Wells of Hope: affirming life with every glass of clean cold drinking water
GUATAMALA, 6 November, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – What is a pro-life good Samaritan to do when many mainstream charities to the third world — allegedly basing themselves on Gospel values — have been exposed as having damning connections to the abortion industry?
The answer is simple: find and support truly pro-life charities that affirm every human life that they, or their partner organizations, come in contact with.
Wells of Hope is one such organization.
Photojournalist Ken Fast from Derwent, Alberta recently traveled to Guatamala where he filmed material for a forthcoming documentary on Wells of Hope. LifeSiteNews sat down with him to hear the story of his journey.
Wells of Hope, founded by Ontarian Ted van der Zalm in 2004, is a Christian organization that drills wells in Guatamala. The goal is to provide clean reliable drinking water to the poorest of the poor. Well-drilling rigs have made the long haul from Canada to Guatamala to make this goal a reality.
Wells of Hope has already completed 11 wells that are estimated to be serving 35,000 individuals.
When van der Zalm first visited Guatamala a number of years ago, he found that people in the mountainous regions of Santa Maria and Jalapa collected water in the rainy season to use in the dry season. The water, sitting in open ponds and waterholes, often served a whole village.
But the open-air reservoirs easily became contaminated. Animals drank from them and defecated into them. Women washed clothes in them. The dirty water quickly became a carrier of disease and parasites. Chronic diarrhea was a killer dreaded by everyone.
Van der Zalm, a school teacher with well-drilling experience, was dismayed that the muddy brown water was the only way that the indigenous people could sustain life.
The polluted water sustained life, but it also took life.
Fast explained that in some places in Guatamala, the infant mortality rate is as high as 50% due to contaminated water.
“These are the little kids that will die in their first two or three years of life from all the complications of bad drinking water,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that diarrhea caused by polluted water is the “second leading cause of death among children under five globally”. The disease claims nearly 1.5 million young lives each year, one death every 21 seconds. According to WHO, the disease “kills more young children than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.”
Fast, who had once lived in Guatamala, said he was passionate about filming the documentary on Wells of Hope because of how the people in the organization “attend to the most basic needs of these [poor] people”.
Through the documentary, Fast hopes to raise awareness of how clean water can change lives. He hopes to inspire people to take action.
Fast explained that providing clean drinking water is truly “pro-life.” Being pro-life, he said, is more than being “against abortion”: it’s also about supporting and sustaining a child’s survival after it has been born.
For van der Zalm, providing clean drinking water to the poor is “all about the culture of life”.
In an email to LifeSiteNews via Fast, van der Zalm pointed out that “without water there is no life.”
“Wells of Hope has always maintained the providing of clean, reliable sources of water as the first priority. [...] In a culture that encourages large families, abortion is not an issue. The greatest killer of children, in the first delicate years of life, is the bacteria infested water that the poor have no choice but to consume.”
Fast followed van der Zalm with a camera as he entered villages with plans for a new well.
In one piece of footage, van der Zalm meets with community members and says: “We are here because we believe in God…And He calls us to give water to those who are thirsty.”
“Ted starts every meeting like that,” said Fast.
“He talks about the Gospel. He tells the people that if they are thirsty, it’s as if he is thirsty too.”
In one portion of raw footage viewed by LifeSiteNews, van der Zalm says that “love of God” is what compels him to “reach out to people we don’t even know”.
“It’s all about really answering the Gospel challenge: ‘When I was hungry, did you give me to eat, when I was thirsty, did you give me to drink? (Matthew 25:35),’” he said.
Van der Zalm believes that Christians “have an obligation to nurture life, to take care of life to the best of our ability because that is the presence of Christ amongst us.
“We cannot claim to love God if we do not love our neighbour.”
“So, the testimony of the greatness of our love for God is to what degree are we willing to love and go out and support life, to support the families who are struggling, trying to grow, trying to mature.”
Find out why LifeSiteNews is a proud sponsor of the Wells of Hope documentary project.
Support Wells of Hope. Earmark donations to see Ken Fast’s documentary completed.
View a short Youtube video on Wells of Hope by Ken Fast.