Thursday, July 19, 2012

Clean water in the schools

During our February Medical Mission in San José Villanueva, Padre Mario Adin asked us to consider giving Sawyer water filters to each of the public and private schools in Villanueva.  We were delighted to say yes to his request, and today I went to Villanueva with Clelia Estrada of the Caritas office in the Archdiocese of San Salvador and Darren Streff, Maryknoll Lay Missioner to make good on our word.

We met with representatives from the schools and with Health Inspector Miguel Angel Cruz, who'll be doing follow-up to make sure the filters are being properly used and cleaned.  They were a great and very attentive group, watching carefully as Licendiado Cruz demonstrated how to drill a hole in the bucket for the filter connection:
It's hard work!  When I set up the water filter at our house, I was determined to manage the whole process myself, just to know that even a 70-year-old woman could put the filter and bucket together.  I did manage it - though much more slowly than Licenciado Cruz - at the cost of a sizable blister on my thumb. 

Several people wanted to know if it was possible to buy a water filter in El Salvador.  Not yet, I had to say, though I do hope that Sawyer Products will realize that they have a great untapped market in Central America.  Where did I find them in the U.S., and did people in the U.S. use them?  That question rocked me back on my heels for a moment, as I thought about the health gulf between us.  In the United States, filtering your water isn't necessary, though plenty of people do it.  The only place I've seen Sawyer filters in the U.S. is in sports stores, which feature the smaller filters hikers use.  The gulf is the difference between a country where water is purified and tested regularly, held to the highest standards of sanitation and a country where water is almost always contaminated by parasites, bacteria, amoebae, you name it.  Our few water filters only begin to touch the edges of this huge issue of justice.

Still, it's great to know that the schoolchildren of San José Villanueva will have clean water to drink! 

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