Joanna Hansen is excited to be raising funds for a new well to serve the town of Altamira, Guatemala.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Joanna Hansen is excited to be raising funds for a new well to serve the town of Altamira, Guatemala. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Joanna Hansen knows that well = wellness.

“If my little brother goes outside and scrapes his knee, he can come in the house, wash it off, get a Band-Aid and go back outside to play, but if one of their little boys are playing outside and one of them scrapes a knee, he can’t just wash it off, have his mom kiss it and put a Band-Aid on it,” reasoned the 14-year-old future mission worker to Altamira, Guatemala, elaborating on why she and her mother, Sarah, are working very hard to raise $15,000 for the construction of a well for the town located near a dump in South Central Guatemala, home to approximately 350 families but no source of clean water.

Rural Racine resident Joanna’s example of a wound being further infected by an attempt to wash it is a vivid reminder that not everyone can simply turn a faucet handle and have clear, fresh water that keeps them clean and in school or going to work.  Some have to depend on organizations such as Hope of Life, a local mission that hauls water to the villagers to sustain their well-being.

“Their kids can’t just play in the water and rivers…the ones they have by their houses are all polluted.  A lady in our Bible study has gone on a couple of trips to Guatemala, and each time she’s come back and told us about it, given a presentation and told about what she’s done,” she said. “I decided I wanted to go with her this year, from June 18 to June 25.  The trip itself is for building a house and bathroom facility for the school…the Hope of Life campus has a hospital and orphanage, and they go on baby rescue missions and bring water up.  I want to put in a well because it’s a basic life function, and if they don’t have water, the people in Altamira can’t get an education or hope for a better future because they’re sick.  If they get clean water, they can go to school, get an education, a better job and support their future families.”

The well will be constructed by local workers and be nearly ready for residents to use by the time Joanna and Sarah arrive in Altamira to pass cinder blocks down a conveyor line for the house and bathroom facility.  Sarah stressed that she and her daughter are traveling to the town as part of the regular mission trip, but their biggest goal is to be able to witness people enjoying cool, clear water. 

“It will cost $15,000, and the labor is part of that $15,000.  The local mission group will pay workers to get started drilling before we get there, and it will be almost done before we get there,” said Joanna. “We will be there to help finish the projects and dedicate them.”

Joanna anticipates watching Altamira’s citizens as they take advantage of their new well, adding “I want to see them have clean water.”

Though she’s only 14, Joanna has been considering her future somewhat.  Sarah observed that her daughter has been interested in mission work for quite some time but only recently realized that she is capable of actually going on a mission trip and becoming a mission worker.

“It’s been her reading subject of choice,” Sarah stated. 

“I haven’t decided, but I have been thinking about long-term missions,” added Joanna.  “I’ll know more once I’ve done this trip and can decide whether it’s something I want to do or not.” 

Her favorite subject in school is science, and after she’s finished her homework, she’s busy taking in the great outdoors, getting her martial arts kicks in at Yennie Martial Arts in Spring Valley and Chatfield to earn her black belt since she’s already gotten her junior black belt.  Homeschooling has given her the freedom to explore all those things and be able to leave the United States for an extended mission trip because she’s not spending eight hours a day at a desk.

“That’s given me more ways to be more prepared because I would never have time to do the fundraising and I wouldn’t be learning Spanish already,” she said.

This will be the farthest Joanna has ever been from home, as she’s traveled only to Missouri before now and therefore has never gotten to meet people who carry on their daily lives within a different culture. 

“I’ve never been on a plane before. I think going will be a really different experience. I am learning Spanish so I have a slight bit of a clue what they’re talking about. I’ve been learning Spanish for about two years but only started working on it really hard in the last six months. There will be translators there, too,” she said. “I haven’t learned much outside of what I’m learning about in my Spanish course about typical Latin American culture…not specific to Guatemala.  I’ll probably get a better grasp of Spanish just hearing native people speaking it, get a better idea what the situation is down there, see the poverty. I’ll probably learn some stuff by observing. The generations of families all live in the radius of a mile or two of each other, and I kind of know the system of how they buy things.  I don’t really know how much cultural stuff I’ll learn but going on a mission trip is exciting, kind of scary.”

Presently, Sarah — who also has never been on an airplane before — and Joanna are busy making connections with people who they know are interested in lending a hand and dollars to dig the Altamira well that will equal wellness for the Guatemalan villagers.  They’ve got a list of personal tasks to complete before their departure, including collecting the right shoes, getting vaccinated and a good night’s sleep the night before their flight, but most importantly, they have to raise that $15,000 by May 13 so that it can be exchanged and sent for the well drilling to begin.  Sarah eyed the short amount of time between when they received their first donation on Jan. 31 and the deadline. 

“That’s not a whole lot of time for us to reach our goal.  The big thing is for us to get that $15,000 by May 13, but every $20 counts and does make a difference,” she said. “It’s a pretty big goal, and we’re looking for help to reach it because we’re not a corporate entity.  Our airfare is paid for, the flight and everything is covered, so everything we raise goes toward the well, but we still have to raise that, and we can’t afford to do it without help.”

A fundraising event slated for Saturday, April 9 at Kathy’s Pub in Rochester, offering the live blues licks of Jimmi Langemo, Charlie “Sugar Chuck” Lacey and Tim Scribner, whom Sarah described as the “crème de la crème” of blues performers, participants in the International Blues Competition for the past two years, might be the kick-start cash infusion that the Hansens need. 

“These are the people who have been winners at the big contests…these guys can play.  They’re the people who have won awards at international competitions.  There’s great music, but not a whole lot of time for us to reach our goal – it would be nice if people not only come to our event and have fun appreciating to live music, but if they would bring their checkbooks, their cash and their PayPal accounts because we aren’t halfway there yet.  We have only six weeks until we have to have the money raised,” she said. “We need people willing to show up.  Businesses have been nice in giving us incentives for our silent auction so that if people want to get something back out of their donation, they can.”

The event features the silent auction that has a wide array of items and services, such as donations of tunes, wine and kicks.  Sarah listed the goods that will help them make good on their pledge to draw water to Altamira.  The silent auction has a Four Daughters winemaker’s tour, Yennie Martial Arts has given them a package as has Wedding Day DJs.  There are also donations from local people in the community, including sub sandwiches to furniture, an ice fishing house, fused glass artwork, professional photos, collectibles, a yoga package and a Sunshine & Roses painting package. 

There’s a really wide ticket range for those who really want to come and give their money and get something back,” said Sarah. “We really want to build this well.” 

And right there in the middle of all the fundraising and preparations, Joanna will be learning how to put her abundant compassion to work, because she believes fully that a well = wellness.

The Hansens’ Guatemala fundraiser concert is slated for Saturday, April 9, at Kathy’s Pub in Rochester, 307 S. Broadway, from 3 to 6 p.m.  The public is encouraged to attend. For more information on how to help Joanna attain her goal of getting fresh, clean water to the residents of Altamira, Guatemala, call Sarah at 507-951-6484 or e-mail FreeTimeIsOverRated@gmail.com.  Online donations may be given at Paypal.me/GuatemalaWell.