Ray Heeres, a member of Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Listowel, Ontario, is passionate about water security. For nine years, he made an annual trip with World Renew, volunteering his time to help communities in Central America establish sustainable access to clean water. In March 2020, he was preparing for his tenth trip when around the world travel restrictions were put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19.
While many Canadians weren’t thinking about access to water as we were reminded by health authorities to wash our hands for 30 seconds or more, for families in communities like Barranco Alto, Nicaragua, taking this simple step to protect their health was a challenge. “What we take for granted, they have to work for and often it’s the women or children doing the heavy lifting,” Ray says. Many communities in Nicaragua are on a grid with designated times to access water at a main source, which means some people may have to get up at 3:00 every morning and work for an hour to collect enough for their daily use.
Having easy access to clean water can also mean improved food security. World Renew Nicaragua Country Director, Steve Gisel, has seen how vegetable gardens can help families meet their food needs. But he explains, “It’s 100 degrees here! You can’t water every three days. You’ve got to water every single morning.”
With support from World Renew and volunteers like Ray, communities work to select leaders, design infrastructure, secure land, obtain permits and more. And even while travel was not possible, many churches across Canada continued to support this work from a distance, including in the Barranco Alto community where for as long as she could remember Maria Simona Oporta Ríos had to fetch water from the river then carry it on her head to her house. Today, she gives thanks to God that she can simply turn on a tap in her home. She shares, “I have tomatoes, chiles, onions, peppers, beetroot and a new avocado tree. Now with the water we can grow our own vegetables.” It’s stories of transformation like Maria’s that inspire Ray to continue to volunteer his time.
This page is made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.