Article authored by Peter Mernagh, published in the November 2022 issue of RTOERO’s Renaissance Magazine. In the fall…
Wells of Hope is an inter-denominational group founded on Christian principles. We are committed to responding to the cry of the poor and to help them attain for themselves, the basic necessities of clean water, education, and basic healthcare.
Founded in 2004 by Ted van der Zalm and his wife Miriam, Wells of Hope is a team of numerous volunteers with its roots in the Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada.
From very simple beginnings, Wells of Hope has grown into a living statement of the Body of Christ at work.
Volunteers from all walks of life bring their gifts and talents to the table. They allow Wells of Hope to become a testimony to what is possible when people come together to love their neighbour as themselves.
“When digging our first eighty foot deep well by hand, with only a pick head as a digging instrument, we realized that if we were truly serious about helping our less fortunate sisters and brothers, a greater commitment was necessary, both in time and finances. Our history has proven over and over again that with God, the seemingly impossible becomes possible!”
Our accomplishments in the last 19 years include:
More than 94,500 people in Jalapa and Jutiapa are benefitting today from the 37 wells that have been completed since Wells of Hope initiated the quest of helping those who thirst.
Three of the wells in operation today were drilled with the original equipment driven from Canada to Jalapa (Chaguite well, Laguna El Pito (partially) and the well at Campo Esperanza). While fundraising for the new drilling rig, Wells of Hope sub-contracted the drilling of 5 wells, 3 of which are in operation today (Guacamayas, Laguneta and Comapa-Ixcanal). Laguneta well was the stepping stone to a major change in the mountains of Jalapa: 4 communities joined efforts to pay for the feasibility study to build a pipeline for the distribution of water to more than 780 households from the well completed by Wells of Hope. That initiative inspired the communities around Las Brisas area to seek government funding to build their distribution system as well.
With the new drilling rig, Wells of Hope has been able to complete 28 of the 37 wells that are in operation (Las Brisas, Comapa San Antonio, Los Laureles, HDF Greenhouse, San Ixtan, Sanyuyo, Anshigua, Hierbabuena and La Estrella). 2018 was a very successful season with 5 wells completed in the communities of El Rodeo, Los Izotes, Sashico, La Aurora and San Paquisoy. The communities of Los Cruces (Santa Cruz), Los Cebollines, Paraíso and La Tejera, each one had one well successfully drilled in 2019. Since then, 6 more wells have been added: one at the community of Los Gonzalez, another one at San José Carrizal and a third one at Palo Verde. Lagunilla and Los Cardonas communities in Jalapa, each one got their own water well, all communities in Jalapa. A well for Valle Lindo in Jutiapa has been drilled.
In 2023, the wells at the communities of Laguna Itzacoba and San Luis Jilotepeque are providing water to their respective health clinics. More drilling took place at the communities of Sansupo, Laguna El Sapo and some major repairs at Las Brisas. The last well drilling of the season took place at San Antonio Las Flores, which makes well No. 37.
In the two year period of 2004 to 2006, 6 schools of 3 classrooms each had been built (Matazanos, Los Cruces de la Fuente, El Roblar, Tierra Blanca, La Cuchilla and La Puerta), which started the discussion of what a Wells of Hope School should include in addition to the basic 3 classrooms: a kitchen, at least 3 bathrooms, school furniture and school supplies. The next 2 years were spent in bringing all the schools to the new standard and a few modalities of school supplies were tested: a library program as a reward for the best up-kept school the first year, then a school supplies program for grades 1 to 3, which was meant to be a cohort test, by adding to the following year learning material increased yearly by one grade to all the schools. It was in operation until grade 5 of the original group, but due to funding and lack of cooperation in providing statistics by the schools, it was halted.
In 2012 a new modality of building schools started, as Wells of Hope partnered with Miracles in Action (a US based charity focused in schools for Guatemala) to build 4 more schools (Los Laureles, Laguna Seca, Los Cebollines and Sashico). Los Laureles was the biggest school built yet with 9 classrooms. In November 2012, the Eco School Program was launched by introducing the eco-brick system using recycled plastic bottles filled with inorganic material for the walls of the schools. In February 2013, the first Eco School was inaugurated at Laguna Seca community. In February 2018, Wells of Hope inaugurated its 22nd school and in 2019, the school at Suquinay community saw 2 new classroom additions and a septic tank installed, becoming the 23rd school built/added by Wells of Hope. Between 2021 and 2022, 4 more schools have been helped out with their needs of additional classrooms, washrooms, retaining walls and repairs (La Vicentina, Los Zacarías, La Toma and Santa Cruz). When classes resume, the children at San José Carrizal school will have 3 new bathrooms, a working septic system and access to potable water from the well that was drilled. In 2022 the school at Santa Cruz had 3 new bathrooms added and Llano Grande school had 9 new metal doors installed. The school enrollment at the community of La Paz has continued to grow; therefore, 3 additional classrooms were built. Two classrooms were built at the remote community of El Sauzal. In total, more than 5,660 children attend the 30 schools that have benefitted from Wells of Hope School Construction program.
Sponsoring trade school programs in welding, sewing and motorcycle repairs have become a new modality to support different age group needs. Such sponsorships have been done through a partnership with INTECAP, a trades institution sponsored by the private businesses in Guatemala.
The program Packs of Hope has been an integral part of our education / community program. More than 20,000 backpacks donated by schools of the Niagara region and by enthusiastic volunteers have made this a successful way of helping out families in Jalapa not only with school supplies but clothes, shoes, toys, and other items. In addition to Packs of Hope, we ship school furniture, medical equipment, blankets, linens, shoes, soccer uniforms, computer equipment, sewing machines and many other useful items. Thanks to the different Gleaners chapters in Ontario – mainly Niagara Gleaners, we have been able to help hundreds of families with dehydrated fruit and vegetables. This year, a successful cooking and baking project was implemented, which focused on different recipes and ways to use the dehydrated food.
For 7 consecutive years, Wells of Hope has partnered with Kindness in Action to organize and provide dental clinics to the people in Jalapa. More than 4,000 children and adults have been checked up by the various teams of Kindness in Action dentists and dental hygienists. In addition, different teams of medical doctors have visited camp to provide basic health care and opinion on specific medical cases. This has been tied up with making improvements in their homes with smokeless stoves as well as part of our community aid program of building homes for widows or single moms with multiple children or sick children. More homes have been built, adding up to more than 40 that have been built over the years.
A previously built storage place in Laguna Itzacoba community was re-purposed to become a Health Clinic. In 2021 this clinic was inaugurated and it is serving all the communities around the area – an estimated 10,000 people, providing basic health care and dental services. The clinic is managed by the Ministry of Health.