According to the World Health Organization, about 80 percent of all illnesses in the developing world are caused by the lack of potable water and adequate sanitation; lack of safe water is also among the chief causes of sickness and death in children.
In Mexico, it is estimated that as many as 24 million people live in extreme poverty and lack adequate sanitation systems. Many of them are without access to clean and safe water.
Rodrigo, 16, has attended the Enlaces Amigo Child Development Center since he was 8 years old. As a young child he was very ill. His mother recalls those hard times:
“Five of my seven children got sick, all at once. They had fever and diarrhea. I gave them some remedies and most of them got better but Rodrigo was getting worse. He was already very skinny and then he started throwing up.
“I thought he was going to die. But I knew that God existed and I asked Him from the bottom of my heart to heal my son and to let him live.”
After receiving medical attention and medicine for typhoid fever through Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program, Rodrigo’s health was restored. He has been part of our program ever since.
He is now a tall, handsome young man who attends school and helps his mother support the family in her home-based business.
“To me, Compassion has been of great help. My father abandoned us and I got sick. I believed in the [Compassion] program because they helped me through my sickness.
“I remember I was isolated from my family and friends because it is a contagious disease. I had fever and diarrhea and I felt very tired or weak all the time. After the treatment they kept taking care of me and then I received medical checkups every six months.”
Rodrigo and his mother are the only Christians in their family, and Rodrigo has witnessed the struggles and sacrifices his mom has made to support them.
Rodrigo attends high school and dreams of becoming an electrical and mechanical engineer.
In the future, Rodrigo would like to work for PEMEX, Mexico’s state-run oil company, designing and maintaining their equipment. He would like to start using machines that would be environmentally friendly.
During the mornings Rodrigo attends school. In the afternoon he helps his mother with their juice and shakes business.
Outside their home they have stools and a counter where they prepare fruit shakes and fruit juices for the people on the street. On most mornings, they are rushed by mothers taking their children to school; these moms buy milkshakes for their children to have something healthy to drink.
The entire family lives off the revenues of the juice stand — about $10 per day. Subtract the amount they spend for water, fruits, milk and ice and the family takes home approximately $5 per day.
For Rodrigo’s family, obtaining clean water  has helped them stay healthy.
Before the water purification plant was established, they purchased water from a little cart pulled by a motorcycle and had to boil the water before drinking. The cost of the water and of the gas to boil it was too high for their regular income.
Now that they are able to buy the water in five-gallon containers for only 45 cents, they are able to save money and stay healthy.
Rodrigo is one of the many local beneficiaries of the Child Sponsorship Program and the water purification plant. He has experienced a dramatic change: from being malnourished and sick to being a healthy young man with dreams and expectations for the future.
In response to one of the foremost needs of Rodrigo’s community, the Implementing Church Partner (ICP) taught the community about improving the health of their children. Upon learning that Compassion was partnering with Healing Waters International to provide water projects to communities in need, Rodrigo’s community teamed with the ICP to apply for a purification plant in their neighborhood.
In 2009, the church and child development center inaugurated the water purification plant that now serves the community. Many people benefit from this clean water. In addition, the elementary school and the kindergarten refill their water jugs at the development center at a very low cost and with excellent quality.
Pastor Abelardo of the ICP shares,
“This Complementary Intervention was of great impact to the whole community of Mapastepec, but above all, to the children’s families. They have greatly benefited and the family economy was strengthened by paying for the water at a low cost.
“Now, families have clean, purified water that will help them to decrease gastrointestinal diseases.
“We are now sure that the children drink purified water not only in the child development center, but also in their homes. This gives satisfaction to the project.”
The water purification plant works with the support from the child development center and Healing Waters, and sells more 100 five-gallon-jugs of safe water each day. The community has even hired a member of the ICP to manage the plant full time.
Rodrigo tells us,
“The benefits are for all. [The purified water] is cheap and with good quality. When we buy this water we are benefited.”
Rodrigo is now old enough to understand that his life was once threatened by the circumstances around him. One simple element — like water — became a life-threatening monster empowered by poverty. But Rodrigo is no longer one of the negative statistics; he is healthy and strong and on his way to a bright future.