Healing Waters International was never designed to be a disaster relief organization. Rather, we focus on long-term, sustainable solutions that transform life on several levels for communities. One of our core values is that we strive to serve 1,000 people for 10 years instead of 10,000 people for one year then fail. We believe that our expertise, model, and approach fit the niche of long-term sustainable development better than disaster relief. While there are other organizations that focus wholly on disaster relief and are effective at it, disaster relief efforts inevitably lead to wasted or inefficiently used resources and unsustainable solutions that can cause additional problems in the long term.
All that to say, even though it isn’t part of our model, we are still burdened to help the hurting in whatever capacity we can. We are burdened for those who are incapacitated because of a disaster, those who are made refugees when their homes are destroyed, and those who are without clean water because disaster strikes their community. As the years go by, HWI has grown more adept at deploying customizable and robust water purification solutions, especially through partner organizations, we have found that sometimes we have a unique opportunity to meet an immediate disaster relief need for safe water in a way that also provides a long-term, sustainable solution to a community.
For example, when the earthquake in Mexico occurred in 2017, it affected Chiapas and Oaxaca—two communities we are active in. Through our partnership with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, we identified a church in four towns that were heavily affected, and they helped us temporarily install and operate a full-service water purification system. However, during the process HWI began accessing each of the 4 towns (Juchitán, Los Pinos, Unión Hidalgo, and El Paredón) to determine what it would take to a “second round” after the disaster period ended, of market studies, water business and operations training, and remodeling and local Ministry of Health compliance activities. We determined that a long-term solution was feasible in three of the four towns, and after some remodeling and minor equipment additions, three of these projects are now self-sustainable. The fourth water-purification system remains on hand with Nazarene Compassionate Ministries to be re-deployed should a disaster like this happen in the future.
Also, as you may remember from a previous blog (link), we did similar disaster relief after the eruption of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala in June, 2018. In that particular instance, we partnered with MercyCorps who funded two water projects for communities there. One was a mobile unit that was able to serve multiple relief shelters in Canaán. The second is now a permanent water system that was installed in Canaán. The project served immediate relief and long-term community development.
We are proud to continue using our model to serve those who suffer from disasters in an innovative way. Will you join us in continuing the provision of support?
Walter Nonemaker (Head Engineer at HWI)