Students help provide clean water, eye care to Nicaraguan village

Zachary Woodworth, Campus Carrier Features Editor

Last year Berry students traveled on a mission trip to Nicaragua organized by junior Hannah Johnson. The group traveled with the nonprofit organization Amigos for Christ, which helps provide clean water to people in small villages in Nicaragua.

Amigos for Christ was founded in 1999 by members of the Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Buford, Ga. Johnson has been on several mission trips with the organization.

“I started going on trips for them in seventh or eighth grade,” Johnson said. “It’s something I continued doing in high school, and when I got to Berry I wanted to take a group (on a mission trip).”

Johnson organized a mission trip with about a dozen Berry students. The group worked in La Chuscada, a village in Northern Nicaragua without access to running water.


                                                                         Photo contributed by Hannah Johnson
 Berry students stand in a trench that they are digging. Last year the group
over a thousand feet of trenches for a pipeline that connected homes in
village of La Chuscada in Nicaragua to a solar-powered well.

“This village has been established for 80 years and had never seen running water before,” Johnson said.

Lack of clean water leads to various diseases, and Johnson said people in the village had to walk five miles a day to get water.

Senior Will Howell was one of the students who went on the mission trip.

“They were drinking out of a river with fecal matter and animals wading through it,” Howell said. “There was a gentleman there who was 62 and he had never seen clean running water before.”

“It’s definitely a developing rural country, something I’ve never experienced before,” Howell said.

Howell said that some people drive many hours to work in Chinandega. Parents drive several hours to take their kids to school. Howell said that while there are some elementary schools in the village, there are no schools for older children in the village. For middle and high school some people get up as early as 5 a.m.  to make sure their kids get to school.

The Berry students who went on the trip dug trenches for a pipeline that connects to a solar powered well. Amigos for Christ implanted a solar powered well that provides water to all the houses in the village. Johnson said some students also worked in schools in the village.

The group worked during the week of Spring Break, but the pipeline was not finished until July. Johnson said that there a big opening ceremony where they turned on the water for the first time.

Howell said that through his volunteer service and experience in the Leadership Fellows scholarship Program, he identified himself as a “servant-leader.” This means that he tends to lead by serving others and to “help people at some of their most vulnerable points because you can make a pivotal impact on them and change their lives for the better.”

Howell will be returning to Nicaragua on May 16 to 22 to help eye doctors provide proper eye care.

“We will be traveling with Amigos for Christ, partnering with a group called OneSight to help provide proper eye care,” Powell said.

OneSight is a nonprofit organization of optometrists that provides free eye care for people without access to it.

Howell graduates in May with a degree in Nursing, and plans to use this degree in Nicaragua to help physicians, optometrists and ophthalmologists provide proper eye care.

The OneSight eye doctors in the village see about 2,500 patients a week free of charge. The Nicaraguan government has a ministry of health that provides free healthcare, but it is not accessible to most citizens, because they do not have the financial resources to travel to big cities to receive care.

“Giving free eye exams is just an extension of what Amigos for Christ does with their clean water project,” Howell said.  

Amigos for Christ’s main focus is providing clean drinking water, but the organization has many other projects. One project installs a small stove in a person’s home which redirects smoke outside, for about $40. This prevents the many health problems that come from not redirecting smoke out of the house when they cook inside.

For their well-installing projects, Amigos For Christ  stimulates the local economy by employing villagers to dig the trenches and install pipelines. They also employ engineers to build the wells with help from the employees.

Howell said Amigos For Christ does not provide these services for free. Households provide one member to work a week on the trench, and the families pay a small water bill every month.

“They don’t want the water for free,” Howell said. “They prefer to pay for what they have.”

He said the hardships that people in the village face gave him a new perspective.

“In Nicaragua, there might be a lot of bad, with no running water, poor healthcare, but these people are great people,” Howell said.  “They love their country, they love themselves, they’re strong in their faith and are strong in who they are.”

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