Smith Lake, N.M., Dec 5, 2013 / 03:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A human rights organization is teaming up with a Catholic mission this Advent to help offer free, clean water to an area of the world that often gets overlooked when fighting water poverty: the United States.
“As a Roman Catholic myself and as a human rights organization, we really try to seek out these marginalized populations that just don’t have a voice,” said George McGraw, founder and executive director of DigDeep.
Over the past year, his organization, which is dedicated to improving access to water around the world, has been working with St. Bonaventure Indian Mission to help build a well in Smith Lake, N.M. – one of the most impoverished areas of the country.
“They need their basic rights defended. They need to be taught how to defend their basic rights themselves, need to be empowered and so that’s why we’re working here,” he told CNA in a recent interview.
Roughly the size of West Virginia, the Navajo Nation borders New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah and is home to some 173,000 American Indians. Of that total, 40 percent of them have no water or toilet in their home.
“That’s a worse access rate than a lot of developing countries,” McGraw said.
While a similar project in East Africa would only take about $8,000 to complete, he added, the water project in New Mexico is estimated to cost close to $400,000.
“It’s harder to solve water poverty here and it’s tied up in so many other issues of poverty and economic inequality. It’s tied up with other things like drug use, alcoholism, and racism. It’s not a very clear cut issue,” he explained.
McGraw says his organization always relies on groups that are already well-trusted in the community so they don’t have to spend years establishing credibility on their own. This way, DigDeep can also be sure that their work will be carried out in the future by trusted community members.
As it is, the residents of the reservation around Smith Lake, N.M., rely on one hardworking grandmother, Darlene Arviso, to deliver a few hundred gallons of water to their homes each month.
Every day after she finishes driving her school bus route for the reservation, Arviso fills up the St. Bonaventure water truck and tries to deliver water to as many people in a 70-mile radius as she can. However, with nearly 250 homes to (Read More)