Plenty received many requests for village water systems. Three of these came from the neighboring Kaqchikel Indian villages of Chuimanzana, Chuacruz, and Vasconcelos. These communities occupy a large plateau cut by three steep-sided river gorges from which generations of local women and children have collected their water. Carrying water has been an arduous, time-consuming task. Constant contamination has made this water a vehicle for disease.
In August of 1979, Plenty called a meeting between the three communities in order to discuss combining their three proposed (separate) systems into a single cost-effective, gravity-feed system with a “united workforce” cooperating in its construction. The three communities agreed to the plan. The villagers looked forward to the chance to work alongside friends and relatives on a common project.
Funds were granted through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and work began in February 1980. Plenty volunteers provided technical assistance, supervision, and transportation of materials. An experienced water technician and a mason were hired from nearby villages and, in their native tongue of Kaqchikel, they supervised virtually all the field work — measuring the entire system, building the spring captations, trenching and laying of pipe over the 26 kilometer course, constructing the 26,000-gallon reservoir, and training the system’s future maintenance men; two from each village. On August 28, 1980, the first water arrived at the household taps, bringing clean running water, over 50,000 gallons per day, to approximately 1,800 people. In addition to the water itself, knowledge of sanitation and hygiene was also brought to the people of the three villages in the form of classes explaining effective use of their new resource in disease prevention.
More than anything else, the Plenty volunteers working on this project were impressed by the enthusiasm of the people as they took on the construction of the water system as a cooperative venture. On some days well over a hundred men would show up to dig trenches or lay pipe, and crews would gamely race each other over the many kilometers spanned by the system. Throughout, there was great effort, joy and gratitude expressed and shared by all.