By Kiana Estime, PWW Traveler
My name is Kiana Estime and I am a 19 –year- old sophomore at Holyoke, MA Community College.
Originally I did not expect to attend the 2016 Honduras trip, for I meant to hop aboard a plane to Port-au-Prince, Haiti before the trip was later cancelled. However, Pure Water for the World and its program manager, Jamin Gelder, ensured my spot on the next trip-to Honduras!
Honduras was beautiful and lively—proving to be one of the best experiences yet. Not only because of the food but also the level of interaction with local culture, the Spanish language and group activities that helped build social bonds. The PWW organization was one of the best because it gave me a newfound perspective on environmental awareness that did not end in an outcry of helplessness.
The organization successfully demonstrated the effects clean water can cause in a community…Such as: averting preventable diseases and illnesses including diarrhea, providing local families with a reliable drinking source, creating simple and effective latrine systems at each community’s school, and offering hygiene education and deworming treatments.
This movement for affordable and attainable water filters is extremely important. Especially in areas of the world who already struggle in finding access to clean water. A struggle that future generations across the globe will need to counteract sooner rather than later. Thus, with the local Honduran faculty and the community support in the numerous PWW locations, PWW is already spreading awareness in areas that live with the burden of contaminated water. Their work, I have learned, is something bigger than the organization itself- their work proves to families that they can take control of their water. That they can take control of their health and their family’s health.
After flying to Honduras, I first assumed I missed PWW! Moving through a large, overcrowded airport, I briefly wondered what I had gotten myself into: “Damn, they must have thought it was a different time” or “Maybe this organization was all a scam!”. After poking my head outside with a confused look, a young Honduran man ran up to me, introduced himself as Oscar, and escorted me back to a big bus with bags piled on top. As I stepped inside, I smiled back at all of the American faces that looked up at me. Maria, our coordinator and tour guide, told us the history of Honduras as we drove through Tegucigalpa on our drive to a remote village named Trojes.
My expectations were minimal, and all I wanted was to volunteer my time and hope for a good experience in return. Little did I know that PWW was going to show their program and community, thoroughly, in one week.
Once in Trojes we met the local staff and stayed at a local motel/outdoor hotel for three nights. It was extremely relaxing those three days to come back to a familiar room each night. Our first day and second day were spent installing water filtration systems! We were able to jump in the back of trucks driven by the local staff members, otherwise known as expert “offroaders” (some of the best mud and dirt driving I have ever seen). These villages were hard to get to, with path-like streets, but the PWW staff still hauled those trucks as far as they could, having us hike briefly to the houses.
We installed the slow sand filters, which were filled with levels of gravel, sand, and water. All affordable and renewable resources! The goal was to fill a soda bottle at 55-75 ml a minute once the filter was installed, and if it took longer than 75 ml per minute, we compressed more water into the sand and dislodged air pockets.
It was extremely cool to practice my Spanish with the Honduran staff and the homeowners I met. Every home was welcoming, different, but very attentive to the health instructions we stapled above the filters and alongside the home entrance. These posters were a mixture of simple language and pictures in case the homeowners could not read. Most families offered coffee, plantains, or bananas. A gesture of hospitality that everyone appreciated but often politely declined.
We covered four homes that day and four the next, each journey unique but all sharing our excitement to volunteer and everyone’s willingness to learn and connect with others on the trip.
The third day we traveled to a local school! With hammers, nails, saws, and shovels we went to work on the finishing touches on the latrine systems. I mixed cement (the most back breaking experience), nailed down frames for windows and tied wire down for cement flooring. Everything was extremely immersive and the PWW staff mostly just observed, helping and directing us when we needed it.
Somehow I ended up teaching English to the local youth gathering around the school as word spread of our arrival. Soon enough a soccer game developed and volunteers (we had two tweens on the trip) were bopping balls and counting punts. Therefore I stood outside primarily with a small group of kids, but was ushered into the classroom, astonished, as I stood in front of a full and attentive class. It was a moment when I truly realized I was meant to teach someday in my future and after my travels. I taught words such as “perro is dog”, as a black dog walked inside the classroom and turned it into a phrase such as “‘negro perro’ is ‘black dog’”. That was counted as my best day with PWW.
The entire week consisted of great local food, great conversation with the local staff and other American volunteers, and the perfect amount of immersion into the community. We played soccer at the local soccer field, shopped at the local market for souvenirs, ate ice cream, had a barbecue, saw fireworks, went to a cigar factory, met the mayor of Trojes, and on the last day attended a resort.
Pure Water for the World is an amazing organization. An organization I hope to stay in contact with and be involved in while I can.
Thank you everyone for making this experience exactly what I wished for!