One of our long term partners is Tom Hammond and his team at River International. He began leading short term mission teams from California to the Amazonas in 2002. Their team was always instructed to drink bottled water and not even use the local water to brush their teeth, wash their hands, etc. At the time, the group was in charge of planting churches. Three years into this endeavor, they were challenged to reevaluate their mission. They prayerfully decided to invest their resources, energy and time in finding a water solution for the people of the river. After trying multiple methods, the village water filters were found to be the best solution. The people of the river love the portability, convenience and effectiveness of the filters, taking true ownership of the work to have access to clean water.
They have been working closely with the Riberhinos (River Dwellers) of Ilha Marrecão (Big Duck Island) for three years. They are a community that drinks water straight from the Amazon River. This is the same water their livestock drink from and their sewage drains into.
In order to build relationships, the group adopts one village or community and spends at least one year on the ground with the people. They focus on serving one community with filters and their time. The more the team uses the filters alongside the community, the more the people use the filters and see the long term fruit of clean, safe drinking water.
Impact has been amazing. It is hard to put a metric on it, but the turnaround in their health has been amazing. Tom recalls that one young girl in the community was suffering from severe stomach aches. After 90 days of straight filtered water, she was able to attend school regularly and play soccer along the riverbanks with her friends. She followed the team around on their next visit house to house distributing the village water filters. She eventually became their best installer! People witnessed her turnaround in health and were able to see the reality of clean, safe drinking water. This was impactful because mindset is the biggest battle when it comes to people buying into the idea of a better life. This young girl was even recruited to play soccer in a larger city called Manacapuru. The last Tom heard was that she was prospering and living her dream.
There have been other success stories as well. Many years ago, they distributed filters to a small fishing community. Upon returning two years later, they noticed an elderly lady on the riverbank filtering water into three liter bottles. As the fishermen would return from their days of fishing, they would trade fish for her filtered water. Tom remarked that he thought that was the coolest thing. His heart was full because she was feeding her family by filtering water. Everybody was winning.
In the future, they hope to continue to distribute filtration systems slowly down the Amazon River. Relational not transactional is their focus. There seems to be plenty of humanitarian aid available to the people of the river. When they spend time and show love through doing life with them, it makes all the difference in the world. River International plans on adopting two more communities over the next two years. This year they also hope to work with the people of Ilha da Onças (Jaguar Island). They are a community of 12 families that drink water straight from the Amazon River.
As of today, all river travel is shut down in the regions where they work. The Amazonas have been hurt the most by Covid-19 in all of Brazil. It is disheartening because the only way to communicate with the group’s team on the ground is through canoeing to the communities. The areas are remote and do not have cell service. The group hopes to trek down the river in July or as soon as the restrictions are lifted.
Do you have a community like those in the Amazon that you would like to reach with clean water? Connect with us. With a variety of water filtration and treatment options, we will be able to recommend the best solution for your community.
Original Story Written by Tom Hammond, River International