This article was contributed by the Clean Water Corps, a veteran effort to provide clean water to disaster areas around the globe. Learn more about the CWC here.
For the past 12 years, I have worked in some of the most complex environments on the planet. From urban combat in Iraq and village stability operations in the mountains of Afghanistan to countering violent extremism and disaster response in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The linchpin to my successes in each of these environments is the selection of responsive, dedicated, and intelligent local partners. During the ongoing Waves For Water disaster response in Peru, Gabriel Villaran has been paramount to the effective and timely implementation of clean water projects that are providing relief to communities affected by flooding and mudslides. In my 12 years of operating in complex environments, I am proud to say that Gabriel has been one of the most incredible local partners with whom I have had the honor to work.
Gabriel Villaran is a professional big wave surfer. From the onset of the floods in Peru, Gabriel reached out to Waves For Water to offer his assistance in the response. When I first spoke with Gabriel, I knew that he was going to be a tremendous help to the effort. Having never worked with our organization before, Gabriel proved to be a natural, providing essential information from the ground and, most importantly, understanding what needed to happen during this complex and horrific situation.
Just two months prior to our first meeting, while competing at Pipeline, Gabriel suffered a brutal compound fracture of his tibia. Not two months out of a surgery where doctors inserted a metal rod through the center of his bone, counter to his doctor’s orders, Gabriel was jumping in off-road vehicles and on military flights to reach ground zero of an ongoing natural disaster. Each day in which I worked with Gabriel, I witnessed him put his own recovery on hold and selflessly give everything he has to this response.
Before the Clean Water Corps response team had arrived in Peru, Gabriel had coordinated with a Toyota off-road driving club and one of our Courier program members, Roxanne Genier, to implement a 21-filter response (providing relief to an estimated 2,000 people) in two isolated areas in serious need. Through that implementation, he was able to connect with different Peruvian government ministries and line up support for a large-scale response. It was simply incredible, and it wasn’t until I had landed and met with Gabriel that I realized how incredible it truly was.
He continues to step up in incredible ways to help his country and fellow Peruvians. He is a natural leader and an inspiration to us all. With Gabriel leading our local team, and much work to do still, I know that we will continue to reach the people who so desperately need clean water.
To support Gabriel and the Waves For Water response to ongoing flooding in Peru, please donate here.