0 In Adventure/ Explore/ International Development/ Nicaragua/ Water Wells

Circuit to Ride

Even hidden behind the chin protection on his motorcycle helmet, I can tell that Kelvin is smiling. His cheeks are drawn up below kind eyes, and he extends a hand in my direction. This afternoon I will learn that it is with this same gentle manner that Kelvin works patiently with Community Water Committees in the Achuapa region of Nicaragua. Kelvin is a Circuit Rider, covering miles by motorcycle, providing training in water management and ongoing support of maintenance activities, chlorination and bacterial testing, and preparing communities to be independent stewards of their water systems.

But for now, it is I who receives Kelvin’s kindness. And a back row seat to his work. He gives me a thumbs up. “Lista?” he asks. Ready, I am!

No doubt Kelvin is more efficient on his route without me tagging along. He visits up to five communities on the daily and has a schedule to keep. Despite his slow speed today — which I suspect is for my benefit as I hold on one-handed obnoxiously capturing video footage with the other — I still manage to bonk my bulky dirtbike helmet into Kelvin, ill-accustomed to maintaining balance riding out the curves, the potholes, and the chicken-dodging on two wheels. But he seems un-phased, happy even, to take me for a ride-along. He answers the questions that I holler into the back of his helmet – my own curiosity to learn all I can about the Circuit Rider role revealing itself as I continue the interrogation even as we rattle down the road.

We pull off the road into the shade of a tree, and Kelvin parks at the base of a muddy and rutted path that leads into private property behind a wire fence. This is the way to the Los Hornos community water tank. I follow Kelvin who is skillfully dodging puddles and cow pies and visibly fretting that I may not be as skillful, extending a hand my way at each obstacle.

During his rounds, we, and by we, I mean Kelvin, is welcomed into communities. He performs water quality tests, recommends simple repairs, inspects water tanks, and facilitates water committee workshops.

And we talk to people. And we listen. And when we do, we hear  how clean water is a game-changer in their lives.

We hear from Janet, compelled to share how excited she is to have water available at ALL hours of the day and calls it a ‘dream come true’. When we meet her, she is joyfully doling out horchata to all the neighbourhood kids. Yep, she’s that Mom.

We hear from community members contributing their own sweat equity towards safe water, hauling supplies, trenching pipes to front doors, to improve quality of life for their families.

And we hear from kids who no longer needs to carry water on their heads or bicycles from a far away source, because there is a pipe that brings clean water directly to home.

Though seemingly far different from the access to water we know here at home, seeing simple water systems serve families and communities just the same, hearing the joy it brings, it sounds a lot like freedom to me.

Kelvin takes pride in contributing to the well-being of communities – especially kids – and clean water is critical, laying the foundation for building a stronger, more prosperous life for many.

Satisfied with my afternoon Circuit Rider apprenticeship, I dismount the motorcycle one last time. Kelvin removes his backpack from his chest, puts it back onto his back where it belongs, and slides back into the space I’ve vacated. I bid him adios. I don’t want to slow him down. He smiles (even though I can’t see it). He waves as he rides away just as it begins to rain.

Through rain and wind and weather, Kelvin has communities to visit.
A circuit to ride!

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