Welcome to stop #2 on the Race 4 Water’s Digital Trail! El Porvenir was our first water project. This may not be true, but we felt at the time that it was ‘Do or Die’ for SuNica. If this project didn’t work out, it would have been tough to keep charging ahead with our dreams of doing clean water in Nicaragua. Praise God though – it worked out and it worked out quite beautifully.
We were pretty obsessed with figuring out how to conduct a project in such a manner that the local folks could be empowered to own and operate their water system when we were done. To boil down the strategy to a few words or concepts, I can say that the two key ingredients were TIME and RELEASE. Time is easy. We had to be willing to spend two years walking out a project with the community that could have been done in eight months. You need that time with the community to disciple its leaders, to allow them to embrace the thing as their own, and train them on how to manage it.
RELEASE is a bit tougher. We have to release certain things to the community even when it feels kind of wrong. I say release instead of delegation because it is a most difficult and unnatural thing to do, and we (SuNica) have to resist the urge to hold on. We absolutely must release certain tasks and certain problems into the hands of the community. These are things that we could so easily do ourselves – processes that would be faster and more efficient. Here’s a story of just that.
In 2014, El Porvenir was made up of 113 homes along one road. Those homes were scattered along about a three kilometer stretch of dirt road. There was a one kilometer stretch at the end that was absolutely brutal to dig by hand. The community asked us to get a machine to dig it for them. We hated to say no to that, but we felt we had to in order to empower the community to own their project. The community then banded together to petition a local farm owner to lend them the use of a backhoe for a few days. They also did a fundraiser to pay an operator and cover the diesel fuel for the machine. That last kilometer of pipe was laid in no time and the ‘win’ was theirs to celebrate.
We knew we had to let the community own the project and that the appropriate use of TIME & RELEASE was working. And now all these years later, the El Porvenir system continues to deliver clean water 24/7 to a community that has now grown to 165 families.