In most cases, such a statement would be bad news. But for Hillrie Quin and his “Clean Water” team, it was a message of joy. It signaled acceptance from the remote Bolivian community of the water purification system installed by the team from the First Presbyterian Church of Highlands this past March. Moreover, it meant that the residents of El Chore “bought” into the clean water program the team established.
Seven people from the church, including the pastor, Dr. Lee Bowman, joined Quin in the mission to install the water purification system in El Chore and to educate the residents concerning its value.
“The people we met thanked us for coming to their country,” said Bowman. “They were genuinely touched that we wanted to help them help themselves. One of the most poignant comments I received was from one of our translators who said to me, ‘Thank you for bringing this group who have shown such kindness to my people.’”
Once the water purification system was installed and the education process was begun, clean water was available to the residents of El Chore in five-gallon bottles or jugs. The fact that El Chore was out of bottles was a clear indication that the process had been overwhelmingly successful. Residents could purchase a five-gallon bottle of water for 40 Bolivianos, about $0.57. In Bolivia, that’s a lot of money, but the bottles are reusable.
The project, under the auspices of “The Living Waters of the World” is a program of the Presbyterian Church. This specific clean water project, involving the First Presbyterian Church of Highlands, began when Hillrie Quin visited Bolivia in March 2010 in search of a community that, one, had the need for such a program and two, was willing and capable of partnering in the project (Macon County News, May 6, 2010).
El Chore certainly had the need. Although the community had a water source — a centrally located community well 30 meters deep — there were still health problems, according to Quin.
“The well supplies water to each resident through a hydrant located in each family’s yard. However, problems arise when there are waterborne diseases that cause diarrhea and dysentery. These can be lifethreatening to infants,” said Quin.
“Living Waters for the World is at its core a partnership ministry. What that means is that we brought the system to the people of El Chore—in pieces and parts packed in our suitcases—and provided education about how to assemble it and about why clean water is necessary in the first place,” said Bowman. But the actual assembly of the system and the ongoing education for the people of El Chore is done by our Bolivian partners. We believe they are certainly up to this challenge.”
The residents were taught that the bottled water they received was to be used for:
• Bathing the infants
• Brushing their teeth
• Preparing their food, including washing the fruits and vegetables
Joining Quin and Bowman on the mission were First Presbyterian Church members Ann Greenlee, Joe Mangum, Marty MacMillan, Mary Ann Sloan and Skip Taylor. Dan Brasfield, a retired radiologist from Tupelo, Miss., visited the church several months ago, heard an announcement about the project and volunteered to become a team member. Brasfield had made five such trips with his home church previously and quickly became a very valuable member of the Highlands team, according to Quin.
Educating the people was as important to the success of the mission as the installation of the filtration system itself. The group had to educate the El Chore residents concerning the installation and operation of the system as well as to explain the necessity for clean water in the first place.
The Highlands group held three educational sessions, each attended by at least 50 Bolivian adults and 25 children. The team used teaching tools such as skits and giving pictures to the children to color.
Prior to the trip, team members received training at Clean Waters University, located at Presbyterian Camp Hopewell, not far from Brasfield’s hometown in Tupelo. The University provides three courses: Leadership, Education and Engineering.
While the mission turned out to be highly successful, it didn’t just go off without a hitch. One night the community water system broke down. Once the equipment was installed, it was discovered that the intake piping was too small, preventing a sufficient flow of water into the system.
“The Bolivian people are very intelligent and ingenious when it comes to solving problems,” Taylor says. With the start-up ceremony scheduled for Saturday, the final day in El Chore, three of the Bolivian men worked all Friday night replacing the piping that was too small.
The mission experienced another bit of “bad news” that eventually turned positive. Originally, the Clean Water team was scheduled to make the trip to Bolivia last September. However, team leader Quin became ill, so the trip was postponed. “We simply could not make the trip without him,” Bowman said at the time.
Fortunately Quin recovered from his illness. Rescheduling the trip for March of this year enabled Brasfield, with all of his valuable experience, to join the group.
“Had we made the trip last September we would have gone to Cruce Santa Rosa. That would have been a disaster. The people there were not ready. They had not done what they had promised us they would do. On the other hand, the people in El Chore were ready. Sometimes God has a plan that we don’t understand at the time,” said Quin.
It is clear that a large part of the mission’s success is due to Quin’s leadership. Ever attentive to details, Quin devised a system to ease the group through customs, even though all of the filtration system parts and pieces were packed in team members’ suitcases.
He had pictures made of each part. As the team went through customs, members showed the pictures to the agents, announcing, “This picture is of a part of the water filtration system that we are bringing to install in El Chore.” The agents’ only comment: “Thank you for helping the people of our country.”
“He doesn’t know how to do things half-way,” Bowman said of Quin. “He doesn’t understand how organizations exist when careful planning and execution are not a part of their makeup. He gets frustrated when there are glitches in spite of his careful planning. But at the end of the day—hot, tired and exhausted—the sound that can be heard above all others is the ring of his laughter,” said Bowman.