An Investment in Water

A couple of months ago, we had the opportunity to create a documentary for Catholic Relief Services in El Salvador. Specifically we were tasked with creating a short for Azure, developed and led by my good friend Paul Hicks of CRS. Azure is a water development project that empowers local communities to manage their water systems by bringing technical and engineering expertise, training and financing to local water service providers.

The goal for the documentary was to give potential investors and those just interested in the project a way to understand the problem and give an overview of how Azure works to bring change to this large scale problem in Central America.

We had been working with Paul over the past couple months with design work and materials for investors, but it's one thing to talk and write about something versus being on the ground and seeing it in person.

 A broken pipe being repaired by a team member from the Santa Cruz Michapa water co-op.

A broken pipe being repaired by a team member from the Santa Cruz Michapa water co-op.

The thing that struck me the most was the resiliency of the Salvadoran people. As a western outsider, I had no idea so many people do not have access to reliable water (almost 2/3 of Salvadoran water systems are in need of substantial work), even if they live in small towns and cities with existing piped infrastructure. It is typical that water is rationed during the day as well as completely unavailable on others. I kept thinking that there would be rioting in the streets if this were back home. But in my travels, I never saw bitterness or anger... just a resolve to figure out a way to live life and provide for the families regardless of hardship.

 On days when piped water is unavailable, Dora and her daughter make a 45 minute round trip hike, three times a day, to obtain spring water. Each of them carrying a 5 gallon jug weighing approximately 40 pounds when full.

On days when piped water is unavailable, Dora and her daughter make a 45 minute round trip hike, three times a day, to obtain spring water. Each of them carrying a 5 gallon jug weighing approximately 40 pounds when full.

It also became apparent that on many levels, women play a significant role in finding the solution to this problem. I met a woman who ran a little restaurant in the beach side town of Tunco. She shared the story of how vital access was to her business, and how it had ripple effects into the community. Without clean, reliable water she would not be capable of maintaining her business, which meant she could no longer pay her employees, who in turn would not be able to pay for the educational needs of their children. The mayor of Santa Catarina Masahuat, has championed water in her community and has begun the hard work of improving the infrastructure system, knowing that the effort will go far beyond her term in office. Finally, I met Dora, the protagonist of our story. While the men in the family had to leave the home to earn wages, it was clear that the women of the family were responsible for the well-being and health of the household. Dora is a charming and articulate woman who knows there is a better future for her children. In the mean time, she rolls up her sleeves and makes the 45 minute round trip to a local clean stream three times a day when the tap is dry. When she described her dream, she simply asked for water 24 hours a day and that "would be a blessing."

 Dora cleaning vegetables at "el chorro".

Dora cleaning vegetables at "el chorro".

When we started this company, this is the type of work we knew we wanted to pursue. We wanted to create and share stories that tapped into a larger understanding of humanity, and shed light on those voices that were typically unheard. This film is being screened at the Vatican for the Vatican Impact Investment Conference. We could not be more proud of supporting this incredible organization and doing our part in making the world a better place.