As told by Carolyn Meaub
As the truck lurched, seeking traction against the mud-slick road, I held on, white-knuckled, to the lip of the truck bed and tried my hardest not to fly over the side. The tires caught, and we jerked forward. I felt a sense of relief when I landed still in the truck, half laughing, half grimacing as my hip knocked against the tire well. Mario, the project manager, tapped on the back window, grinned, and gave me a thumbs up from inside the cab.
I’ve been the Executive Director of Pure Water for the World for 12 years, and one of the things I’ve come to be most proud of in that time is the dedication of our staff and their commitment to making their corners of the world a better place. We’re a boots-on-the ground organization, and it’s our local staff – like our Trojes team, with whom I recently spent several days – who are the heart of the work that we do.
To better understand their day-to-day activities, I traveled with our training team to visit a small mountain village to participate in hygiene training session and the distribution of de-worming medicine. I’ve accompanied them numerous times before, but there was something about the freedom of a ride in the back of the truck – as compared to safely stowed away in the cab – that made me see this familiar landscape from a different perspective.
An unobstructed 270-degree view afforded me the freedom to experience the rugged countryside with a new exhilaration. I felt more connected, more in tune with the environment in which we work. It may not be the safest way to travel, but for many Hondurans, it’s often the only option when they are offered rides to their destination. I wanted to experience the journey the way our staff often does – holding on tight to the side of the truck as it winds its way up the rutted mountain road, the only way to reach the disperse communities with whom we partner.
The Trojes municipality, tucked away on Honduras’ eastern boarder with Nicaragua, is a strikingly beautiful place. Dense forests of coffee bushes and plantain trees give way to deep green valleys. Homes dot the hillsides, and rich, rutted brown roads wind their way around craggy rocks and along alpine streams. There are no shoulders on these roads – only a long way down!
All of the families I met along the way were deeply grateful for our partnership with their communities. But more than that, they were motivated to help improve their environment, improve the lives of their children, and actively participate in improving the health of their and the lives of their neighbors.
Pure Water can be the catalyst that makes that happen – by providing the basic tools and information needed. But it’s these families who continue that change. They maintain their filters, teach their neighbors about safe hygiene habits, and make the commitment to sustained health.
I’m sure I was a sight to see, awkwardly bumping along in the back of the Pure Water 4×4. Children called out as we drove by, and I did my best to wave back, grabbing the side of the truck again as quickly as possible. And while the scrapes and bruises from that truck bed will heal and fade, I’ll not forget that sense of hope and excitement I felt as I watched those children’s faces go by.