Clean water for small communities by Naomi Cohen
When Meike asked my husband Harvey and me to make a donation to GROW Haiti to help fund construction of a water system in Soufriere, it was a gratifying request and a reminder of the past. Several years ago, our friend, Fred Stottlemyer, who works for the International Rural Water Association helping to design and install water systems in small towns and cities in Honduras, asked us to help fund construction of a small water system in Calera in southwestern Honduras. Calera is located in the bottom of a river valley, more than a 2 hour hike from the nearest town. Calera’s water came from the river itself and every spring during high water there were outbreaks of cholera. IRWA proposed to help the residents install a small filtration and treatment system so the community would have unpolluted drinking water all year round. Fred and other volunteers helped residents of Calera carry all the construction materials on the steep hike down to the river. Peace Corps volunteers helped with the design and construction of the system which was mostly done by local workers. The project was completed within a couple of weeks and the materials cost for the complete system was less than $ 2,000. Just as in Soufriere, the people of Calera and the volunteers celebrated completion of the project by drinking glasses of clear, pure, unpolluted water. When the river rose later that spring, there were no cases of cholera in Calera. Isolated villages like Calera, Honduras and Soufriere, Haiti, whether located deep in a river valley or up in the mountains and without municipal infrastructure, need and deserve clean drinking water just as larger towns and cities do. The cost of providing materials and help for locally built, safe drinking water systems is so modest and the health benefits so great, that these projects represent the most valuable work that international projects like GROW Haiti and IRWA can accomplish. This is truly the best use of our funds and time.