CIW: Team H2O (Part 3 of 6)

Sleeping, cooking, and eating facilities for non-fasters are being graciously donated by Westminster Church. It is our first stop in Lakeland. The night is a jolting, and riveting, initiation to the fast paced, passionate environment that will characterize the rest of our week. Julia, a long time friend from college whose love of activism has inspired and encouraged me, immediately grabs my arm upon arrival.

“Come with me!” Julia cries. She needs to run an errand and requires my wonderful driving abilities. I smile sweetly and knowingly in her direction. I soon realize that Julia isn’t quite sure which car to take. So back and forth we go, me trotting loyally behind her. We circle around at least three times. I can’t help but cackle at the scene, but a glance from Julia sends my laughter inwards.

Julia and Cassidy, both volunteers and friends of different staff members in Immokalee, have taken on much of the logistics organizing for the week. This includes a pretty extensive list of airport pick ups & drop offs, van shuttling to and from the site, tent set up, food for non-fasters, etc. They fly through the week with minimal sleep, keeping track of the days’ needs, and spin around as if dancing in a choreographed performance. Each task acted upon with speed and care. In addition they both show a respect and genuine appreciation for volunteers that immediately makes one feel included in the week’s festivities.

So Julia and I are off. We catch the tail end of the last dinner before the fast, where I get my first glimpse at the community centered and loving nature surrounding the CIW. We then sprint away, keys in hand and task in mind. We needed to pick up yet another vehicle from Home Depot before closing time.

After returning from the drive, Dave and I are put on the water team. At least 100 to 200 gallons of purified water required daily, distributed in large 5 to 10 gallon orange sports jugs. We roll up our sleeves, ready to dive in.

The kitchen has three sinks available for our three purchased purifiers. Reading the directions, we learn these are to be secured tightly to the sink’s nozzle, snuggled in close to ensure smooth water flow. Once the sinks are set up, we rotate six pitchers in and out of the sink as we run around the room dumping and filling, dumping and filling. Imagine us as ants trying to store up the colony with enough green food, only we are frantic, sweating, and slightly off balance in our jolty movements controlled by never ending surprise.


“Watch it!” one of us yells.

“Cherish every drop,” sighs the other.

Mayhem, pure and utter H20 mayhem. You might think we were gonna play a game of slip and slide. When four boxes of CIW water bottles arrive, Dave and I huddle up. We decided they must be rinsed and filled. I think to myself… “Where’s the dangling treat?”

Twist, twist, rinse… Splash. Twist.

“Pour! It is overflowing again… Damn it! More water bottles!?… Who puts pieces of paper in these things.”

Another volunteer arrives, “Hey guys, here are some more jugs, where should we put them?”

“Are you serious? Ha!… Ok, just put them down outside the door, we’ll get to them in a little bit.”

We don’t finish our first night as water team until four AM. It feels good and we are glad to be right in the mix of things. Dave and I declare to each other our stern dedication, “I am here to support and work.” The comment sealed with a slight nod.

By the middle of the week we are hunting for a speedier method. We feel the tragic loss of water during pitcher transfers is repairable. Perhaps a funnel system to carry the water directly from the faucet, over the sink, and into the jug will prove victorious? We scavenge the kitchen for useful parts, throwing open cabinets, peaking into out of reach shelves, and curling our sight into dark dusty shadows.

“Why are there no rubber tubes?” I say to myself. We keep looking, stumbling on a large aluminum-serving tray. “Maybe this with a hole poked in it?” Just then, the Food Not Bombs folks, our delightful cooks, say, “Not that one! Sorry, guys, we need those trays.” Dave and I look at each other dismayed. “Maybe this can work instead.” One suggests, handing us a shorter aluminum lid, a little disappointed. We try it out.

Wiggle, wiggle
How far can the faucet reach?
Come on baby
Not Quite.

But, here comes Dave with a plan. He puts one of the pitchers under the faucet and it starts to fill. In the meantime we fold the single metal sheet in half, cup one end under the pitcher’s spout, and tape it to the kitchen counter with a jug sitting right in front.

Wait for it… wait for it.

The water flows over the spout, down the lip, and clip, plop, slippity slop. In it goes. Hooray! High fives, back fives, a flip and butt jiggle. We set up the two other faucets and sit on the sidelines watching happily.

New friends arrive in shock, excited with our invention. It is a good day for the water team. Now, we can multitask and it only requires one person. Unfortunately the jugs don’t lose any weight in the process, and by the last day our arms are exhausted. I reflect, though, that we are lucky. We only do the tedious task for a short time and then can be stimulated by another activity. Many don’t have this luxury of variety.