“…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.” John 4:14
by Morgan Leary
Take a moment to think about how many times a day you turn on a water faucet: when you wake up for your morning shower, getting a glass of water to drink, washing dishes, brushing your teeth… the list goes on. Now imagine that every time you went to turn that knob, you weren’t sure if water would even flow. How would that impact your day-to-day life?
Imagine a different scenario: the water is flowing but you know that if you drink it, you risk falling ill for a few days. You would miss work, therefore losing a portion of the income that you support your family with. If your children get sick, they will miss school.
These are the daily realities that many of our brothers and sisters in Honduras and Nicaragua face. A few years ago, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church from Dunedin, FL saw firsthand the poor-quality water individuals were drinking in El Mico, their Honduran community partner. St. Andrews had received a donation of five Sawyer water filters to use for their mission trip and decided that the filters needed to be installed in the El Mico school and churches for the community to use. When we learned about the filters that St. Andrews installed, we wanted to see if this was something that HOI could replicate in other communities across the Agalta Valley and assess the potential health benefit. Dr. German Jiménez, HOI’s general practitioner, confirmed that 25% of the children that he was treating in the HOI clinics from month to month were sick because of water related illnesses. Through the work of St. Andrews, we knew that this was an issue that God was leading us to address on a large scale. This is why in 2016 HOI launched the water filtration program and has set a goal to have 2,000 in-home water filters installed in communities over the next three years.
Stengthening Communities: The Benefits
El Encinal, one of the pilot villages for the HOI water program, received water filters from St. Andrews in 2014. From interviews conducted in November of 2015 with the heads-of-households we learned that the health impacts of the filters have been tremendous. The women told us they no longer had stomach pains and diarrhea, their children had missed fewer school days, and their husbands had missed less work days since drinking the filtered water. From their encouraging testimonies, we also learned the positive economic benefit of the filters. Families who were financially able to purchase their own bottled water or go to the clinic when ill from contaminated water were saving money from not having those expenses. The families that had no option but to drink contaminated water were also reaping economic benefits. Many women said that their family’s breadwinner was able to work more days per month thus bringing in more income for the family.
The Greater Need
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), through HOI’s partnership with SERA Global Health, is conducting water quality tests, gathering quantitative data from locals, and analyzing the effectiveness of the water filters. Our hope is that all of this data and information will be published as a journal article in the coming year to serve as a resource for other organizations working to improve/provide potable water across the globe.
Initial testing from a sample set of communities that HOI works with in the Agalta Valley has shown that 100% of the homes tested have some traces of E. Coli in their water. The World Health Organization lists 0% as the acceptable level of E. Coli in drinking water. The two brands of water filters HOI is installing, Sawyer and Uzima filters, both filter out 100% of E. Coli that could be, or in fact is, present in water. The filters also filter out sediment and other microbes.
How It Works
A complete water filter system includes the filter, which with proper cleaning is expected to last up to 6 years, two 5-gallon buckets with lids, and a stand which houses the whole set up. Community members that cannot afford to pay the full cost of the water filters pay 10% of the project costs and the rest is funded through partnering churches and individuals. The stands for the filters systems are prepared by a local woodworker HOI has contracted and are later assembled and painted by mission teams and community members who will receive the filters. Mission teams also provide water education to the children in the community during their VBS programming. In the five communities that have received filters thus far in 2016, we have been encouraged by the excitement of the communities to receive the water filters and work alongside mission teams during the installation process.
Your Partnership Makes a Difference
HOI’s water program received an incredible gift from North Point Community Church’s “Be Rich Campaign” to help finance the initial needs and infrastructure of the program. Through their partnership, we have been able to purchase a van and trailer to transport teams and supplies, a water testing system, and hire a local health promoter named Jorge Mayen. Jorge works full-time on the water initiative, helping to install filters and instruct villages in water education. He helps test the water in the communities and holds water education seminars to teach locals about how and when to wash their hands, the importance of clean water and when to use it, microbes, how to properly store water, and how to avoid water contamination. We have seen this education take root throughout our pilot villages. The villagers in El Encinal said that they will bottle their filtered water and take it with them when they leave their house so that they will have clean water to drink throughout the day.
Jorge, HOI’s new local health promoter, is demonstrating how to back wash a filter to keep them clean.
By the end of 2016, 12 mission teams that travel with HOI will have impacted 16 communities through their partnership and commitment to the water program. Some teams will be helping to install the water filters in the communities they work with during their mission trip and others are providing the funding for the filters to be installed by HOI staff. Please know that every single individual that is connected to HOI can have an impact simply by praying for the people of Honduras and Nicaragua. And may I ask that you specifically pray for our water program as we move forward with this initiative.
If your church would be interested in partnering with HOI’s water program, please contact me for further details. I would love to connect with you!! For individuals looking to get involved, HOI has launched the Family Health Partners program which, for $39 a month, provides clean water and health and dental care for a family. You can learn more and sign up to be a Family Health Partner here.
Missions Coordinator/Water Projects Coordinator