SAN FELIPE, Guatemala

In the Guatemalan town known by the charming name of “Las Delicias,” there is a charming fire chief, Erick Sempe. The community of Las Delicias has managed, through a generous donor, to build a fire hall while providing clean water to the community.

In Guatemala, the government provides communities with emergency vehicles ― the ambulance and fire truck ― but has no funds for either a fire hall or for fuel or maintenance for the vehicles. And very little for salaries for the fire fighters themselves.

Erick Sempe had a dream for a better reality for his community. He found a donor, Concha Cordon de Miron, a local wealthy farm owner, who gave the funds to build a fire hall. The hall was completed in 2008.

Sempe also learned, through Living Waters for the World in-country tech Miriam Mazariegos, about the clean water systems available through LWW. In partnership with the Pine Ridge Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Mo., the firefighters built a system to serve Las Delicias in 2009.

Las Delicias’ 11 firefighters rotate shifts, 24 hours on/24 hours off. On shift they do everything from running the water system, staffing the fundraising concession stand attached to the hall, or teaching water hygiene in area schools. They do all this while on stand-bye for fires, medical emergencies, or flood relief.

The water system provides 36 donated five-gallon bottles a month to area public schools at no cost. Firefighters also take clean water to area residents when there is a disaster such as an earthquake or flood. Proceeds from the sale of water ― at below the commercial rate ― pays for repairs and maintenance to the system. It also generates enough income to help pay for repair, maintenance, and fuel for the emergency vehicles and for some of the salary needs for the firefighters.

The reverse-osmosis water system can produce up to 60 five-gallon bottles on a typical four-hour day. The firefighters donate 60 bottles a month to area schools, day cares, and nursing homes. The system typically produces about 1,400 bottles of clean water a month.

Firefighter and kids

A Las Delicias firefighter with schoolkids after teaching water hygiene at their school. —Courtesy of Erick Sempe

If they have time, the firefighters can produce more, depending on need and demand in the community. Their goal, according to Chief Sempe, “is to serve the community with emergency services and with clean water, benefiting the whole.”

For the fire chief, all the work is done with profound gratitude. The water system is “worthwhile because it helps us deal with emergency needs and helps our community. I’m grateful for Living Waters for the World’s work for helping our fire hall to serve the people around us,” he said.

Living Waters for the World is a ministry of the Synod of Living Waters.