By Sandra Zunino
Water: It’s an essential life force. For us, clean drinking water is as simple as turning on a faucet, but for more than a billion people in developing countries around the world, potable water is a luxury.
Through Aguayuda, Inc., a 501(c)(3) public charity, Simón Zimmer of Easton hopes to change that statistic so one day everyone has access to safe drinking water. Simón, with help from his wife, Sabrina and parents, Linda and Artur Zimmer, started Aguayuda three years ago.
Aguayuda’s mission is to improve the standard of living in poor rural communities in developing countries by providing appropriate and sustainable water purification technology, water committee training and workshops for the community with emphasis on water sanitation and hygiene practices. Through hard work and perseverance, Aguayuda recently completed its first three projects in Columbia.
In El Pájaro, a coastal town of 500 people, Aguayuda installed a windmill on a well, pumping greater quantities of water to a nearby treatment plant. Prior to the windmill’s installation, villagers transported water from miles away or drank contaminated water, causing widespread disease. What seems a simple solution; however, took much coordination.
“We actually went there last August to look at potential projects and talked with community leaders and community members,” says Simón. “We want to ascertain the problem first hand, and speak to the people to see what they think is a proper sustainable solution.”
Once it was determined that a windmill was needed, Simón met with a local windmill installation company. “It is important to use a local company,” he says, “so if repairs need to be made later on, it is feasible.”
A volunteer in Columbia helps coordinate the projects before they are implemented to ensure the community understands the project and its responsibilities.
Another project required building a pipeline to provide a community of about 150 people access to clean drinking water. Community members gathered to help. “That was very interesting and very nice to see,” says Sabrina, who is president of Aguayuda. “They were very engaged…. It was tough because down there the environment is pretty harsh and it’s hot.”
“It’s very hard work, but we did it,” she adds. Everyone was so happy when it was finally done.”
Once implementing a water purification system, Aguayuda provides educational resources to the community to ensure the system can be adequately maintained. Aguayuda also provides information about water education and waste management practices as well as HIV/AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse.
Upon access to safe water, a community thrives. “Without clean water it is difficult to get out of the cycle of poverty,” explains Sabrina.
Simon, an electrical engineer, served in the Peace Corps in Honduras and volunteered in Bolivia and Ecuador, where he met Sabrina. Adopted by German parents and raised in Maryland, Simon traced his roots to Columbia and reconnected with his birth family. Witnessing their struggle, he was inspired to better the lives of people in underdeveloped countries.
As his father, Artur, had experience with filtration systems, potable water seemed the natural avenue for Simón’s non-profit organization. Artur serves as Aguayuda’s technical director. Simon and Sabrina work on Aguayuda projects part time after putting in a full day at Artur’s engineering firm. “It takes a lot of time, money and energy,” says Simon, “but it’s all worth it.”
Aguayuda relies on volunteers, donations, sponsorships and partnerships and recently received its first grant from The International Foundation. For more information on Aguayuda, visit www.aguayuda.org.