Costa Rica Archives - WaterStep

Join us in saving lives in Costa Rica

WaterStep Director of Training and Trips Claudia Daniels shares the needs of a community in Costa Rica. You can join us on our next trip to the community where we are saving lives with safe water. Check out her story below and learn more about Claudia on our Staff page.


There is this small town in Costa Rica where a sweet lady named Cecilia lives. Her heart for the children in the neighboring slum is overflowing with love, and kids follow her in the streets like the pied piper. They come to her for safety, love and food.

Cecilia is not a woman of great means. In fact, at night she goes to her neighbor’s house asking for leftover rice and beans to feed the children the next day. She makes a meal for them in her house and carries the food to a small feeding center where the children line up for a hot lunch.

costa rica community

Cecilia knows the need for safe water in the community and knows that these kids are not only lacking in food but their health is suffering as well from contaminated water.

Our partner in Costa Rica, Ana, asked us if we could come and bring safe water to these children. A team of 12 from Cornell University traveled to Costa Rica, taught Health Education to the children and installed a purification unit in Cecilia’s son’s bodega (store). Here Cecilia set up a small business selling safe water for a couple of colonies, which is much cheaper than the bottled water people were buying. She supplied safe water for the children and cooked their meals with safe water and with the money she made, she was able to buy fresh food for the children.
Costa Rica safe water

Now, two years later, the feeding center needs to expand. This summer we will bring another team to help provide safe water to the new center where Cecilia will cook on site. Join us as we continue our work and build our relationship with this unbelievable lady and her the kids she loves.  Learn how you can  travel with WaterStep on an upcoming trip. Maybe even join the trip that brings safe water to Cecilia’s new feeding center.

From Costa Rica: Germs that sparkle


How do you explain germs to a little girl?  Pam Pusty, WaterStep’s Director of Education, was in a community in Cartago, Costa Rica, teaching health education and hit on the perfect way to explain germs to a little girl — she sprinkled bright, colorful glitter over the little girl’s hands to show her how germs can stick to our fingers and make us sick.

Next, how do you explain to a little boy that flies transmit disease? Pam and her coworkers performed a skit about how pesky flies land on all sorts of things: “Poop! Garbage!” Pam announced, and the little boys laughed with mischievous glee. Pam continued: “Then they land on us again, and because they carry disease, they can make us sick.”

Though the kids were receptive, Pam says her information made the biggest impression on the mothers sitting quietly in the back of the room. “There were three Moms sitting there, and their heads went up immediately. They looked at us, and you could tell they were having this moment of ‘Really? Wow.’”

Pam says, “They told me later that they didn’t know that disease was transmitted by flies.”

When Pam finished her health training, she turned to thank the woman who had opened her home for the presentation. Pam says: “I was shocked to see she had a tear going down her face. She said, ‘You have brought us so much. I want to learn more. If I get more mothers, will you teach more?’”

It can be a life or death question. Roughly 1,400 children die every day from diarrheal diseases linked to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene.

“That afternoon was a life changing time for me,” Pam says. “I’d like to think that sitting in the audience there was a future World Health Organization worker, a future nurse, a future doctor. I know those kids got what I was saying.”

And it’s important that they do understand, because health education is key to making a water project successful. Teaching about hand washing, proper disposal of waste, and transmission of disease alongside water purification can cut diarrhea cases in a community almost in half. Even better, when students learn health education at school, they go home and teach it to their parents, so good health practices spread throughout the community.

You can help communities get vital health education by giving a gift to safe water this holiday season! And there’s no better time than now. Make a gift before December 31 and your gift will be doubled by the Living Water Fund, a matching fund created by an anonymous WaterStep donor. While all gifts made between now and December 31 will be matched, if you join the fun and give for #GivingTuesday on December 2, we’ll send you a virtual ‘I gave today!’ sticker to share with your friends and family on social media, helping to spread the message of giving even further.


A Day in Tiribi: Stories from the Field


El Dique


The WaterStep team sat in Iglesia Celebracion on an early Friday morning in Tiribi, Costa Rica. The team arrived, prepared to set up the system that would provide up to 10,000 gallons of safe water a day

Pastor Miguel welcomed the group with a brief sermon and prayer. He informed them that Tiribi is located in the county ranked last out of all 81 counties in Costa Rica for development, meaning poverty, drugs and prostitution are common in the area.

The pastor began his ministry to be a church for the unchurched. “Churches are popular here, but these people are not welcome in most churches,” he said.


Pastor Miguel led the team down a nearby road to see more of the area that would be affected by a safe water system in the church. As they walked, the pastor was met by warm greetings from most neighbors and a big hug from a young girl.

El Dique 1


Most homes were built from scrap materials and garbage lined the streets. However, what seemed like a hopeless image from the outside masked well-kept kitchens, straight and clean living areas, and a people who took pride in their homes and lives.

98 year old Claudia greeted the team outside of her home, which shares a wall with her sister and a young girl that they care for, who suffers from seizures. The team took turns gathering around to pray for the family and talk more with them.


Back at the church, the team got to work on their project that would carry over to the next day, installing the M-100 Chlorine Generator.

Pastor Miguel stepped away from the group while they began working to explain more about the culture and water issues in the area. “They have a local waterline, but the government cuts off water and they must use dirty river water and boil it to drink it,” he explained. “Many children and elderly still get sick with diarrhea, stomach ache, and viruses.”

The effects from the lack of water spill over into all areas of life. He explained that sickness often keeps children out of school, as a stomach virus can force a child to stay in bed for up to a week. The WaterStep system will allow children and families to get safe, drinkable water from the church, preventing illness.

On Day Two of the installation, the WaterStep team arrived bright and early, working all day to set up the system and teach the pastor about its maintenance. By evening, the mission was accomplished.

Access to safe water is only one issue that needs to be addressed in many of the communities where Waterstep works, but it is a critical foundation for improvement. To learn more about safe water solutions and how to get involved, check out our Why Water page.

Costa Rica group


Updates from the Field: Costa Rica

Kurtis and Claudia are once again leading a water team in Costa Rica. Read the latest exciting news from them below!

Day one of our trip in Costa Rica was filled with surveying our sites, buying materials, and anticipation for the week ahead. The team split into two groups; one to construct a rain catchment system at a school while the other scouted sites and met some of the individuals we will work with throughout the week. Upon finding a leak in the rain catchment setup, one of the team members jokingly said “Oh well, it is going to rain anyways.” This quickly became the quote of the day. All in all, the rain catcher was a success! The principal of the school where it was installed is very pleased and could not stop thanking the group for their hard work.

On day two one group started to install a water purification system for a church feeding center that has provided food to local children everyday for two years now. It was a very long day, but the group managed to complete more than half the project and planned on coming back the next day to finish. The rest of the group held a vision clinic at the church’s feeding center. The vision clinic was such a success! The team met with over 250 people. One of the most memorable events of the day were two young, beautiful sisters who could not see two fingers held in front of their face. Their eyesight was so poor that our team members working the focometer couldn’t get a reading. We decided to just try to find some glasses that these girls could see out of. The team members at the glasses station just pulled two pairs out of the box and put them on and after a few minor adjustments both girls left with big smiles on their faces, seeing at 20/40 for the first time in their lives!

While the vision team worked at one site, the water team was at another installing a rather extensive project. They worked in a large church that has a feeding center. Every day of the year this church feeds over 100 children in a local slum. Before, the water was unsafe for consumption. Now, safe water is delivered to both church kitchens so that food and drinks prepared there are safe to consume. The church is working on a plan so the children can bring clean water home with them for their families. Good stuff!

Day three, once again, was packed with activities. Team one finished up the water system at the church while team two taught health and hygiene in every class room of a local school. These children were great, every class stood as we entered the room and in perfect English said, “good morning, thank you for coming here today”. Dan shook everyone’s hand and spread germs (glitter) all around the class, then John came in and sneezed on all the children (using a squirt bottle), followed by Larry with a huge fly that landed on poop that landed on all the children and their lunches. Through all the fun, games and giggling I can tell you that all the children learned how germs were transmitted and learned some simple ways to prevent it. After the hand washing demonstration, everyone followed up with the proper way to wash their hands! The principal followed us from room to room filming the whole thing. He loved it.

That’s all for now, we are tired but filled with joy knowing that our work is changing lives. Everyone is great, well fed and happy!