Earlier this year, I received a text from the producer of an outdoor YouTube channel that I shoot for, Miranda Goes Outside, asking if we were available to come on a video shoot in Honduras. He explained that Sawyer had invited us to experience and document one of their very first clean water initiative projects.
Each year, Sawyer donates 90% of their profits to clean water initiatives around the world. They’ve worked in over 80 countries to bring people access to clean drinking water by partnering with humanitarian nonprofits around the globe - and it all started in Honduras with a nonprofit called Water With Blessings.
In Honduras and many areas around the world, gathering water is one of the most time-consuming and laborious household chores that falls on the shoulders of women.
Sawyer equips mothers with a bucket and a water filter, and then detailed training on how the system works. From there, the mothers are responsible for filtering water not only for their families, but up to three other families as well. They call these mothers the Water Women, and it’s a responsibility they all take very seriously.
And the special thing about this trip? This would be the 15th anniversary of this work! Not only would we be witnessing and learning about clean water and the impact of this project, but there was to be a special celebration the day after our arrival.
Before this adventure, I and the rest of our video crew were your typical Americans whose relationships to Sawyer products begin and end in the backpacking world. We all own a Sawyer Squeeze – multiple, in fact – and barely knew how to backflush them, let alone take proper care of them. Going into this shoot, we had very little knowledge about the humanitarian side of Sawyer or what to expect.
Upon our arrival at the Comayaguela airport, we met Andrew, a representative for Sawyer who was accompanied by several huge duffle bags of 300+ water filters. We also met Sister Larraine, the founder of Water With Blessings as well as our translator and guide for the week.
From there, we hopped into a van and were taken two hours north to an eco-property outside of La Tigra National Park, nestled high in the cloud forest. It was the type of place that makes one feel almost instantly peaceful – it’s calm, safe, and everything is operated with intention and care for the land. The best part was the absolutely stunning view from the deck. We stayed here for the next two nights, and it is also where the 15 year party was held.
On the day of the party, Water Women from far and wide across Honduras arrived on a pair of big, yellow school buses. Sister Larraine greeted each of them as they got off. Nearly 150 women were here – some young, some old, and all smiling and joyous to be there. And their entrance was grand; they made their way up the curving driveway as one, singing and cheering as they walked.
There were also many children at the party. Sister Larraine said that before they started this work, many of the children would look sickly, clearly not feeling well. They weren’t energized, running and playing with others as kids usually do.
However, since this clean water initiative began she says that every time she comes back, more and more kids are looking healthier and happier – and it’s because they are drinking clean water.
And that’s all we saw at the party: happy, healthy kids. They were jumping off slides on the playground, wrestling, pushing each other on swings as hard as they could. Begging for second slices of cake, dancing in circles, jumping. They were stoked on life.
The party was an incredible way to see that this work is having such a positive impact on the people of Honduras. It was a huge celebration of how these women have been empowered to bring clean water into their communities. After lots of dancing, singing, live music, a raffle, and a delicious lunch, the party ended before we knew it and the women were boarding their buses back home.
For the second leg of our trip, we traveled to Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras. This is where Water With Blessings and many of the Water Women are based, and where we were able to observe the work behind the celebration we witnessed at the beginning of our trip. We traveled to a few homes of Water Women and filmed their stories about what becoming a water woman has done for them. Some became emotional during these interviews, because having clean water has simply changed everything. Their children are healthy, no one in their family has died from waterborne illness.
Some have been able to start their own businesses and provide a sturdy, safer home for their families. It is lifesaving work.
We also witnessed and documented two Water Women trainings, which take place in community buildings, churches, or parishes. It is during these that women from all over the area come, put their names into a bucket, and hope for their names to be selected. Only 15 names are drawn due to availability of resources and keeping training groups small for 1:1 interaction.
These selections and trainings were wonderful to observe. There was a palpable feeling of anticipation as the names were being drawn – every woman hoping to hear their own. There was a ton of excitement and applause when the women were selected’ and a building comradery among those who were selected as they learned about their new role as Water Women together.
Above everything, the sense of empowerment among these women was so powerful. You could see the confidence building in these women’s eyes as they were handed their buckets and filters – and they were all so encouraging to each other as they learned, checking in on each other and assisting one another. Even when the selection process ended, the women who weren’t chosen were applauding and supporting those who were. There was no arguing or outward expressions of resentment. It was just the coolest thing! After the training ended, the women walked out of the parish with their heads high, chatting with each other excitedly, empowered by their new roles as Water Women.
After observing these trainings in real life, I learned that Sawyer’s partnership with Water with Blessings really is so much more than giving access to water filters and education. Yes, it’s an incredible program that is lifesaving for so many people – but beyond that, it’s empowering women and strengthening their communities. It’s building relationships and giving them a sense of purpose that stretches far beyond themselves. It was so clear how seriously these women were taking their roles of bringing health to their families and communities, and very moving to witness.
Few things are more powerful than an empowered woman, and to have a community of women behind her is a force to be reckoned with.
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