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At least 1.8 million children under five years old die every year from water-related diseases, or one every 20 seconds. United Nations Environment Program, World Water Day, March 22, 2010

Near a small finger creek along the western edge of Randolph County, a trail winds up and down around loblolly pines, oaks and maples. Follow this trail through the rural Alabama forest, and you will find a microcosm of the Developing World. Arriving at Servants in Faith and Technology’s (SIFAT) Global Village, you encounter recreations of homes from diverse cultures. A Bolivian hut like those in the Andes is circular, made of chunky stacked stones to keep in heat. The airy Liberian domicile, made of bamboo, is also round. The Liberian culture fosters a belief that evil spirits live in corners. Other dwellings are from Ecuador, Guatemala, the Philippines, Nepal and Uganda. SIFAT, a nonprofit Christian organization, created the village to help children and adults experience other cultures. It is only one facet of the organization’s far-reaching vision. A working laboratory, SIFAT programs promote sustainable health, education and relief work internationally. SIFAT graduates go into underdeveloped regions and empower local residents, providing leadership in long-term solutions.

SIFAT’s origin

Why Lineville, Alabama?

Ken and Sarah Corson began SIFAT 31 years ago after they lived for 15 years in very poor areas of Latin America, from the Bolivian jungles to Costa Rica’s urban slums. “When I was 12 years old,” their daughter Kathy Bryson says, “we were living in a Bolivian village in a bamboo hut with a dirt floor. Everyone, including us, had to bathe, wash clothes and drink from the river. But if we didn’t boil the water, we got sick.” Dehydration caused by simple diarrhea results from drinking unclean water. “Diarrhea is one of the top two killers of children globally. I saw this. I saw so many children under the age of five buried because of drinking unclean water. So I grew up wanting to make a difference.” With degrees in both public health and Hispanic studies, she is SIFAT’s international training director. “My parents felt led to come back and start this training center to help people understand different ways to purify water, as well as to learn other technologies to supply basic needs,” Kathy adds.

Kathy’s brother, Tom, SIFAT’s executive director, picks up the story as he ambles across a wood-slat swinging bridge spanning the creek. Since their mother was from Wedowee, he says, the family returned there and established SIFAT in 1979 at the Wedowee United Methodist Church. In 1982 the organization had the opportunity to purchase a tract of land. “We especially liked it because Mad Indian Creek, descending from Mt. Cheaha, slashes an ‘S’ through it,” says Sarah, “creating two peninsulas.” Tom laughs and adds, “The owner was an avowed atheist.” Ironically, the old codger liked the Corsons so much that he sold his 176 acres to SIFAT at far below market price. In addition to the Global Village, the complex includes an Indian Village, all approved by the Alabama Department of Education for field trips.

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink ” Rime of the Ancient Mariner Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Tom Corson in Ecuador with some of the children for whom SIFAT has provided Day Care. The Children were left alone on the streets (or locked in their little rooms) while their parents worked. SIFAT provides day care and food for 1200 very poor children in the slums of Quito, Ecuador. Summer 2010 Longleaf Style 27

Longlead Summer 2010  
Longlead Summer 2010  

The Summer 2010 issue of Longleaf