I plunge in to the dark, refreshing pool at the bottom of the lively waterfall. The rushing water pouring in from above completely fills my senses.
I can hear the muffled thunder rumbling only a few feet away, the powerful current trying to push me away and up, but I keep myself under just a few more seconds to savour the experience.
When I finally break the surface the roaring splash of clean water over the rocks and into the pool now sounds crisp and rejuvenating, and it is.
It is World Water Day and, as I think back to the Aftermath Volunteer trip to Costa Rica and my time at Seeker’s Falls, I am reminded that water, as always, was a thread running through our time there.
Costa Rica is a country of water. From the cloud-filled mountains to its tropical sandy beaches water, in one form or another, shapes the country. The months-long rainy season brings untold amounts of water rushing down the hillsides, through jungle riverbeds and over countless waterfalls to the ocean, cleansing, renewing, and bringing life. You can see it in the rich tangle of green that blankets the land.
In the middle of this lush jungle the indigenous Boruca tribe draws life from one of those rivers. It is a river that has flowed through their ancestral lands as long as they have lived there.
Their people cherish this crystal clear water. They celebrate it, and while we were there, they honoured it with a ceremony to give thanks for all it provides. They understand its importance and that they are only its caretakers, not its owners. They remember its role in their lives, and they are careful to protect the water from generation to generation.
In sharp contrast lies San Jose’s ghetto, La Carpio, where Camp Aftermath volunteers spent some of their time. La Carpio is bordered by two rivers, Rio Torres and Rio Virilla.
Both should be generous sources of life providing almost unlimited drinking, bathing and cooking water. Both are too polluted for any such purpose.
The reasons for this are many, but in the end they are all human-made, and avoidable.
They are also reversible.
One of the principles of Camp Aftermath is “Responding to human need with human care”, and water is one of our most basic human needs. What kind of hope does someone have if they have no access to clean water?
All of the pollution in these two rivers comes from upstream where people are making choices that affect the quality of the water for others. What small changes could those people make to divert garbage and chemicals away from these rivers? How would it be different if, like the Boruca, they too honoured and cherished the water rushing past them each day?
Imagine the change for the impoverished people of La Carpio if their water ran free and clean and clear!
Volunteers and participants of Camp Aftermath will have the opportunity to take action in Costa Rica, protecting the water for the next generation by assisting in some of the local reforestation projects. These projects return the over-used farmland to more natural habitats, helping with water management and reducing erosion. “Nature for Water” is this year’s World Water Day theme, exploring nature-based solutions, like reforestation, to overcome water challenges.
Take a moment to think about the rivers, lakes and streams where you live? What choices are you making each day that affect people ‘downstream’ from you? We may not live right next to a river but our actions and our choices, our attitude towards the environment, affect the land and the water, and each of us.
Starting today, World Water Day, let’s learn from the Boruca people and find a way to honour, respect, and cherish our water. Let’s see if we can respond to one of our greatest human needs with human care.