Water. We turn on the tap and out it pours – clean, safe and ready to use. But that’s not the case in Haiti – at least not for everyone.
According to Water.org, 40 percent of Haitians lack access to clean water. Dirty water stems from a lack of functioning water treatment facilities, increased soil erosion and deforestation – and dirty water spreads disease. But help is on the way.
From February 18-25, Timberland High students John Joseph, Cailey Patterson and Marcus Quinn will travel from the comfort of St. Charles County to remote villages in Haiti with one purpose – to install cheap, sturdy water filters in Haitian homes.
The teens’ efforts are in conjunction with Poured-Out, an organization that has been doing water purification work since 2010. But their commitment does not come cheap. Each student will need to put up $1,600 to cover trip costs and airfare, a sum they have raised largely on their own by saving parts of paychecks and holding fundraisers.
“It’s been challenging,” Quinn said.[To help with these students’ efforts, email firstname.lastname@example.org]
Joseph added that the trip will be worth their efforts.
“My whole family is from Haiti,” Joseph said. “I haven’t been there since I was little, so it will be good to go back and help the community out.”
He joked that a parental threat from his childhood is actually coming true.
“When I was growing up, a lot of time when I would get in trouble my mom would be like, ‘I’m going to send you to Haiti,’” Joseph said.
Now the Creole-speaking 18-year-old is really heading back to the country he left when he was 1 year old.
Quinn, whose father is from Antigua, said he is looking forward to coming back from Haiti with a better understanding of the world.
“Seeing it from their perspective, from the eyes of different people is going to be life changing,” Quinn said.
A soccer player, he looks forward to playing some “football” with the kids in Haiti.
Patterson said she thinks seeing Haitian life will make her more grateful for what she has back home. A member of student government and the National Honor Society, Patterson said friends have asked her if she is going to be OK missing that much school.
“Heck yeah I am,” she said. “There are so many things that you can’t learn just sitting in a classroom. There are things that you can’t learn here that I want to experience.”
Patterson said she knew missionaries who had done work in Haiti, but that the country hasn’t been able to rebuild much since a catastrophic earthquake hit west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, on Jan. 12, 2010.
She and her fellow Poured-Out members will be installing 20 to 30 bio-filters, which are low-maintenance, non-electric products that use layers of sand to purify the water poured through them.
Made of either concrete or plastic, they stand a little over 3 feet tall. Water is poured in a hole at the top of the filter. As it trickles down, the water is purified in a variety of ways, through trapping some organisms in the sand, or by friendly bacteria living in the sand eating the pathogens in the water. According to the Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology, it takes about one hour to get 3-5 gallons of safe, filtered drinking water. Poured-Out co-founder Carlee Greene said most of the families they’ve assisted purify an average of 30 gallons per day.
“Each family has an average of 8-10 people living in the home, and if their neighbors, or the people closest to them, don’t have a bio-filter yet, they also share access (to it),” Greene said, adding that Poured-Out attempts to have at least one trip per month. “Every one filter is a huge deal, so 30 is a big celebration, that’s a huge area that we’ll be able to cover.”
Poured-Out also installs water towers that provide solar-powered water purification for a larger community, school or small town. Patterson, Quinn and Joseph also have raised enough money to pay for the installation of a tower at DuFort Elementary School in Haiti.
Asked about the trio’s contributions, Greene said:
“We’re excited to have some young people, because those are some of the most impactful trips. The earlier their eyes can be opened to these global issues, (the earlier) they can begin a global awareness that continues a passion for Haiti, for water or just opens the door for them to realize that it doesn’t matter how old you are, or what you are trained in or not trained in, you have the capacity to make a really big difference.”