The story of this memorial well began with the question: What do you give someone on their 100th birthday?
As the date of Maria’s milestone birthday approached — Sept 23, 2013 — her family was looking for a way to celebrate her deep love for the church and heart for serving others.
“Mum told us that she didn’t need presents,” explained her daughter-in-law, Anne Dam. “But she knew that as a family we enjoyed celebrating her, so as her big birthday approached we wanted to find a way to honour her.”
Maria and her family had been involved in World Renew programs over the years. For more than 15 years, members of their church — Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Flamborough, Ontario — have been making annual trips to Latin America under the name, “Carpenteros.”
This group started in response to earthquakes in El Salvador, but has continued volunteering with World Renew over the years with a commitment to building reciprocal relationship with Honduran communities and walking alongside them for positive change. Maria loved their work, and would even buy the family a table together at the Annual Carpenteros Fundraiser dinners. Anne and her husband Rene have also had the opportunity to travel to Honduras to visit communities connected with the Carpenteros.
Maria’s family realized that a legacy gift supporting water projects in Honduras would be an excellent choice for her tribute. When they told her, she was on board right away.
Maria’s well was donated in 2013. The men and women of Los Llanitos actively participated in drilling the well, digging ditches, installing the main conduction pipe, and installing smaller pipe lines to take water to individual homes. The local community formed a water board to oversee the ongoing maintenance of the well after construction was complete.
Maria Dam passed away a few months after her 100th birthday. She had been pleased about the well.
“But for Mum, it wasn’t about having her name attached, it was about the impact,” noted Anne. “The needy were always a part of her. She reached out in many ways throughout her life. She cared for others and set an example for her children and her grandchildren.”
This summer, World Renew and its partner, Harvest Honduras, met with the Los Llanitos water board to see how Maria’s well was doing.
“Due to the drought brought upon by El Nino, several wells in the community dried up this past year, but families in Los Llanitos continue to have vital water thanks to Maria’s well,” said Rolando Pinzon, World Renew staff member in Honduras. “Before the well was built, the women of the community waited until 2 am in order to obtain some water. Now they are happy because they have water early every day. We can say that the kingdom of heaven has come to this community.”
While Maria Dam’s well was coming together, her granddaughter, Linda Lobert, was waging her battle with cancer. In the midst of this difficult chapter, Linda’s family wanted to honour her commitment to God, her love for her family, and her passion for serving others.
Linda’s parents, Cor and Alida Vanderkruk, are members of Bethel CRC in Waterdown, Ontario. This church is also connected to the ministry of the Carpenteros. Soon Linda’s family, too, realized that a legacy well could be a beautiful way to honour someone they loved.
“Linda really liked the idea of giving in this way,” said her father, Cor Vanderkruk. “She had a huge heart and was always looking out for the underdog — the person that needed attention. She couldn’t stand injustice. And she understood that as a family God has given us many resources we can use for the benefit of others. When we do this, we show that everything we have is not really ours — it belongs to God.”
Plans were set in motion for the gift of a well in Linda’s name in the community of Varsovia. Varsovia is a small community of about 89 homes and 327 people located in the south of Honduras. In this village, there has always been a significant lack of potable water. While there was an artisan well, it is frequently dry in the summer. Even during other times of the year, families were forced to wait in line for the chance to obtain a small amount of drinking water from the well. For all of their other water needs — like laundry, bathing, and watering their animals — they went to the river. As a result, waterborne illnesses were common, and children frequently suffered from diarrhea, vomiting and parasites.
The Lobert family memorial gift is changing this story. Today, a well exists in Varsovia, Honduras in Linda’s name. With the funds secured, World Renew’s partner, Diaconia Nacional, completed a survey to locate an ideal location for a well. Volunteers from the King’s University in Alberta came in May 2016 to complete the first stage of construction and the people of Varsovia also worked hard to dig trenches and lay pipes to connect the main line to home lines. Next, the plan is to construct a water tank to complete the project.
The water technician who is overseeing the construction says that this well has the capacity of producing 40 gallons of water per minute.
“The people of Varsovia are thrilled to receive this well,” said Rolando Pinzon. “They have worked hard during the construction and are patient as they wait for it to be complete. Once it is finished, men and women from the community will serve on a water board and be in charge of its maintenance and administration. We are so grateful to the many people, including the family of Linda Lobert, for making this vital source of water possible.”
In June of 2015, Linda Lobert passed away at the age of 50 years. Today, the faithful legacies of both Linda Lobert and Maria Dam live on in the daily supply of fresh water for families in Honduras.