By Nora Pillard Reynolds, Co-founder and Executive Director
I recently found a letter that I wrote to Padre Nelson and Padre Cleto after my first trip to Waslala in 2002. Below is an excerpt of the letter:
You told us something during our conversation on the last day of the trip. You told us that you both have made your decision – the decision to live and die with the poor. Then you told us that now we all have to make our own decisions about what we want to do with our lives.This part of my life is full of decisions that will affect the rest of my life. Therefore, right now I want to stay focused on the most important things in life. The experience with you all helped me do this. I think that you both have focused your life on what is truly important.
As I reflect back on 14 years of learning through the series of partnerships that is WfW, this was my first lesson: You never know where you will find your most important teachers.
I have learned several other lessons as well, including:
- There is no blank slate
- It was never our idea
- Listen (even when it’s not what you want to hear)
- I will always be an outsider
- Show up
- It’s all about people
- Surround yourself with people who push you
- Lead together
- Don’t hold on too tight (it was never “mine” to hold onto)
These lessons learned are (part of) the Story of Water for Waslala. They are the foundation upon which this organization was built, sustained, and will transition. I share them now as a peak at where we’ve been in order to transparently share where we are going.
The goal has always been crystal clear – ensure access to clean drinking water for everyone living in the municipality of Waslala, Nicaragua. This next chapter, the Agua Para Waslala Program Alliance, makes that big, ambitious goal possible.
Over the past year, the acquisition/ transition process helped me clarify the foundational values that make Water for Waslala what it is. Clarifying these values was a crucial step in discerning whether we had found a “fit” in WaterAid and El Porvenir. There are plenty of concrete variables to consider in this type of decision, but as Joshua (WaterAid-Nicaragua’s country director) reminded me during one of our phone conversations,
“I think you have a decision to make and it’s not one you will make with SWOT analyses. It is a decision that you have to make with your heart.”
As I chuckled to myself knowing I had spent the previous day making some very elaborate SWOT analyses, I also found comfort – in this comment I felt like I heard a bit of Padre Nelson.
Over the course of the next few days, I will be sharing a series of “lessons learned” – the story of Water for Waslala and the beginning of the next chapter – Agua Para Waslala. These lessons represent the values that don’t fit into that SWOT analysis. They are who we are as an organization and why we knew this transition was right.