Stories of Change

Mateos fills up water containers at the new tank.

CWS efforts in Indonesia positively impacted more than 17,000 people in 16 communities this year.

From 20-hour lines to Enough for All

There are 83 families – about 400 people – in Mateos Missa’s village of Saenam in West Timor, Indonesia. Mateos, 33, lives with his wife, Yufita Sio, and their two daughters. Mercy is a toddler, and little Misa is still a newborn. Mateos chairs the Oe Sustana Water Use Committee, which means that he is responsible for making sure that water is used fairly.

This has been a challenging job for years, because families in the village faced a desperate water situation, especially in the dry season. There is a spring nearby, but it wasn’t protected. That meant that families were using water that was filled with dirt, leaves and animal waste. To make things worse in an area where water was scarce, there wasn’t a way to store the spring’s water. When someone wasn’t filling a container, the precious water would just run off and be wasted.

Before, “we only showered once a week,” Mateos recalls, “We mostly only washed our faces; or, when we went fishing, we would bathe in the ocean. That’s salt water, though, so we didn’t really feel clean. Families with newborns would bathe their babies every day with clean water, like we did with Misa. But, every family had to send someone to walk for an hour to collect water from the spring, where it took up to 10 minutes to fill just one five-liter container.”

By the end of the nine-month dry season, only one spring was still running and it could  take up to an hour to fill that same five-liter container (that’s about 1.3 gallons). Families would get in line at 3 a.m. to wait for their turn, and some would still be there late into the night. The last families would fill their buckets or jerry cans and head home at 11 p.m.

To help the community change this awful situation, our team helped protect the spring and construct a concrete water tank in May of 2018. Community members contributed labor, tools, wood, transportation and meals during construction. Mateos led the Water Use Committee through an important discussion about how to control water use so that everyone would have a chance to meet their family’s needs, even with water being a scarce resource.

Now, water can be collected for a couple of hours in the morning and then again in the evening. Outside of these times, the spring is filling the tank. When families arrive to fill their buckets, jerry cans and other containers, enough water is stored in the tank for all 83 households to have their right to water met without waiting in long lines.

In Mateos’ words, “We are very happy and thankful to CWS for the support because now the quantity and quality of water at the spring have improved; it is much cleaner now that it is protected. And no water is wasted as it is being saved in the tank. Filling our containers is much faster now and we don’t have to queue from early morning to late night. Finally, we can use the water not only for cooking and drinking; now we can also shower more than once a week if we need to, which is great.”