Today was the longest workday thus far, we started the day eating huevos con tortillas (eggs w/ tortillas) at the restaurant we went to the previous day then rushed to a Catholic mass service which started at 9am. We got there right after 9 so we thought we would be walking in late but in Panama they tend to be chill so it started at like 9:20. The mass was very similar to the Catholic masses in the US except it was in Spanish. We throughly enjoyed the song style in the mass. Everyone in the church was singing, clapping and swaying along to the music, it was like a party. At the end of mass Jessica got a special birthday blessing from the priest since her birthday was the 6th of January. And then Jorge thanked the community for welcoming and supporting us in our service trip. It was a great cultural experience for all of us!
After mass we made our way to the fire station to load water filter systems and food boxes to distribute to the communities.
First we went to the community of Platanares where we split into groups and went to each house to check that they were maintaining their water filters correctly (like we've been doing the last few days). My group met this man who gave us a lot of insight on where the tap water came from, how it is built, the quality of the water, and where we can find the big water tank that is supposedly suppose to support 3 communities. He told us many stories and even drew a diagram of the rivers and land so we could better understand. The other group fitted and distributed crutches and walkersto those who needed them in the community.
The next town we went to was Unicito. This town did not have any water filters so this was the first time we were introducing filters into a community. It was a special feeling to be the people giving them a water filter for the first time! Everyone from the town got together and collected a food box and a water filter with a handmade cloth cover (that were donated). At this time we also handed out a lot of the donations we collected from back home. The kids were so cute and loved the clothes, books, and toys we gave them!
After a short demonstration on how to cook the food and use the water filters, our group went house to house placing the water filter system in a safe place and then showing them how it works and actually filtering some water so they could check for leaks or problems. I personally did not go house to house. I was a part of the (Engineering) group that drove and hiked to the water tank and pipe system to research it, take notes and try to figure out how we could get water flowing to all the communities. This group consisted of aspiring civil/environmental engineers: Ramin and myself, Photographer/researcher: Mollie, Geography professer: Jeff.
A translator and a local who knew the water system well also came and were a huge insight. The tank we saw today was only a year old and was already not working properly. It only provided water to the town closest to the tank. The cement holding tank itself was cracked and was only big enough to provide water to maybe 6 families, definitely not 3 whole towns! They told us their previous holding tank was very dirty and man they weren't kidding! There was a couple feet of dirt in it and two trees growing out the top! The locals were extremely helpful and we were lucky enough to talk to some who were part of building the system a year ago. We were pleased to hear each town talk about the water system and how the towns stories actually lined up! That never happens! We are hoping to take all the information we collected back to Kansas and find a way to build a system that will last and provide water to all the towns.
The other groups who went house to house installing filters told many stories of the kids following them around. One boy followed Karina everywhere she went and by the end of the day we all wanted to take the kids back home with us!
We finished working in the villages with a nice meal some of the local women prepared for us and then made our way back to Chepo and our hotel, it was around 6:30 by then and dark.
To finish the day we went out for some snacks and malts. On our way to the cafe our amazing driver saw a SLOTH and pulled over! It was so great and was one of the first wildlife spottings we had! The sloth didn't mind us at all as we took selfies with it, it just kept slowly scaling the power line!