American Water: Kidnapped to Stop Safe Water

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Benefits of safe, clean, affordable water

Fortnightly Magazine - October 2017

In 1998, Angelita Fasnacht was elected to work as the head of the water company for the rural and semi-urban areas of Departmento del Huila, Colombia. Most of these locations did not have clean, safe drinking water and even fewer had sanitation.

Water was brought by trucks or from highly unsafe sources such as surface water and unprotected wells. During her time in that position, approximately two hundred projects were completed. Approximately fifty thousand people received the benefit of safe, clean and affordable water.

Planning for these projects always included close communication with the community. These water projects united the local communities and improved living conditions. Most of these communities lived in isolation from the central government. They were kept in fear by the presence of the FARC terrorist group.

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Local communities were working together to improve living conditions by means of clean water projects. But the terrorist group considered this a threat to their authority in these isolated regions. In February 2000, they kidnapped Angelita for thirty-two days because she had been organizing the effort to provide safe water.

After her release, she was warned to leave the country. She headed to the U.S. with twenty-five hundred dollars, not knowing the English language. She left to save her life and that of her loved ones.

Today, Angelita is an environmental scientist at American Water. She indirectly helps her native country through her work as President of the Global Water Alliance, an organization that funds safe drinking water projects. Every year she takes her four children to see and help with water projects around the world.

Angelita is also grateful for American Water's support of Water for People, an international non-profit working across nine countries to bring safe water and sanitation to four million people. For more than a decade, American Water and its employees have supported Water for People, donating more than $1.7 million to its life-changing work.

At this year's kickoff event, Angelita spoke to American Water employees about her experience growing up in a country where girls were burdened with carrying water long distances for their family needs. They could not attend school because of that requirement.

 

Lead image: Angelita Fasnacht (left), Susan Story, and Nicole Wiley, engineer at New Jersey American Water, at the April 2017 Water for People kickoff event, held at American Water.

 

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