Pathfinders Diary: Si uno no vive para servir, no sirve para vivir


Pathfinders Project By Liz Moody

We take for granted that when we drink water from the tap, we won’t develop a serious disease. This is, however, not the case in much of the world. In Isla Puná, Ecuador, not getting sick from your water is a luxury for the rich. The only source of uncontaminated, potable water is bottles brought over from the mainland. Bottled water is prohibitively costly for most residents, not just in terms of the cost of the fuel needed to produce plastic bottles and to transport them by boat to the island, but also the cost to the environment of importing water to a place where there are existing freshwater sources. To residents of Puná, the problem was clear—they needed a local water purification facility.

The Pathfinders are working with Water Ecuador to build a clean water center in Puná. Not only will this provide an affordable source of clean water, it will empower the community to take their health into their own hands. Once completed, the center will be entirely owned and operated by residents; water from Puná, for Puná, with no continued reliance on outsiders, just Water Ecuador playing a supporting role.

This is the kind of service Pathfinders Project embraces—no agenda, no presuming to tell people what they need, just service in its purest form; the Pathfinders show up and do what they’re told to do. This type of service requires trusting the community to identify local issues that they want to address, evaluate options, and choose a course of action. The Pathfinders just help make it happen. As Wendy notes, “we are helping hands, not saviors coming in with the ‘answers.’” When the Pathfinders discussed this with a local shopkeeper, he responded with the adage, “Si uno no vive para servir, no sirve para vivir” (“If you don’t live to serve, you don’t serve to live”). This is humanist service in action—helping other humans solve human problems and effecting change at the community level.

The Pathfinders will be continuing their work with water in Santa Marta, Colombia. In this coastal Caribbean town in the far Northeast of the country, they will be focusing on water sanitation issues and some natural resources work with Fundaci Misi Gaia. If you’d like to help support the Pathfinders and their yearlong service trip, click here.