We used to wash our legs in coconut water before we went to church

Meet Deolindo Soares – 65 years young and a GMF (Group Maintenance Facilitator). He lives on the Island of Atauro off the coast from Dili. It’s a large dry island with a sparse population, where many villages can only be reached by boat. In the dry season, collecting water was always a task for women; with children and washing in tow, it would take them four hours every day to go down to collect water then back up the hill. Deolindo was reflecting on the time without water. We used to wash our legs in coconut water before we went to church.

Deolindo’s role as a GMF is to check the water pipes to the village as well as a section of the 45 km of water pipes from the spring. He checks that taps are functions and there are no leaks, and the environment around the tank is clean and safe.

I like the system CVTL has for water systems. I’ve seen other try and fail on the Island. They come in, put the pipes and leave; six months later we don’t have water. This time it is all about the community and with the community – we do it together. We know how to maintain the system, trouble shoot problems and find solutions. Everyone is involved in all the decisions. I know when CVTL leaves, this project will continue on well into the future.

Deolindo’s daughter Angelina is 36, and is a widow with one child. It is so great now – the children can go to school with clean bodies and clean clothes. In the dry season it was difficult to have much more than a “cats lick” with hardly water to wash themselves and not every day. The children would have skin infections.

This is Arlo, a lush tropical picture perfect tropical village. Arlo can be reached by car along a very rough road – up and over a mountain. There is neither electricity nor cell phone coverage. Angelina says look around us, we have so many vegetables and fruit now – the children in the village are much healthier with better nutrition and they are happier.

We follow Deolindo up a path past one of the water tanks. He has about a 5kg massive wrench slung over his shoulder and a pocket handkerchief of a bag; we with our backpacks – we are off to visit another village involved in the project. As he hops down the hill (cliff), we follow behind and end up on the other side of the island and wait for a boat to go by and flag one down.

An hour along the coast we pull into yet another picturesque village. We walk though very neat and tidy and very productive gardens; vegetables, fruit, chickens roaming and the sounds of pigs in the distance. This is Marker – another small village without electricity or access to internet. Depending on where you stand and if you have the right provider, you can make a phone call. There are no vehicles unless you include a bicycle which looks like it is shared by many. It is impressively clean, lush, and quiet. In the morning we are about to sit down with some of the women from the village to talk about their lives before and since CVTL came, when we hear one of the GMF has suddenly passed away. A strong man of 60, took ill in the night before and had died in the morning. We cancelled our interviews so the village could go into mourning. We pay our respects – do another tour of the projects and head back to Arlo on boat then foot.

Back in Arlo, we meet Marcus Martina, the Chief of the Sub-Village.  He praised CVTL and the engineering feats of getting water from a permanent spring to four villages over rough dry country – each village being fed from a main line.

We all worked very hard – getting over 45 km of metal pipes to the island and numerous bags of cement – everything had to come by boat and be carried up the mountain and across the landscape. It was a community effort; we provided labour and local materials, CVTL provided technical expertise and materials. Now everyone has access to water and many people now have toilets. We have had training in Disaster Risk Reduction, health, Domestic Violence among other things. We have volunteers in all the villages and GMF. Nearly every house in my village (except one) is within 10 metres of a water tap. We can now water the gardens and wash our clothes. We have productive gardens and good food; our community is healthy and happy. Based on the results until now, I believe that this change will continue on indefinitely. We are grateful.

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