. There is a line running to her house from the government tank. Despite the abundance of rain, the water is rationed so that rolling parts of the town receive water only two days per week.  When the tank is filled, she then can filter any number of bottles to keep on hand. She recognizes the health benefits and says since using the filter, her own mother no longer has digestive issues. I reminded her of the health benefits for her small baby.

SEBASTIAN AND HIS WIFE live with various family members, daughters, and grandchildren in a cement home. It is cool inside with a row of rooms, like a motel. Small trees and plants line the walk and provide shade. They have a small tank and a large sink filled with visibly dirty water. As with the others, the dirty water is only provided two days per week. The family recognizes the value of the filter and is extremely grateful to use one in their home. Some small reminders and education were given.  

JORGE lives behind a tall, rough wooden fence next to a large uninhabited cement building in the town of Ocosingo. Behind the fence is a yard filled with turkeys, chicks, roosters, papaya trees, a bush of beautiful bougainvillea, and laundry hanging on a line. Their small cement house has three rooms and is furnished simply. Jorge was having some difficulty with his filter. Sebastian assisted and offered solutions to filter the dirty water successfully. We took the filter to test, replacing his old Sawyer filter with a new one. He was very grateful, as he was aware of the economic and health benefits of the clean water provided by the filter. 

The last home we visited this day was the most difficult to get to! Even though we knew the barrio - which was up the mountain on the outskirts of Ocosingo - finding the exact house was difficult. Finally, with the assistance and guidance of a little girl, we were lead to the hut. We followed her up and down two steep alleys, down a steep long cement stairway to another level, through barbed wire and across a field, to finally reach the home.

A family with several young women and several children greeted us. This family used a lot of water and were very happy with the knowledge of better health and the money saved from having to haul firewood or purchase water bottles. However, their Uzima filter was not working well. They were not able to clean the filter with the syringe provided, and so the water filtered only drop by drop. Still, they were grateful and were glad we came by to check. Equipment was provided to replace the faulty filter.  

W|W is always grateful for our partners willing to do so much in partnership with our organization. We look forward to seeing more positive impacts like the ones Carolyn witnessed in Mexico. Her story is one of many we are thrilled to share.