By: Angelica Blomgren
As several of you know, I recently took a trip to Honduras with my Rotary club to team up with Pure Water for the World to install water filters for homes in communities located in the Trojes mountain region. I wanted to share that experience with all of you. It was one of the most humbling and amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Pure Water for the World (PWW) installs simple biosand water filters in each home. This provides clean water access to families. If any of you have been to a 3rd world country, then you know what conditions are like. The water is not safe to drink, yet for many people, this is the only water they can access. So much disease is caused by drinking unclean water. Children, especially, have so many infections and gastric diseases. The PWW team is dedicated to working in the Trojes region until they have reached every community with clean water. Since they started this project in 2001, the cases of disease have dropped 80%. That is huge!
There were a few things we needed to keep in mind on our trip. We could not use the water from the sink to brush our teeth. We used water bottles for that. It’s easy to forget because the water doesn’t come out of the faucet looking dirty. We all had extra toothbrushes on hand for that one time you may forget and run your toothbrush under the faucet. When taking showers, we needed to make sure we kept our eyes and mouth closed to avoid getting water in them. There was no flushing toilet paper down any toilet regardless of your bathroom business because their systems cannot handle it. You throw your toilet paper into a wastebasket that was emptied daily.
When we landed in Tegucigalpa, we took a bus to a town a couple hours away called Danli. That was our halfway point to Trojes. We stayed there the first night. The next morning we loaded up on the bus again and headed for another couple hours to Trojes. Most of the ride was on a dirt road through the mountains. We made it to our hotel in Trojes and immediately broke out into 5-6 teams to head out into the mountains. We rode in the back of pickup trucks and held on for dear life. We would ride 1-2 hours to get to some of these communities that are hidden in the mountains. There were moments I’d look over the edge of the truck and see nothing but a big drop down the mountain. We had amazing drivers that knew what they were doing but the ride was far from anything comfortable. You get to know each other very well, as at times we had to hang on to each other to keep from having anyone bounce out. They said they’ve never had anyone fall out of one of their trucks but there were moments I thought I may be the first one. We rode with bandanas covering our faces to keep from breathing in all the dirt and dust. We were so high up in the mountains, we were level with clouds at some points. Once we got to where we were going, there would typically be a hike to the homes where we were installing these filters. Some groups got lucky and didn’t have to hike as much and others had quite the hike to get from house to house.
These families were so happy to see us because they knew we were there to help them have a better quality of life. Their homes are little huts made of clay/dirt. They just had dirt floors. Every home I visited, the families kept their dirt floors swept. It was amazing to see that they would take the time to sweep their dirt floors, but it was their home, and that is all they know. The filter installation was a pretty simple process as a whole. The trick was getting the water flow just right. Once we went through the steps of getting the filter set up, we would time the water flow. If it wasn’t right, we would start the process all over again. This happened until the water flow was just right. After the filter is all set up and water flow is good to go, one of the PWW staff would explain everything to the family on how the filter works and what they need to do to maintain it. We hung a poster that explained the process and included pictures for those who are unable to read.
We spent a couple days installing water filters and then the 3rd day we worked on a latrine at a school. The children at the school were so amazing. They sang to our team. We then handed out school supplies and candy for the kids. They were so excited to have us there and so thankful! Kids go to school from kindergarten through sixth grade only. There is no higher education. They are all in one classroom regardless of their grade level. Some of these kids have to walk 1-2 hours to get to school from their home. After meeting the children and teacher, we started working on the latrine. We spent most of the day doing hard labor but I did get to experience playing soccer with the kids. At one point, I looked up and saw one of my team members out in the field playing soccer with the kids. I got so excited, I ran over to take pictures and video tape them. While I was there, the kids asked me if I could play because they were one player short and needed another player. I handed the GoPro to a local and asked him to keep recording as I played with the children. These kids are amazing! They had so much fun with us and when our team scored, they were all giving me high fives and had the biggest smiles on their little faces. It was so rewarding just to see that. We then went back to work, finished, and headed out.
The following day was inoculation day. This consisted of the team going to a school where families dressed in their Sunday best to come to the location to get their deworming pills and hygiene kits. The families get educated about good hygiene and then take their pills in this little schoolhouse. Once done, they went outside and we had a face painting station and nail painting station for the kids. I was in charge of the face painting which was so much fun to do with these kids. They loved it!
Thursday afternoon we headed out after the inoculation and started our road trip back to Danli. We stayed at Danli Thursday night and Friday headed to Tegucigalpa. We had our last dinner together as a group Friday night in Tegucigalpa and we shared our stories from the week. It was so touching to hear everyone’s personal experience from this trip. Saturday morning we headed to the airport and flew back to the states.