Okawás Formal System Handover

DSC02953 Thierry Sciari of Res Publica pouring the first glasses of water for girls of the village
Thierry Sciarri pouring the symbolic first glasses of water for the girls

The village of Okawás, whose water system was completed in 2006, had the formal handover ceremony on February 18, 2008, along with a visit from the entire APLV team to see the final results. Thierry Sciari, representing the French funding organization Res Publica, flew from France for the ceremony.

To get to Okawás from the quite rural town of Rio Blanco, you have to travel about an hour and a half on dirt roads, then cross a river on a small boat and go another hour or more on foot or horseback, so getting the entire team, along with a piñata for the kids and a band for the music up there was no small accomplishment.

The entire village was ready, cleaned up, and decorated for the occasion. The dedicated health promoters Lillan and Gregoria went right to work with their regular survey and check-up, seeing whether the outhouses were being used and the water "puestos" were being managed correctly, and checking into the health (quite a lot improved) of the various families. Thierry and several others went by horseback to see the water tank and the water source, now completely finished. Finally, the full ceremony began - a ribbon-cutting followed by serving good, fresh, clean water to the children, lots of speeches to solemnify the occasion, lunch, and (what the kids were waiting for) the piñata.

DSC02885 Fadir taking the piñata on horseback up to the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Okawas
Fadir Rojas bringing the piñata up to the village for the celebration

The various speeches and meetings made very clear that the system was now owned and managed by the community and that they would have to handle it with vision; the Potable Water Committee had a formal meeting with all in attendance. They had not yet begun collecting the regular $1/month water upkeep payment from each household, for example, so would not have the funds if an emergency maintenance item came up. They also had not yet created policies on how to deal with new members of the community: How does a new member get a puesto? How much do they have to pay or work? (All of the unskilled labor is done by the members of the community when a system is built, so it's only fair that someone who moves to the area must contribute in an equal way.)

At the end of a long day the community got to rest and the entire team (and the mariachi band) started back on horseback, arriving at the river just at dusk for the jeep ride back to Rio Blanco.

There are several other pictures of the Okawás handover in this slideshow. You can get a sense of the layout of Okawas in the Youtube video below: