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From scarcity to abundance: Community empowerment and water security in Central America

The Church of Jesus Christ and Water for People bring water access and better bathrooms to Honduras, Guatemala

When Maria Lopez moved to San Antonio de Cortés, Honduras, she found that the community only had a basic water system providing minimal water services to a few families — not enough for the whole community.

“I had come from a place where there was plenty of water. But here there was no place to bath or even drink,” Lopez said. “The children were the ones who suffered the most. At times, they went hungry because there wasn’t the water to cook food properly.”

People had to walk an hour to the nearest stream when water was scarce during the summer. Other residents would buy water from another town and transport it home, but this was costly and challenging.

Lopez did not want to let her family keep living without water. So she got her neighbors together and created a group to address their water concerns.

“You have to fight to make things happen until you see a change,” she said.

They connected with Water for People, a global nonprofit working around the world to equip communities with lasting access to clean water and sanitation services. Their motto is “Everyone Forever.”

Water for People worked with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the local government in Honduras to build a new water system for San Antonio de Cortés.

Lopez said big changes have come to her community since the new water system was built. The community feels connected, and people are relaxed and smile more. Children miss fewer days of school and are happier and healthier.

Building better bathrooms

Avelino Reynoso is a skilled contractor who became trained specifically on bathroom construction in Guatemala.
Avelino Reynoso is a skilled contractor who became trained specifically on bathroom construction in Guatemala. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports Water for People in its efforts to train local contractors to make communities more healthy. | John Crockett

Avelino Reynoso’s father died when he was young, so he started working odd jobs to support his family. When he was 15, he began a career in construction in Guatemala.

“To this day, I work in construction,” Reynoso said. “But then I began to see that there was a need to have bathrooms.”

Nearly half of people in the world don’t have access to a decent toilet. Without bathrooms, families lack dignity and risk getting sick from waterborne diseases, explained a post from Caring — the Church’s social media account for its humanitarian efforts.

Connecting families with sanitation businesses is a way to get access to better bathrooms. A Water For People team in Guatemala invited Reynoso to join training sessions focused on bathroom construction.

“I was interested in learning about it because I think I am the only one who knows about building bathrooms in my community. Nobody here is really interested in learning about that issue. But I started building more bathrooms and toilets,” he said.

Now he works with his clients to help them understand the importance of bathrooms — even showing them his own bathroom if they have any questions. He also connects them with loans to support the project and makes sure the waste will be properly contained and treated.

”I’m proud to not only be a mason and know about sanitation but to have my own bathroom in the house,” Reynoso said.

With the help of the Church, Water for People is able to work with and support the training of local contractors like Reynoso to make communities more healthy.

The Church of Jesus Christ and Water for People

The Church prioritizes access to clean water as part of its humanitarian efforts, collaborating with organizations on the ground around the world. Initiatives focus on building sustainable solutions that promote self-reliance and dignity for all.

The Church and Water For People began working together in 2014 to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services in several countries.

Previous efforts reported in the Church News include training villagers in Uganda to restore ensure long-term sustainability and restore a borehole. Working with the government in Rwanda, water systems have been installed in Gicumbi District. And in Bolivia, the right kind of water tower changed everything for a community without acces.

Lopez said about her experience: “Keep on fighting for water, for what gives us life. And if you see the chance to fight to help people who are struggling, fight with all you’ve got.”

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‘Now we just open the tap’ — Bolivian community finally gets water through Church’s help
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