Imagine your bathroom routine. Do you put a little water from the tap on your toothbrush before brushing your teeth? Do you rinse the toothbrush after using it? Where do you get the water for your drinking cup? In the shower, do you worry about keeping your mouth clamped shut so that no water can possibly get in?
Now think about how you prepare food. If you make a salad with fresh greens, do you rinse them in cold water? Where do you get the water to do it? If you’re going to slice a tomato, or give a child an apple, do you rinse it and dry it off first? If you want a drink of water, do you have to open a bottle (or boil what comes from the tap) to avoid getting sick?
Lake Atitlan is the scenic volcanic lake whose coast is peppered with Guatemalan towns like San Lucas Toliman, San Antonio, and Santiago. If you stand off away from its shore to enjoy the vista, you might just think it is paradise itself. But it is plagued with problems secondary to pollution and contamination. There is very little regulation in Guatemala, and toxic substances wind up in the lake, rendering the fish rather questionable for consumption and the water itself unsafe to drink. Many wash their laundry directly at the shore, using heavy detergents that further contaminate it.
I tested positive for the dreaded “amoebae” during my visit, and just finished the second course of antibiotics prescribed for me. The first course was to kill the living amoebae colonizing my gut, and the second course to kill the cysts in the liver that are deposited by them, which can “resurrect” in the future to re-infect the host. Most locals have been infected by amoebae a dozen times over, because they are unavoidable (believe me, I tried to do everything I could to avoid them). Carrying them chronically will lead to serious health problems.
If you happen to be near Kansas City on July 31, consider attending a presentation sponsored by Unbound and delivered by Maria Sicay Lux entitled, “Clean Water, Healthy Lives.” Maria Sicay Lux was once a sponsored child through Unbound, and through its scholarship program has had the opportunity to attend college and study in the United States. Her dream is to earn a degree in environmental studies and to work toward making the lake clean.
Clean water is a blessing that we often take for granted. Most Americans, along with the rest of the First World, spend little time worrying about tap water making them sick, because we have the resources to provide good filtration and sanitation for our drinking water.
But elsewhere, maintaining access to clean water is nearly an impossible task. In Guatemala, it is the case that soda (made with sugar) is cheaper than agua puro. As a result, children and adults consume an excess of sugar, phosphates, and chemicals, leading to health problems like insulin resistance and severe dental caries. It is not uncommon to see very small children with missing or capped teeth.
If you cannot attend, please consider praying for the success of Maria Sicay Lux’s projects and Unbound’s efforts to get the word out about this serious concern. I note that in addition to the other worthy programs sponsored by Unbound, one can make a special donation to its Healthy Communities Fund.