According to Living Water International, 783 million people around the world lack access to safe drinking water. That’s one in nine people worldwide.
The Rev. Dianne Kareha, Diakon chaplain at Luther Crest, a Diakon Lutheran Senior Living Community in Allentown, Pennsylvania, witnessed the problem firsthand when she made a mission trip to Central America.
Earlier this year, she and a group from First Presbyterian Church of Allentown dug a desperately needed well in a small farming community east of Sabá on the northern coast of Honduras. They worked 12-hour shifts each day, dividing their time between the manual labor of digging the well and teaching the local community about hygiene and safe water use.
“Our hygiene team went through the village every morning and invited everyone to come to our education sessions in the afternoon,” Kareha says. “We held classes on how to wash your hands properly, how to brush your teeth, how to prevent the spread of germs, and so on. We made it fun with skits and every day we taught a Bible story about water, such as Jesus walking on the water and Jesus calling the fishermen. We also did crafts and played games with the kids, including soccer, stickball, and jumping rope.”
"It wasn’t just about digging the well ... but also about developing a community relationship ....”
Kareha also helped to dig the 90-foot well, piecing together five-foot sections of pipe that went down the hole and even operating the digging machine itself.
“The local Honduran team could have done it all themselves, and a lot faster, but they were very patient with us and taught us how to run the equipment. It wasn’t just about digging the well, of course, but about developing a relationship with the community.”
It was hard work, too, she says. “I'm a pretty fit person, but these were long days, with three-hour round-trips between the village and where we stayed in Sabá. It was a wonderful experience, though.”
An experienced traveler to developing countries and regions affected by disaster, Kareha wasn’t shocked by the extreme poverty she saw in Honduras, nor was she surprised by the “richness of spirit” that exists among the people. “There were a lot of smiles in the village,” she says. “They may not have a lot of money or possessions, but they have joy.”
The mission group adopted Living Water International for the trip “because they do a tremendous job helping poor communities to access clean, reliable water sources as well as ministering to community needs.”
Kareha's trip was made easier through Diakon's Love of Our Neighbor program, which provides small grants for employees’ expenses and matches use of a certain number of vacation days to provide time off for trips that assist people in need.