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An exclusive interview with our in-country partner, Cynthia Castro in El Salvador to capture a glimpse of life inside the countries we serve as the Covid 19 scenario continues around the world.

An exclusive interview with our in-country partner, Cynthia Castro in El Salvador

Can you tell us a little bit about your most recent distribution on the border of Honduras and how that is having a positive effect on the people there?

Cynthia:  I would like to start with a little glimpse why more than the 90% of surface water sources in El Salvador are contaminated.  One of the largest Rivers in Central America is the Lempa River and it flows through Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador producing 420 kms of contaminated water. A total 360 kms flows through El Salvador (the river receives domestic and industrial wastes which flow directly into the water and it is totally polluted).

The river starts in Citala, a village up in the north mountains of the Country border of Honduras. It should be noted that the majority of the economically active population in this village is engaged informal work, which included agricultural cultivation (beans, corn, tomatoes etc).   Unfortunately, people from the rural area are the ones to end up drinking contaminated water from natural sources. Pastor Oscar Mejia and his wife Silvia told us the water resources in Citala are contaminated with helicobacter pylori (causing people to suffer from numerous gastrointestinal tract- related problems).  In 2015, pastor Daniel used to work in laboratory where they tested the water.  The study shows fecal bacteria and helicobacter pylori. During all these years many people from the community took antibiotic treatment (access to clean water is critical need because unsafe water is leading cause of illness).

On August 15th we were able to provide 40 water filters in three different communities of Citala.  We went with a group of 10 volunteers from Love action.  Due to Covid, we had to go to three different spots were family members were waiting for us.  The road to get to the final community was very difficult, we had to take two pick-up trucks with 4X4 to allow climbing steep rocky hills.   One of the trucks couldn´t make it up the hill we decided to only take one team.  One of my good friends, Danny, rode in the back of the truck holding all the water filters because we had the brilliant idea to assemble the filters in the first spot.  He literally saved the filters on the bumpy roads. Julio, who drove all the way up to the community attested to the fact that it was a real off-road experience.  Finally, we got there, and everyone was super excited to finally receive their water filters. These community members were all willing to share the filters with their neighbors, which shows how the water is bringing the people and the communities together.

This year we are implementing GIS technology to track those filters.  We check the symptoms if the illness to see if it is directly related to their water they drink. Some families took antibiotics in the past due the level of bacteria found in the water.  I am super excited to follow up next month those filters and see how their health have been improving.

How did you fix Bryan’s community? How has that community been restored and how have the people been blessed beyond water?

The morning after Tropical Storm Amanda,  I remembered Bryan’s community and I called Nuria,  one of our leaders in Bonanza.  I was very concernend about all the families.  As you know,  this was the very first community we had the opportunity to provide clean drinking wáter to about  6 years ago. She said that everyone there was fine,  but also told me about storm damage to the homes of many families.  She was very sad to see everyone next morning trying to find what remained of their roof, the tin roofs blew off during the wind storm and the aluminum sheets on many families’ homes were totally destroyed under the mud.

In the middle of the ongoing health crisis it was really hard for many families after the storm,  not having a job and with the rainy season beginning with no roof.  I felt deep heartache.  I just could say to her “ Everything is going to be okay¨. We are here with you.” I just could just pray for all these families asking God to provide for them. At the same time, all the community began to pray for God's provision. Due to Covid, every afternoon at 4pm  they have prayer time from the doors of their houses.

Then it happened.  I remember when Sean told me about the good news.   In just 4 hours donors helped us reach the goal of raising funds to restore the infrastructure of the roofs.  We were able to buy the best material of corrugated metal roof that will last the longest.   It was a true miracle and a huge surprise that no one expected.  There were tears of joy, there was an atmosphere of gratitude and a sense of true community.  The day after they received the materials to repatch the roofs,  the whole community woke up to a lot of noise from the old aluminium sheets. The  men of the community worked in teams to repatch the roofs of 9 families, including single moms and widow´s houses.  The whole community  is so greatful for those of you who have responded so quickly to this latest crisis also providing food for families. Nuria shared with us:  “we are deeply thankful and blessed- it is our prayer as a community of God to return to you the joy you have given us”.

What is the new partnership with a non-government organization in El Salvador?  How is that changing lives and blessing the people?

My good friend Jeannifer runs a non-profit organization called Love Action based on relationship like One ATTA Time. one of the main goals is to spread the kingdom of God through actions of love.  They have been helping us to raise funds to buy buckets to distribute 150 filters to key places.  Volunteers have donated transportation to different communities to distribute the water filters.

It is an honor to partner with them and see how God connects all the dots when he wants to bless communities in desperate need of hope, food, and clean drinking water. During this time God has been so good as we join forces to continue to help bring clean water to families in need and see how a pandemic couldn´t slows down our help when there was a group of people willing to serve to go out and change lives. It has been very challenging to deal with fear because of the virus--and we have been social distancing.  This is why we went to three different spots because just certain amount of people could be in the same general area for the distribution.  At the same time there is joy, gratitude to be able to serve, to spread love during this time of crisis.  We are so very thankful for all the volunteers their willingness to go above and beyond to love and serve those in need.

Do you have any stories about how providing water or food has been life changing far beyond just the food and water for a certain family or person or even a community that has touched your heart during all of your work there?

When I think about food insecurity it is heartbreaking. COVID 19 hit hard with school closures in rural areas and prevented at least 400,000 of children from accessing meals in schools’ settings. With the help of ATTA food for families on July 1st we had the opportunity to provide emergency food in las Delicias. A special example is Emerson (12 years old) who had to grow up much more quickly than most boys his age.  His resilience has been leading him to become a light his family.  He walked 3 miles to get his food. His single mom who is currently unemployed due to COVID 19 restrictions stayed at home with 2 sisters. He was super excited to go back home with all the groceries to his family.  We thank you for making it possible.

Azalia is a single mom who lives in the same piece of land with her mom, two sisters and her 5-year-old son Diego.  She has to walk 1 mile to collect water from a contaminated well.  She works picking up mollusks (clams) in the mangrove from Calzada Island. They used to suffer from constant diarrhea, vomiting, and parasites. Their bellies were bloated, and their bodies were full of intestinal worms.  Her family couldn´t pay for medical treatment; there was no government medical attention on the island, but last year an organization called Christ for the City has provided medical consultations once a week. Azalia and her family were able to see them and take antibiotics.

On January we went to Calzada Island to have 300 water filters distributed to families in need including Azalia´s family.  Now they are full of joy, knowing they have safe drinking water, and their health has improved. Definitely finding water solutions for rural areas like la Calzada island is critical to truly reaching everyone with reliable and sustainable drinking water.

Pastor Oscar Mejia and his wife Silvia have been serving and creating relationships in these communities by bringing medical and different resources to the schools and families. In Citala there are 8 villages, 53 communities and only 10 schools for the whole county. In many cases kids have walk for an hour to make it to school.  Oscar and Silvia have a dream for one of these communities called “Plan de Rancho”.  That dream is to open a literacy education program for children, because they only have access to the public school and very rare opportunities to acquire advanced education. Silvia, who is a former and passionate teacher says: “We would like to serve 50 children from 24 families who are unable to reach mínimum proficiency levels in reading and writing.  We would also implement a good sanitization and hygiene education.  Our dream is to give these kids the skills to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

Bringing access to clean water through the local church opens a door for local leaders to build a sense of ownership and community, so they are willing share the water filters with their neighbors. This also allows them to spend less hours collecting firewood to boil water, it prevents children and teenagers from dropping out  of school due to feeling sick because of the water they consume, and it relieves them from walking for an hour to go to the school and back. Just imagine that! Hopefully we will be able to see development and the unfolding potential of these communities.

One ATTA Time is opening doorways through clean water that brings much more than health and hope to these communities.  It brings a sense of “community” where everyone is there to help each other and build better lives for their community.  The generous donors from One ATTA Time provide so much more than clean water.  They provide hope, healing and communities that are learning to move forward under the most difficult conditions to become better places with people helping people

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