Some residents of the northwestern Haitian town Bonneau soon will have clean water to drink thanks to efforts from the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill.
At the club’s meeting last week in the Richmond Hill City Center, President-elect Brice Ladson told Rotarians of progress with their international service project.
The club’s initiative will fund a solar-powered water treatment system for a special-needs orphanage and elder-care facility operated by the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.
“It would be attached to a well that would be piped into these facilities and would disinfect or treat microbiologically the water from the well,” Ladson said.
The system, known as the Sunspring, will be constructed in early 2012 and will provide clean water to around 250 people being cared for in the facilities, according to Tracey Vaughan with the NWHCM.
The Sunspring system is a portable, self-contained, solar-powered, microbiological water purifier capable of treating up to 5,000 gallons per day. The raw water source can come from wells, lakes, rivers, captured rainwater and others. The life expectancy of the system is around 10 years,
He said the facilities will not use all of the water, and any additional treated water will be provided to the residents in Bonneau.
But the Rotary Club isn’t just providing one Sunspring system to Haitian residents. Ladson said that later in 2012, the club will work toward providing a second Sunspring system so all 8,000 residents of Bonneau may have clean water to drink.
The club has partnered with Rotary District 6920 in Georgia and Rotary International to receive a matching grant to cover part of the project, which costs around $23,000. The Richmond Hill club’s out-of-pocket expense is about $3,800,
The club also is working with a host Rotary Club in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, a town about 30 miles from Bonneau, Ladson said, that will monitor the progress of the project.
“They are going to be the boots on the ground to make sure it gets done,” the president-elect said.
He added that the host club has no power at its meeting place, so the Richmond Hill club also will provide a generator for power at the host’s meeting place and a laptop so the work can be tracked.
Ladson said that cost is around $2,600, making the total cost of the project more than $26,000.
“By the time both systems are installed, we will have provided over $50,000 worth of clean water in Haiti,”
Ladson added that other Rotary Clubs throughout the country are following Richmond Hill’s lead and completing similar water projects for other NWHCM facilities.
Vaughan said she is thrilled that the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill is taking an initiative to provide clean water to residents in Haiti. The project will be life-changing for the community, she said.
“As Americans, we take for granted we can turn on the tap and get clean water,” Vaughan said.
She also noted that the water systems will help with the reduction of waterborne diseases, like cholera, malaria and hepatitis, which account for millions of deaths each year, she said.
As for the residents who’ll receive the clean water, Vaughan said it’s hard to predict how people will react until the project is complete.
“People don’t know they’re sick, and they don’t react to being well — they’re just drinking water and getting sick,” she said. “Once clean water comes, it’ll be so life-changing I don’t know how they’ll react until they’re not getting sick. It’ll be something we’ll have to watch.”
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Vaughan said, and has some of the worst water conditions in the world. The northwestern corner of Haiti is the poorest place in the country, she added.
Rotarian Dr. Amy Pearson worked as a volunteer at similar NWHCM facilities, including medical programs for emergency surgery after the Haiti earthquake in January 2010. Pearson’s desire to provide more help to Haitian residents inspired the Rotary Club to begin this project, Ladson said.
He added that as president-elect, he will be able to monitor the project and see that both Sunspring systems are installed.
The NWHCM has been providing help to residents in Haiti for more than 30 years. For more information, go to www.nwhcm.org.