An interview with Chip and Lucy Swab
By Paco Guajardo
We recently sat down with Chip and Lucy Swab to talk about a range of subjects from volunteering in rural areas surrounding San Miguel de Allende to the water conditions in those areas and what they think is likely to happen when the COVID-19 arrives. The Swabs are active supporters of Caminos de Agua and Feed the Hungry, so they are well informed about conditions out in the countryside.
How are you two holding up during this difficult time?
“We’re concerned about how things are going to be in Mexico when this virus really hits. We’re fortunate. I’ve seen the homes the people out in the campo live in. The houses are small and families are large, contagion is going to be a big problem. They’re not going to have it easy, that’s for sure.”
Chip, tell us a bit about the water conditions out in the countryside.
“I’m the driver coordinator for Feed the Hungry, which means I’m responsible for scheduling 33 vehicles and drivers every Tuesday for deliveries to 43 schools. So I have been to many communities out there. Some of them have wells, and in some communities the wells have collapsed and water has to be trucked in. In others, people have to travel to pick up their water. I have so much respect for how they manage. Many of them have next to no water and agriculture is hard, but those people are resourceful and tough–-and they make a life.”
What about water contamination out there?
“In a lot of places they know their water is bad. Kids get brown teeth (dental fluorosis from excessive fluoride contamination in the water), and people have serious health issues. They know their water isn’t safe for drinking or cooking, but it’s all they’ve got. In quite a number of the schools with Feed the Hungry kitchens, we have to bring water out so meals are healthy and safe for the kids. That’s why it’s so incredible when you see Caminos de Agua working in a community; you know they’re going to help families or the whole community create their own water solutions–it changes everything for them.”
How do you think COVID-19 is going to affect these communities?
“I pray that the summer heat helps mitigate the contagion. Otherwise, some of these communities will get hit hard. They don’t have the information about what to do to protect themselves, and they don’t have resources. Once the virus gets going, the water transportation chain will break down. They are so far away from hospitals or even clinics.”
What has motivated you to do this work?
“We could live in San Miguel and lead an insular life, but being in the communities and helping out has made life much richer and much more meaningful. Once you see it, you just have to respond. If you don’t, I think you’ll just have a huge hole in your heart.”