La Pandilla del Agua
THE WATER GANG
783 million people do not have access to clean water:
With expert credentials and local experience, we are using creative educational strategies and harnessing the power of media to create a groundswell of community-driven and long-lasting solutions.
What’s the story?
Welcome to the cobblestone and brightly painted colonial streets of San Cristóbal de las Casas, tucked deep in the mountains of Mexico. Despite being a mecca for education, social movements, biodiversity, and indigenous heritage, the city's rivers brim with raw sewage: open to the air, seeping into the groundwater below, and passing within 200-feet of our primary water supply. These rivers then irrigate the food we eat. Soon after first moving seven years ago, I learned the joys of recurring typhoid, amoebas, and salmonella. For the city's poor, this feces-contaminated water is all they have to drink. Some don't understand the problem. For those that do, the problem seems too big to take on and corruption means raising just a single voice may be dangerous, so people stay quiet.
We set out to galvanize the community to solve this issue that people were scared to talk about. Our team of three soon became almost a hundred. We created the film Pandilla del Agua: through experiential education, passionate schoolchildren became spokespeople; inspiring a groundswell of community voices and pushing leaders to act. After seeing the film, 93% of local government candidates signed the Clean Water Agenda for the city.
San Cristóbal is a small community. Unlike Flint, we don't need CNN to reach the people or to reach the leaders. Once we have a community constituency that understands the problem and commits to change, the leaders will follow. We need funding to complete the outreach and engagement portion of this project, and building on our successes, add momentum to the groundswell of emerging citizen activists and leaders.
We have already been successful in the first part of the project. Fueled by determination, and financed by the friction between two pennies we have already:
We conducted 6 months of extensive research with local scientists, government officials, and key stakeholders
In partnership with a local school, we have educated 44 children through a curriculum we designed about watersheds, water climate change, and galvanized the community
We casted eight schoolchildren and through experiential education empowered them to become current and future environmental leaders (and spokespeople for our movement)
We made the film
We packed the theater for the film's opening. People were standing in the isles
92% of survey respondents tell us they better understand the problem, and the connection between the contamination and illnesses (that are taking years off of people's lives here)
100% believe actions we propose can help to solve the crisis
100% have become citizen activists by committing to at least one of these actions
How can you make a difference?
Some problems may seem too big to take on. This is something we CAN fix.
Given our small organization and limited funding, we are facing a financial hurtle. To be able to take advantage of all the tremendous tools and community buy-in we have created, we need financial support for outreach. The secret to our success is being and creating committed citizens that are part of a strong community network; this project primes the pump and cultivates the community's potential to help itself. The funding we are requesting is financial capital that will be used to unlock the tremendous social capital that will continue to support and sustain this project.
This groundswell of social capital is the missing piece for pushing the government to create the infrastructural changes that are needed to solve the problem:
Finish the construction of a sewer system. This system is half-built.
Build ecological water treatment plants (starting the system off right with low-cost and economically and environmentally sustainable systems.
Create a citizen council to assure transparency in the management of funds.
Please help us make it possible. Any small amount will help!