Laxi Williams is a grassroots organizer of the most powerful kind. Understated, doggedly driven and patiently persuasive, this is a man who knows how to move mountains.

There are no physical mountains where Laxi works. On the contrary, the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua is largely flat, covered with expansive, nearly barren pine forests punctuated by remote villages nestling in lush acres of palm and bamboo. Instead, he is moving mountains of a different kind: the hearts and minds of community leaders all along the Miskitu Coast as a community liaison with WaterAid.

“I am from here, and I want my people to take a step forward,” explained Williams. “The water problem is one that affects everyone here in a very real way. We cannot be in the same situation that we were in 20 or 30 years ago.”

The work often requires a shift in local attitudes.

Water and sanitation is a big problem for indigenous people in the Autonomous Region of Nicaragua. Even so, there is often someone who isn’t convinced that the projects should go ahead, or who isn’t accustomed to WaterAid’s approach, which requires the community to be actively involved in driving decisions and doing the work themselves. “Getting leaders on board can be a big challenge,” admits Williams, “there are a lot of politics involved, and that affects things.”

Growing up in one of the communities he now proudly serves, Williams spends days and weeks at a time away from his family, making home visits and building the relationships needed to ensure that communities take full ownership over the water and sanitation projects that they undertake with WaterAid’s support.

Often, it comes down to convincing just one family to install a simple toilet in their home with WaterAid’s help before everyone in the community is convinced of its worth: the differences in health, dignity, smell and pests speak for themselves.

“When I was studying on the West coast of Nicaragua, I saw how different life was for people. That’s when I knew that I wanted my people to follow that same path—a path towards progress, development, technology. We live in a world that’s changing, and I want my people to experience the peace of mind that comes with development.”