Triumph in El Triunfo: A Community’s Journey to Clean Water

From Pastor Orlando’s earliest memories until last fall, the people of El Triunfo have suffered from water scarcity. In the dry season, they used to trespass to collect water from distant springs on private property. In the rainy season, they collected rainwater, filtered it through a cloth, and drank water the color of weak coffee that gave them parasitic dysentery. 


When vomiting and diarrhea grew severe, they either spent $30 for a truck ride to the clinic in Ciudad Barrios or they walked 10 km over washed-out roads while sick.


Contaminated Water


Water scarcity was not all that troubled “Brother Orlando,” as he’s known today. He was also haunted by questions about whether or not he’d be a good father, having grown up without a dad as a role model. 


In 2009, ENLACE began to accompany Emanuel Church in El Salvador  where Brother Orlando was pastor. His community, El Triunfo,  identified “scarcity and difficulty obtaining drinkable water” as their number one problem, so Brother Orlando helped found the Community Development Association of El Triunfo (known by its Spanish acronym, ADESCO). With Emanuel Church’s support, the newly-organized ADESCO began meeting with their mayor. Eventually, their efforts were rewarded with the donation of a plot of land with a spring on it! 


Community Meeting


Community Meeting


Community members immediately invested in improving the land, then started raising funds to build a water tank and distribution system. Fundraising for such a project proved too ambitious for the subsistence farmers of El Triunfo, but Brother Orlando didn’t give up. 


Salvadorans in community


From 2010 to 2019 Emanuel Church and community leaders worked together on smaller projects like eco stoves, composting latrines, and a crosswalk over a road. They hosted medical visits, repaired their local school’s roof, and even built homes.


“Those were not wasted years,” says Brother Orlando, smiling with pride as he shares that every step of the way the church and ADESCO were learning valuable lessons about building relationships, mobilizing local resources, project design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, sustainability, and tangibly loving neighbors as an expression of God’s love. 


Ten years into their journey, in 2019, Emanuel Church and community leaders decided it was time to finally tackle the water problem. They designed storage tanks and a distribution system. They managed six to ten volunteer workers each day, women and men alike, for several months nonstop. Two ENLACE Short-Term Service Trip teams joined the effort. Then the rainy season hit. Work was delayed. Then COVID-19 brought everything to a halt…but Brother Orlando didn’t give up. 


Emanuel Church partnered with ENLACE, World Vision, and the mayor’s office to make sure the community’s poorest families had food and made visits to attend to people’s spiritual lives. 


Work resumed in June 2022, but COVID had taken a toll. Working-aged people had fled to the US for work out of desperation. Family economies were unstable. The government had abused its COVID-related powers, arresting innocent people, leaving few workers…but Brother Orlando didn’t give up.


Woman digging


Everyone at Emanuel Church prayed to God for guidance. The few church and community members left, mostly women, got back to work. Teenagers helped. People who had fled to the US heard about the effort and started raising money to pay day laborers from the neighboring town—God had answered their prayers. 


Building Water Tank


Water Tank


Once again, Emanuel Church and the ADESCO were meeting regularly with the mayor, who sent two excavators to help bury pipe. “They did six months of work in six weeks!” said Brother Orlando. And then World Vision kicked in to help buy the remaining water pipe that was still needed to finish the project.


People digging


At the end of 2023—14 years after he helped form El Triunfo’s ADESCO—Brother Orlando helped form a new Water and Sanitation Administrative Board of El Triunfo, and enlisted ENLACE to train its members. For his great commitment and trustworthy character Brother Orlando was elected as Treasurer of the new Water Board.


Today, church and community leaders are at work connecting the water distribution network to every home. Each homeowner must build a grease trap and sump pit for greywater treatment to be eligible for water service. The community works with a harmony that would’ve been difficult to achieve had this been their first project. 


Adding underground pipes for water


Brother Orlando thanked God repeatedly as he recounted this story for World Water Day. He wiped away tears as he remembered taking church member Sister Reina to the hospital, close to death caused by contaminated water. He remembered Sister María twisting her ankle in the mountains walking for water, and everyone getting sick and walking 10 kilometers to the clinic, managing their vomiting and diarrhea along the way.


Salvadorans with a thumbs up


Never again. And we pray that Brother Orlando will never again wonder if growing up without a dad would result in parental shortcomings. With God as his Father, the prayers of his church community, and ENLACE as a guide, Brother Orlando is not only a loving father at home, but also a trusted ADESCO President, Water Board Treasurer, and now pastor of a new church, God of Justice Church in El Zúngano, where the adventure of loving his neighbors begins again. 

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