10/2/12

Story of a Fighter


We would like to introduce you to our good friend Carlos Santamaria.

He's holding the baby.
This man is the most crucial player in the large purified water project that is being executed in Caliche. He is the Presidente de la Junta de Agua (President of the Water Council), and we would like to share his story with you.

Carlos has a big-toothed smile that he readily throws at anyone, friend or enemy. He lives in a modest adobe (mud-walled) house along the road between the communities of Aguas de la Reina and Caliche. The house is full of smoke from the poorly-ventilated cooking fire and black soot coats most of the interior surfaces. 



Six nights a week, he makes the 30 minute walk to one of two churches that are in the communities above and below with his prized possession, a guitar. There, he pounds the three chords he knows on his poorly tuned guitar with an outrageous amount of energy for up to an hour. Anytime you talk to him, you can’t escape him without him grabbing your hand and earnestly saying “God bless you brother.” His smile makes you believe that he truly means every word. That heart behind that smile is what has sustained him through a difficult life and the challenges he has faced throughout the past year.

Even by Caliche standards, Carlos is very, very poor. They are one of the few families we know that genuinely struggle for food at times. However, their four school-age children faithfully walk the 30 minutes to school every day and take pride in their attendance. Their youngest hangs onto the legs of her mother while she cooks.

It is here that the story turns a sad page.

When we met Carlos last November, we were preparing to start the water project. He was glowing with the pride of his 5 month-old twins, a boy and a girl. We held the kids and congratulated him. When we arrived in Caliche again in the New Year, the community had just passed the night in a vigil grieving the death of one of its youngest members. Through tears, Carlos explained to us that his son had a simple respiratory infection. He considered over and over making the four-hour walk to the road in the midst of the rainy season’s downpours, but realized it would be in vain. He had no money for bus fare, let alone for a doctor. With no medicine, no money, and no transportation, he held his little boy as he died in the night.

Carlos has a special faith. In response to the evil that passed in his life, he chose not to blame God, but instead dedicate himself to preventing this from happening again in his community. Recognizing the importance of the clean water and the health that it brings, he threw himself into the project with unstoppable vigor. With no transportation available for meetings in town with the government, Carlos sets out at 4 A.M. walking towards the road to Santa Cruz. Four pairs of shoes later, he has never been late to one our 8 A.M. meetings.

In our frequent trips to Caliche, Carlos always faithfully explains the progress of the project, and usually takes us walking along the five kilometers of pipe that have been laid 18 inches deep in the rocky soil. Halfway along this pipeline, we pass by Caliche’s humble cemetery. A tiny marker always catches my eye as we move through. Arriving at the filter house that will clean the water clean for the town’s 500 inhabitants, Carlos always expresses the importance of this water, “Not for us, for our children.” Along with the other men of the community, Carlos has dug hundred of meters of pipeline, mixed countless bags of cement, carried hundred-pound metal pipes on his shoulder for miles, and missed numerous days of work that he could have used to work for his personal gain. The community pays only for his bus fare to meet with the government.

This dedication has always impressed and humbled me. I always make a point to thank him for the work he is doing for his community and family. But one day recently, after months of work on this project and weekly conversations, he floored me by a simple sentence, “It’s a shame that the water from this project won’t arrive at our house.” Carlos’s house sits so far away from Caliche proper, and so high up, that the gravity-driven system's distribution lines will not reach his house. I had never realized it, but Carlos had. Every day that he had worked on this project, every blister, every bloody cut, every frustrating day and enormous rock in the ditch, every day without income, he had worked for the people of his community and its children. Carlos is man of an incredible faith, and a man that I believe understands the heart of God in a way I am still trying to reach.

It is here that Carlos’s story takes a brighter turn.

For more than six months, Carlos has quietly expressed his desire to have work in his home, outside of the very unlucrative job of growing corn to sell to make tortillas. He had also mentioned that he was skilled in the traditional work of his family, making ropes and products of twine, namely hammocks and nets for hauling produce from the fields. So, we took Carlos a form, soliciting help from our organization (Heart to Honduras) in the form of a capital seed: a one-time gift used to purchase materials necessary to start a micro-business. We presented this sum, a whopping $220, to donors, who quickly agreed to provide this money for the purchase of materials.

With the money in hand, we hopped in a car with Pastor Fredy Martinez and Carlos and headed into the big city, San Pedro Sula. Cruising its busy, stinky streets, we found the district that sells the raw materials necessary to make Carlos’s products. We let Carlos and Fredy haggle the lady into 12 enormous roles of twine with some metal rope terminations thrown in for free (Fredy has a magnificent way of guilting people into things they would never normally do). We then put Carlos on a truck for a ride back to Caliche and waited for word.

Two weeks later, we made it back out to Caliche, and were amazed by what we found at Carlos’s home. In two short weeks, he set up his entire system necessary to make his products. With a hand-driven system using bike wheels and pulley, Carlos spins the raw twine into ropes up to 100 meters (over 300 ft.) in length.

video

The thicker diameter ropes are sold for $3.00 per rope. He has already sold ten.The thinnest spun twine is used to make his hammocks and corn nets. He has now sold five corn nets at $17 per net, and one hammock at $27. In addition, demand for his product is increasing as the region discovers a new source of product.

video

The work is tedious, but it goes without saying that this man is skilled. He works quickly and nimbly with the tools made by his own hands. Locked away by poverty for years, his hands have finally found the freedom again to work.


Once you have pressed play, click the small expansion cross to enlarge the photos.

This chapter of Carlos’s story is just beginning, and certainly his own children’s books will be written differently because of their father’s resolve and the benevolent heart of a stranger. He is a man with incredible drive, extraordinary vision, deep faith, and a love for his family. This is proving to be a lethal cocktail to the demon of poverty that haunts this country. In a crucial moment of decision, in the depths of sorrow, this man chose not to be beaten down. He is “pressed by not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned… struck down but not destroyed.”

3 comments:

  1. This is an amazing story. God Bless you Carlos. Your humble example of servant-hood is truly amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow. This is what I find to inspiring about the Hondurans I met during my visit this summer: their grit and their determination. I'm quite certain your friend Carlos is a far better man than I am. God bless him.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Speechless...what a servant...God bless you, brother Carlos!

    ReplyDelete