The recently repainted white Dodge van, emblazoned with American Legion decals on all four sides,
pulled up at the black metal gates of the school. Inside, eight of us were crowded and it was hot
and we were sweaty. Our departure from Antigua had been delayed a bit but this is Guatemala,
where not much happens as scheduled. We were at the private Catholic school in the outlying
village of San Antonio Aguas Calientes, some ten miles southwest of Antigua, where the school
sits nestled at the base of tall verdant green mountains. Cornfields, the staple of Guatemalan
diets, stretched along the shoulders of the mountains, impossibly high to the American eye but
land is land and if it can be farmed, it will be.
Today’s’ mission was to assemble the 20+ water filters and distribute them to families of needy
students. The Ecofiltro water system, with their nearby factory, has proved to be a boon to
international consumers. In Guatemala alone, where it is estimated that over 80% of the water
sources are contaminated, thousands of families now have access to pure and potable water in
their homes. The local American Legion Post, #2 of the Department of Mexico, with ‘Bill’ Shetz
as Adjutant, otherwise known as the ‘Comandante’ to some, has been donating time, water filters
and much more for the last 13 years.
There is a computer lab, water filters in every classroom and a newer metal roof over a play
area, all donated by American Legion members. The local post also provides scholarships to needy
students, prepaid for nine years, of which eight are currently enrolled. There is also a daily
hot breakfast program, provided free to the 320 students of the school. The costs are born by
donations from local and distant members and while the weekly expenditure might be close to fifty
dollars, providing nutrition for young students is priceless. The same yardstick applies to the
cost of the water filters: at some $36 per unit, the families have two years of pure water,
saving the costs of health care, which for most is unaffordable.
Today, the young mothers lined up for their free water filters and tonight there will be pure
water in their homes. Grateful smiles were seen and happy laughter heard as they carried away the
white plastic filters. Post#2, thanks to the dedication of ‘Bill’ Shetz and a cadre of volunteer
members, does the job once again, over and over, as the years go on. The van waited by the gate
and we loaded up once more. So what if we were crowded, hot and sweaty again? Doing good things
for young and dedicated students means much more than money and time.