A month ago I traveled to Honduras to capture the stories of various communities. We visited five projects: spending time with the staff, meeting people, and staying the night in one of the rural communities. The joy and gratitude of the people were inspirational as they showed a lot of pride in their water projects and shared the impact in their families’ lives.

Safe Water Solution

A Safe Water Operator with her community’s safe water solution

Many communities in Honduras have taps to their homes, faucets where they can get water. But when you follow the faucet to its source, the water comes straight from the river, never going through any kind of treatment. While often clear, it’s very contaminated. Continue Reading…

Water Missions International started with invention. When our founders, George and Molly Greene, couldn’t find an affordable water treatment system to send to Honduras to help with disaster response efforts following Hurricane Mitch, they built their own. Ever since, we’ve focused on building our own solutions to solve the global water crisis.

Our experience has taught us that not every solution works for all problems. The type of water treatment that bests suits a community in Honduras probably won’t be identical to what works best in Indonesia or Uganda. For this reason, we customize each project.

Safe Water Collection

A child collects safe water from a chlorinator

A Water Missions International team will go into a community and perform an assessment. Our engineers look at the community’s water needs, geography, and economy, among other things. They’ll design a solution to the community’s lack of safe water. If there isn’t a viable water source in the community, such as a river or lake, our team will work with the community to drill boreholes to serve as the main water source. If such a source already exists, our team will perform tests to determine what level of filtration and treatment will be required.

Depending on the water source, our engineers will install a treatment system. If the water just needs to be treated, but not filtered for dirt or other contaminants, they might install a chlorinator to purify the water with chlorine. If the water needs more than just chlorine to make it safe and potable, they might install our Living Water™ Treatment System, which filters and then chemical disinfects water. Even the power source for the system is customizable—either solar or diesel fuel—depending on what best suits the community.

Tapstand

Community members can collect safe water from tapstands such as this one outside of the enclosure housing this community’s treatment system.

A safe water solution doesn’t end with making the water safe to drink. A community isn’t going to be transformed by safe water if they still have to spend most of the day walking to get it, so part of the solution involves making the water accessible. Depending on the geography and layout of the community, our engineers might have the water piped from the treatment system to tapstands around the community, or they may build an enclosure in a centralized location where the system operator can distribute water.

The possibilities are endless based on each community’s needs. Our goal is to find the best way to make safe water easily available. We work closely with each community to make sure all needs are being met. Every person and community is unique, so their safe water solution should be too.

Since the outbreak of cholera in 2010, nearly everyone you speak to in Haiti knows someone who has contracted the deadly illness. At the Haiti Evangelical Christian Mission church, they listed out the names when asked. “Mrs. Elien and her son both were in hospital with cholera,” the pastor began. “Rosemarie and her two sons had cholera. Ms. Maude’s father died in the hospital with cholera…”

The list went on and on. “We still have cholera in the community and if we count only the people we know, at least 25 have died from this terrible disease,” said Pastor Saint-Clair Destine. “We live with a constant fear of what may happen to us and our children and elderly because we do not have good water to use for our needs.”

Collecting Unsafe Water

Children used to collect unsafe water from handpumps like this one near the church.

When Pastor Destine first reached out to Water Missions International asking for help for his community, this fear of cholera permeated the remote community. The local clinic was powerless to help those sick without safe water to give patients to drink, and the community didn’t fully understand the threat of cholera that hung over them.

“The population here does not know how the cholera is spread and we have very little education about the prevention of such diseases,” the pastor admitted. Despite this ignorance, he saw a way towards a better life. “I want to ask you to do your best to help me educate my people about all the waterborne diseases and to have clean water they can trust for their needs,” he told us. “The population looks to me to help them and find the answer for their fears, and I try my best to do this because the Lord teaches me what I must do as the spiritual leader for them.”

Water Missions International responded to Pastor Destine’s request for help. When our team first approached the community about the potential of a safe water project, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Water Missions International engineers quickly got to work designing a customized safe water solution for the community’s water needs.

Proper Handwashing

While the safe water solution was constructed, WMI staff lead workshops where they taught proper handwashing techniques and other health and hygiene best practices.

Thanks to Pastor Destine, our team knew that for the project to be a true success they needed to educate the community on how unsafe water can spread diseases like cholera. All throughout the construction phase of the project, our staff held workshops where they instructed community members on the best health and hygiene practices as well as explaining how diseases like cholera spread.

At the safe water solution commissioning celebration, Pastor Destine saw the hope he had for his community become a reality. His friends and neighbors finally understood what caused cholera, and the importance of good health and hygiene habits. When he looked out over the church yard, people were no longer getting unsafe water from the ground pump. Instead, his community was queued up at the new tapstand, excitedly waiting to taste safe water for the first time.

Safe Water Stand

Now children in Pastor Destine’s community can collect safe water.

It’s been a year since the community of Brisas del Monga, Honduras celebrated the commissioning of their safe water solution, which has given safe water access to roughly 500 people. Community members are still celebrating the gift of safe water and the impact it has had on their community.

Safe water in Honduras

Community members can pick up safe water to meet all their daily water needs from a central distribution point.

“Many people are happy in our community because now we’re drinking safe water,” a community member, Emilio, said. He explained how now, with safe water access, the people of Brisas del Monga are more aware of the dangers of unsafe water. “Now we don’t drink raw water from the faucet because only water from the system is safe water.” The community of Brisas del Monga trusts the water from their safe water solution, especially after they received outside assurance that it was free of disease. “The health department came and did a water sample test,” Emilio recalled. “The result was 100% safe water.”

The community saw for themselves the difference in the water. The health of community members has changed drastically. Now water-related diseases have become a thing of the past. The community’s health has, in the words of one member, “become excellent.”

Collecting safe water

Safe water has changed the health of this community.

Another community member, Dilcia, sees the safe water as the greatest gift they have ever received. “Our community is really poor, but now we’re drinking safe water,” she happily told our staff. “Thank you for this great project. I hope that people from different places can get help like us!”

The impact of safe water has been so great that word of its benefits have spread to others nearby. “People come from far places to get safe water,” the system operator told us proudly, “because they know this water is good and we are very happy for it.”

It’s been several years since Water Missions International and the Pentair Foundation first joined forces to transform the lives of the people of Colon, Honduras, and we’re proud to continue this life saving work today in communities like Brisas del Monga. Safe water has the potential to forever change a community, eliminating water-related diseases.

Imagine being sick and going to a hospital to get better, only to contract water-related illness from a glass of water that your nurse hands you to take with your medication. A situation like this is unthinkable in the USA. Hospitals are a place of healing, not the place where you could get worse. But for the patients and staff of Kapiri Mission Hospital, this was their risky reality.

“The water situation used to be pathetic,” Dr. Sister Kanguade, the director of the hospital, lamented. “One time Health Surveillance Assistants took some water samples from our hospital taps to test at a government laboratory. The water tests showed bacteria. We doubted the results, because we have been drinking the same water for years but lived.”

Safe water tapstand

Now the staff’s family member can collect safe water from tapstands at the hospital.

A group of Rotarians had been working with the hospital, donating desperately needed wheel chairs. While visiting the hospital, the Rotarians immediately realized the dire water situation Kapiri Mission Hospital faced and reached out to Water Missions International’s office in Malawi.

A WMI team traveled from their nearby office and tested the water, discovering the same bacteria as the government lab. They explained their test results to the hospital staff and pointed to the many patient records with cases of diarrhea to illustrate how the water was impacting their patients’ health. Eager for clean, safe water, the hospital asked WMI and Rotary International for help.

WMI studied the hospital’s needs and infrastructure in order to customize a safe water solution for the hospital’s staff and patients, while Rotary International worked to procure funding for the project. With funds in place, WMI staff installed two chlorination systems that treated the local well water, rendering it safe for consumption.

Safe Water Operator

Safe water system operator Simon stands next to the hospital’s chlorination system.

Now safe water flows in Kapiri Mission Hospital, providing doctors with safe water for surgical operations and nurses confidence in the water that they give their patients to drink.

“Ever since Water Missions International helped us with the safe water provision, cases of water related illnesses have decreased at the hospital. We used to have many patients suffering from diarrheal diseases before we were introduced to chlorinated water, but with the availability of safe water we no longer experience all these illnesses,” explained an overjoyed staff member Simon. “We are all very happy with the safe water as it is improving our health and well-being at the hospital. Now we can look forward to healthy lives.”

Water Missions 101

Anna Nodtvedt —  July 3, 2014 — 1 Comment

A lot has happened over the last year at Water Missions International, especially on this blog. We wanted to take the time to round up a few posts for you. These posts break down different facets of who we are and what we do.

1. Our Most Frequently Asked Question: “So do you guys do wells?”

More often than not, the first question people ask when we tell them about our work has something to do with wells. In fact, it seems there is a widely held assumption that a protected well fit with a sturdy hand pump is the most effective (or at least the most feasible) water supply solution for rural communities around the world. This is often the concept we see advertised or expressed by aid agencies. Developing world? No water? They need a well… Click here to read more

2. How Community Water Partnerships Work

What I am about to share might surprise you, so please, continue reading for my explanation. We at Water Missions International are benefiting greatly from the people who live in the communities where we have installed water systems and latrines. From them, we have learned how to do our jobs better. Click here to read more

3. WMI Explained: In-country Programs

You’ve heard us talk about Water Missions International (WMI) in-country programs and staff members around the world, but what does that mean? Let us explain. Click here to read more

4. Disaster Response 101

When a disaster strikes, aid organizations around the world quickly mobilize to bring supplies and help with recovery efforts. However, these actions are rarely as simple as they might seem. Click here to read more

5. Haiti: Transitioning Disaster Recovery to Community Building

After the devastating earthquake of 2010, Haiti struggled to rebuild. Crumbled houses and institutions led people to flock to open spaces to set up camp. Such overcrowded areas lack adequate sanitation and water systems, presenting an enormous threat for water-related illnesses to rapidly spread. Cholera, a deadly disease spread primarily through drinking water, did just this. Dauphine, a community located along the shores of the river Artibonite, was at the epicenter of the outbreak. Click here to read more

6. How To Build A Healthy Latrine

We’ve shared about what goes into our community-based projects and disaster response approach, so in honor of the beginning of this newest project we thought we would to break down how we build sustainable sanitation. Click here to read more

7. Transforming the Business of Water: The TradeWater Program

You’d be hard-pressed to find an engineered system that wasn’t designed, at least in some aspect, to protect against human misuse. It doesn’t matter how the structure/device/material/process is supposed to work; if it isn’t “fool proof” people will find a “creative” use for it – that is, if they don’t break it first. It’s for this reason that engineers are often compelled to venture outside of their comfort zones and think like sociologists and psychologists in order to better understand the customers for whom they are designing. When it comes to the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) sector, the technical minds have actually had to pitch a figurative tent and take up permanent residence outside of that comfort zone…Click here to read more

8. The Importance of Hygiene

Water Missions International has seen first hand the difference safe water access can make, but we’ve come to understand that this provision is only the first step to a healthier life. Click here to read more

9. eMpower = Solar Energy Charging Mobile Phones

Sustainability is not a word that we take lightly. At Water Missions International, we’re committed to it. We also think that the best solutions for providing sustainable access to safe water are yet to come. This is why we are committed to never settling for a one-size-fits-all solution, and why we’re committed to developing new ideas in order to better meet the needs of communities without access to safe water. Click here to read more

10. Back to School: Safe Water and Its Role in Education

In the United States, parents rarely have to worry about whether a child’s basic needs will be met during the school day. They have the luxury of knowing that their child will spend the day learning everything from the ABCs to Shakespeare’s sonnets, and the facilities can provide them with food, water, and adequate sanitation. Click here to read more

Have any questions about these posts or anything else? Let us know in the comments below!

This afternoon Water Missions International was privileged to host Texas Governor Rick Perry for a roundtable discussion with local Charleston, S.C. non-profit leaders.

“We are honored that Gov. Perry will be taking a tour of WMI headquarters to learn more about our work toward addressing the global water crisis, ” said Water Missions International CEO and Co-Founder, George C. Greene III yesterday when announcing the event. “WMI, one of the world’s leading resources for safe water and sanitation solutions, is grateful for the opportunity to share our approach with leaders such as Gov. Perry.”

Perry & Greene

Gov. Perry at Water Missions International’s headquarters with founder George Greene III

During his time at WMI headquarters, Gov. Perry had the opportunity to tour the facility and meet with staff and volunteers. He listened intently as founders George and Molly Greene explained the how they founded their organization and how they provide those in need with safe water access.

After meeting the volunteers working in the production facility, Gov. Perry got to sit down with leaders from area nonprofits to discuss issues of importance to the group, such as the protection of tax incentives for charitable giving and the government’s role in combating poverty.

Gov Perry Shaking Hands

Gov. Perry took the time to tour our production facility and meet with our hardworking volunteers.

“This is a great opportunity for Gov. Perry to see first-hand what is possible when a community and the local government are able to invest in the success of an area non-profit,” Greene stated. “Because of the strong support WMI has received over the years, we can now combine contributions from local and civic organizations, individuals, and corporate partners, with funds from international relief agencies, such as UNICEF, to have a greater, and ultimately a more sustainable impact on communities world-wide.”On behalf of all the local nonprofits who participated in the roundtable, we’d like to thank Gov. Perry for taking the time to come out to WMI’s headquarters and speaking with us.

It’s been seven months since Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines and Water Missions International launched disaster response efforts to bring safe water to those who lost everything in the powerful storm. Earlier this year, we shared a thank you letter from Betsy, whose community received a Living Water™ Treatment System.

“Water Missions International came and brought the most important/biggest gift we’ve received, ever,” Betsy wrote. “It was by then that, little by little, people came to understand that there is always this divine intervention.”

Betsy

Betsy, and the rest of her community, were overjoyed to receive a safe water access after Typhoon Haiyan.

A few days ago we heard back from Betsy with an update on how her community of 5,000 people is doing. She shared that her community is recovering well, and that they’re building an enclosure to protect what was meant to be a temporary solution to their problem.

“Our building is just a small one, just enough to protect the system from the sun and dirt,” she wrote us. “This is courtesy of our governor, who was so overwhelmed by this gift.”

Betsy’s community, like so many others, hopes to keep their disaster response systems running while they continue to rebuild their lives, but these systems aren’t always adequate for their long-term needs. Although the storm has passed in the Philippines, we want to continue to work with communities like Betsy’s and help make safe water access a permanent reality rather than a temporary solution.

Disaster Response Typhoon Haiyan

Water Missions International is committed to staying and helping with recovery efforts as long as we’re needed.

In Haiti, following disaster response efforts for the 2010 earthquake, Water Missions International has been working to transition disaster response systems into permanent installations—projects that run on solar power with the capability of meeting greater water needs. This is our hope for every crisis we responded to, from cholera outbreaks to natural disasters. We want to work to meet a community’s need for safe water permanently, and transform their lives forever.

 

Everyone, no matter their situation or circumstance, has the power to make a difference in another person’s life. Water Missions International is honored to have a group of supporters, called Thirst Quenchers, who give every month to help transform the lives of others with the gift of safe water.

As part of our Thirst Quencher program, these passionate individuals make a monthly donation to support our work. Their regular giving ensures a steady flow of safe water for those who thirst.

As a benefit, our Thirst Quenchers get the inside scoop on what’s happening here at Water Missions International. In addition to a special quarterly e-newsletter, they get access to breaking news, first look at new videos, and a yearly photo calendar.

Sign up today to join our Thirst Quencher program by clicking here. You can help us transform lives around the world with your monthly gift. Your monthly gift is their daily celebration!

UPDATE: 6/19/2014

Safe water now flows in Mulwanda. Our staff responded to requests for emergency aid and installed a Living Water Treatment System™. To hear more about the situation in Mulwanda, watch this special message from Michael, the Director of our Uganda country program.

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