Friday, June 14, 2013

Water Wars

Most people have been asking me how the computer classes are going, and I say "Oh yeah... I handed that off to a real Haitian teacher in. Uhm. February."

So what I been doing, then?

Working in a water office. I work in an office with two women who make and sell a water purification solution. You just dump in some salt,
Anne Rose filtering out the mixture

            chopped-up indigenous cactus-y looking plants,
It's called "racket"
a few other ingredients, and then run chlorine through it for 4 hours.

Saint Anise turning on the "chlorine stick"

Take a cap-full of this for every 5 gallons of water, wait 30 minutes, and bam! People have clean water. We have posts in dozens of other communities and the program, called Gadyen Dlo or Guardian Water, serves thousands of families.
We sell the solution by the bottle or by the gallon, along with buckets and faucets.
An outside post picking up their solutions and buckets to resell in their community
Anne Rose at another Gadyen Dlo office
Sounds peachy, right?

It is. Especially when I get to travel out to the communities and meet those who use the solution for their families. I've been trying to incorporate other programs like health trainings, courtyard gardens, and women's rights discussions into the existing community structures.
Directing a formation
Meeting with the heads of each community post
And then it isn't because our office is not sustainable. We lose a significant amount of money each month and make up the difference with donations.

Why? Because when cholera hit Haiti (you can thank the UN for that, too) lots of NGOs started handing out free purification aquatabs (little chlorine-packed nuggets) and the first reaction is, "Yay, people have free clean water and won't die of cholera!"
You don't need to know Kreyol to understand how to prevent cholera!
But then the people who had been buying our solution (for 10gds a bottle. That's about 25 cents) from the office now had piles of the free aquatabs and our demand went down. Way down. What's happening now? Our office is on the verge of closing and everyone's supply of free aquatabs are quickly dwindling. So in the end it leaves nobody with clean water.
"We sell 'Guardian Water' - Clean Water for Haitian Familieis - here!"
Doing the monthly report
Right, so that's what I do! I go to the office most days (and learn sign language from Anne Rose who is hearing-impaired), help with the end-of-the-month reports, fill up people's bottles with our solution, and most importantly: try to find ways to keep our office open and increase our demand.

More recently we've had some interesting office politics, which are larger than you would think possible for an office of 2 women and 1 blan volunteer. Water politics are happening on a much larger scale -  I was just reading this article about the crazy situation between Ethiopia and Egypt that is All about water.

Our plan of action is to see if a larger water NGO with many more resources would like to absorb our office. So let's hope that despite the challenges of record-keeping, broken equipment, hurtful competition, and the water cooler gossip (see what I did there?) we can make sure people continue to have access to clean water.

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