Written by Ian Williams, Rotarian with the Rotary Club of Glens Falls, and PWW Volunteer. Shared with permission.
The President of the Rotary Club of Glens Falls for 2004-2005 year was Ray Agnew. He attended the Rotary International Convention in Osaka, Japan that year and came back to the club excited about different opportunities for service that he’d learned about. Amongst these were water-related projects. He asked club member, Kay Walter, to form a committee to explore how the club could become involved and the wheels were put in motion.
The Water Committee forged a link with a Rutland, Vermont-based organization called Pure Water for the World (PWW). They had started life as a club project of a Brattleboro, Vermont Rotary Club and had outgrown one club’s resources. The project involved supplying bio-sand water filters to villages in Central America and has morphed into an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) that offers a suite of water, sanitation and hygiene solutions. Those solutions supplied by PWW now include: installation of water filters, building latrines, hygiene education, field technician training, water testing and menstrual hygiene education amongst many others.
The first activities of the committee included researching the problems and solutions available, coming up with a fundraiser to support these initiatives, and to send some of our club members to visit the affected regions and experience first-hand the work of Pure Water for the World.
The first trip was to Honduras in February of 2005 (picture right). The journey was made by Kay Walter and committee member, Ian Williams. They found the whole experience most helpful in seeing just what the needs were and how PWW was addressing them in the field.
The committee found that some other clubs had raised money through the hosting of a “Water Walk” event. Willing to try this, it embarked on its first Water Walk event in May of 2006. The event attracted over 300 participants and netted over $18,000 that was put towards a $150,000 Matching Grant that helped fund a project in southern Honduras.
Water Walks became an annual event for the next ten years, raising thousands of dollars for projects overseas. In January of 2010, a massive earthquake struck Port-au-Prince in Haiti. Both PWW and the Rotary Club of Glens Falls were already looking at opportunities to service the poor country of Haiti when they were pressed into action by the lack of potable water in the capital. Truckloads of potable water began rolling immediately to serve the needy communities around Port-au-Prince. Glens Falls Rotary, under the direction of member Charles Adams, organized a telethon on local access station TV8 and raised thousands more dollars for the Haitian efforts.
The projects in Haiti have become more sophisticated as time has progressed. PWW has found the best practices that work to serve the largest number of people in the most sustainable ways. So-called “Community Agents” (within the communities it serves) are trained to troubleshoot filter issues that arise and monitor the filters after installation. Client families are given basic hygiene education to ensure that the filter installation is just a part of a total lifestyle change to bring about community health improvements and sustainability. In the course of its work in Haiti, further club members have journeyed to Haiti to monitor work there and renew themselves with the progress on current projects.
A number of years ago, the Club was approached by PWW to ask if it wanted to partner with a Rotary Club in Michigan that had done some work in a village in central Haiti. The Elk Rapids, MI club had received a Rotary International grant to work in the village of Trianon in the highlands of central Haiti. They still wanted to continue further there but wanted another club to partner with and write a Rotary International Global Grant application to fund the work.
The Rotary Club of Glens Falls agreed to be the lead US Club for the writing of the grant and asked the Rotary Club of Petionville in Haiti to act as the local club there. The matching grant was to cover a further 980 homes in the Trianon area and would include both filter installation and all of the training/education programs associated with this.
What a source of pride for the Club to successfully write a huge grant and receive funding on such a scale. In fourteen years, the club has made an international presence and contributed countless thousands of man-hours and dollars towards bettering the lives of so many impoverished people overseas.