Davidson church to assist Guatemalan community
by Staff Writer
Nutrition, education and employment are luxuries in the Chucam community of the Guatemalan highlands.
So for the last four years, members of the Davidson United Methodist Church have been visiting and working with the community to build churches, educate children and teach ways to improve quality of life. What started as a yearly trip of approximately 12 volunteers has turned into a partnership between the church, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and 39 volunteers on the last trip alone.
Members have helped erect buildings, organize sports camps, orchestrate vacation Bible schools, educate children through scholarship programs and build vented stoves.
This year the church’s mission group turned to another critical issue: unsanitary water. Partnering with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, which has agreed to match the church’s contributions $1.50 for every $1.00 raised, DUMC is committed to bringing safe drinking water to the people of Chucam.
The scope of this project is two-fold. Families will receive a water filtration system composed of two 5-gallon buckets and a filter to make the water safe to drink. These systems provide roughly 10 gallons of clean water per day, sufficient for use by one family.
To prevent water sources from becoming contaminated in the first place, better built and more strategically located latrines will be constructed. The cost of one filtration system and latrine construction is estimated to cost around $452 per family.To supply each of the roughly 450 families in the Chucam community with a filter system and latrine, the project will require more than $200,000.
To DUMC, this is yet another challenge.
Historically, the people of Chucam used open pits in their homes to build fires for cooking, resulting in smoke that made it difficult to be in the houses for any longer than 30 seconds. The solution was a vented stove that directed the smoke out of the house. Last year, the church group had an ambitious goal of building 200 vented stoves. By the end of the year, 835 were completed.
These projects take a dual effort with DUMC and the community as working partners.
“The goal of any project in Chucam is to give the community members a ‘hand up,’ not a ‘hand out,’” volunteer Mike Spencer said.
Not unlike the model followed by Habitat for Humanity that requires beneficiaries to invest their own time or money, community members in Chucam contributed 44 percent of the total cost of the water project primarily through labor.
Families receiving the new water filtration systems and latrines will receive training on building latrines as well as basic sanitation practices.
In November, members of the group will make a second trip to Chucam. Participation is not limited to the church’s members.