What do you do when the school where you’ve devoted your entire life has its source of water cut off, and your students are left to fend for themselves?
Luci Ramirez has been a teacher for 30 years at Canton Xesic Primero, a school nestled in the hilly landscapes outside of Santa Cruz del Quiché, Guatemala.
“I love children and want to see them grow and progress” shares Luci. “I was heartbroken when I heard the school had its water taken away.”
The school originally used water provided by the church next door. However, in 2015, the owners of the source decided they would not provide any more water for the school and would only turn on the tap for church activities.
“We spent many years fighting for water. We asked for a daily amount so that the children could clean themselves and drink. We even offered to pay for it. However, we were denied.”
Luci did her best to find solutions. She joined with the parents and went to the local municipality multiple times. The representatives explained that they could not give them water because it was private and was not meant for the school. Many parents began to take their children out of the school due to this crisis. Without water, the remaining children had to adapt to a new harsh reality.
“The children could not wash their hands, use the bathroom, or drink,” explains Luci.
“I was very sad then. We had to carry plastic bottles with water collected from nearby streams in our backpacks, and we carried large pieces of wood in our arms so we could boil the dirty water,” explains Carlos, a 12-year-old student. “I would see kids as young as 6-years-old have to walk many miles with heavy bottles full of water.”
However, the situation did not improve. The dirty water the children brought from local streams and rivers continued to affect the health of students. They had allergies, constant diarrhea, and stomach aches, causing them to miss school on a weekly basis.
In 2016, Luci and the parents asked Water For People to visit and learn more about their situation. Water For People facilitated access to a new water source. The community of parents also attended workshops led by the organization, where they learned about hygiene practices and how to construct a holding tank. Eventually, with Water For People’s help, they built bathrooms and handwashing stations at the school. Since then, conditions have drastically improved for students.
Classrooms can be mopped, resulting in a cleaner learning environment. Students can wash their hands, drink, and cook. They can also concentrate much better on their studies as they no longer have to carry bottles and wood to school.
Although the situation was difficult for children at the school, through perseverance and Water For People’s support, Luci showed clean water cannot be taken for granted. With hopes and dreams for their future, she continues to champion the wellbeing of her students.
Her student, Carlos says, “It’s important to have water for good health, to wash our hands and brush our teeth. We can drink without getting sick and now I feel very happy and realize how important it is for my education and the health of my community.”