When Water Mission Project Manager Sean McSwain sat down to explain his upcoming trip to Puerto Rico to his two young children, he was prepared with pictures of the damage Hurricane Maria inflicted on the island.
“Imagine not being able to go and get water to drink. Imagine not being able to take a bath or watch TV for months at a time,” he said. Not being able to watch TV caught their attention – their eyes opened wider. “Our goal is to go and try to provide clean water,” Sean continued. “We make sure that kids like you don’t have to worry about where their water is coming from.”
I had a chance to speak with Sean about his time working in Puerto Rico to restore safe water in the wake of the storm. He recently returned home to his family after spending four weeks there.
Water Mission’s goal in Puerto Rico encompasses more than restoring safe water to those who have lost access. In many communities, we’re installing solar power to minimize reliance on the power grid and mitigate the impact of future disasters. Our primary focus is the 10 percent of communities whose water systems are not managed by the government entity, Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA). These rural communities with self-managed systems are often the last to receive help after disasters like Hurricane Maria.
From the very beginning of our response, our team carried a color-coded map of the “forgotten communities,” all of which were marked with red dots to indicate non-functioning power systems and lack of access to safe water. Water Mission has restored safe water to more than 35 communities so far! Thanks to these efforts and those of other partners in the field, nearly 90 percent of the red dots are now yellow or green, meaning that they have permanent or at least temporary safe water solutions.
“These are the communities where we know God has called us specifically to go and work,” Sean shared. “We’re seeing God move, and He’s turning the dots on the map from red to green.”
The relief effort has not been without significant challenges.
Our team survives on little sleep and food, working into the late hours of the night. They often have to be creative problem-solvers, like using the Wi-Fi at the local Burger King or searching YouTube for videos to help solve issues with one of our largest generators. While Sean was in Puerto Rico, he couldn’t wait for evenings when he came together with his team to share victories.
“Those were my proudest moments – when I got to see those guys come back and celebrate bringing safe water back to people.”
– Sean McSwain
Our partners in the field, he says, amaze him with their commitment to “work together to solve a crisis for people they may never even meet.” And as for our incredible supporters, he says, “They are absolutely critical. They enable us to continue to engage communities, to develop and provide safe water solutions, and to keep demonstrating Christ’s love through the physical act of restoring safe water.”
Thank you for making our response in Puerto Rico possible.