We visited Chajul and several other Guatemalan communities, looking for a place where we could establish a sustainable clean water system. We were testing water and looking for a group of people who had the vision to build a water business. We had the privilege of working alongside Compassion International student centers using Healing Waters International equipment.
As we walked around Chajul, we encountered a lot of youth who seemed to find us fascinating and perhaps even funny. I was taking pictures as fast as I could. One lovely young lady gave me a big smile and the opportunity for an unforgettable photograph.
If I had spoken Ixil, I might have asked her name, but I didn't. We finished our visit and went home. Eventually, we selected Chajul as the community where we would work, and as we looked back through all of the photography, our graphic designer (Stacie Burley) chose this picture as the face of the JBU Guatemala Water Project.
As the project progressed, the face of this young lady continued to haunt me. I don't know how many times I told people that I didn't even know her name or anything about her. She had no idea that she was the face of the project and that in this way she was helping her people.
We raised our funds, worked through all of the training and logistics, and planned our return to Chajul in 2012 where we would establish a source of clean water for the community. The face of this young lady continued to haunt me. Would she ever know how much her face meant to this project and ultimately to her community?
Upon arrival, we presented a picture of the girl to the leadership of the church. They knew her. Her name was "Heydi," and she had been a member of the Compassion program but was no longer attending. We wanted to meet her and give her family a basket of food, a small way of paying her for using her face in our posters and web site. The staff at the church went to find her and see if we could go visit. Heydi lived with her siblings and her single mom. They didn't want us to come to their house because they were very poor, but they agreed to come see us at the church. She arrived, and through an Ixil translator, we tried to share the story. We had a basket of food and a copy of the poster. At first, Heydi seemed very uncertain about the whole thing, but she eventually started smiling and owning the moment.
That was the last time I saw Heydi. If her life is like other girls in these areas, she will probably be a mother at a very young age, and she will probably work very hard and be trapped in a life of poverty and exploitation. At least for a moment, I think she understood that she was the young lady whose face helped transform a community.
I think about Heydi a lot, and I hope I get to see her again someday. She remains in my prayers.