A Forgotten Community
“Olivero is becoming famous!”As she says these words, Martha Butler de Lister, the National Director of Food for the Hungry — Dominican Republic, lets out a laugh. She laughs not because it’s a joke, but because it’s true. And it still seems unbelievable.
Up until a few years ago, the small community of Olivero, located on the border of two provinces, was accustomed to being ignored. Both provinces refused to claim the community and provide any municipal support. Consequently, the main water source for Olivero’s nearly 200 families was a small well that distributed contaminated water to the residents.
For these reasons and many more, life in Olivero seemed to be especially complicated. This made it a natural place for Food for the Hungry, a ministry specializing in child-focused community transformation, to assist and empower local leaders to make a difference. Martha explains that in the initial meetings with Olivero’s leaders, safe drinking water was immediately identified as the primary objective.
A New Partnership
In the search for a water treatment system, connections led Martha to Healing Waters. She said, “You know, there are plenty of other people, even in this country, who do similar water treatment work. But [Food for the Hungry and Healing Waters] meet at one point that’s very important: holistic ministry.”
With similar hearts for transformation, a special partnership was formed. For many people in Olivero, the impact was almost immediate.
One such person is Fausto (pictured above), a local man once known for his extremely shy demeanor and lack of education. For no reason other than his available schedule, he was appointed as the volunteer Water System Manager. Initially, this concerned Martha and other leaders because of Fausto’s difficulty with interacting with people.
Any fears were soon put to rest because Fausto began to change. Today if you walk up to the small blue storefront, Fausto will greet you pleasantly, demonstrate the mechanics of the water treatment system, and fill up your five-gallon bottle. He’s also developed a system to track which bottles belong to the water health club and delivers water to the elderly and nearby school after hours.
A man, who at one time was an outcast in his community, is now an empowered and passionate leader. And the story is really the same for the entire community.
With the success of the water project, Olivero has received some attention. Recently, a new playground and several chickens were donated. Agricultural programs are underway and the two surrounding provinces have agreed to pay for a school bus. The people of Olivero are no longer forgotten thanks to the powerful transformation — physical, social, and spiritual — that safe water brings.
“There is peace in this relationship. We are totally in sync with our philosophies. What I see happening is that with the arrival of clean water in this community, people started believing that there’s somebody caring for them.”
—Martha Butler de Lister, National Director of Food for the Hungry – DR