Non-Profit Works To Bring Clean Water To Haiti

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(Host) Six months after the earthquake in Haiti, the ravaged capital, Port au Prince, is no longer in the headlines.

But a million-and-a-half Haitians are still living in tent cities or on the streets.

And as VPR’s Susan Keese reports, a Vermont-based non-profit is working harder than ever to provide uncontaminated water to the poorest of the poor.

(Sound from meeting)

(Keese) It’s a summer Wednesday and the Windsor Rotary Club is meeting over lunch in the Methodist church basement.

The speaker is Bill Meub of Pure Water for the World, a favorite charity of the Windsor Rotarians.

Pure Water for the World started in the mid-nineties with a Brattleboro Rotary Club project in El Salvador.

Pure Water takes water purification systems to countries where water-borne illness is a leading cause of death and a contributor to ongoing poverty. The filters are concrete or ceramic vessels filled with gravel and sand, each capable of cleaning up to 20 gallons of water a day.

After the Haitian earthquake, Meub says, the group turned its attention to immediate needs.

(Meub) "How many people saw the camp in front of the palace that they used to come by with CNN and take all the pictures?  That camp of 10,000? We took care of that camp for the first 30 plus days before any relief agencies got there to provide water."

(Keese) The Vermont-based group and its mostly Haitian staff had been in Haiti for 18 months when the quake struck. They’d installed filters in hundreds of schools and trained teachers to educate students about hygiene.

Many of those schools were in the poorest part of Port au Prince, an area called Cite Soleil. Meub says the district was off limits to many aid groups because it was so dangerous.

(Meub) "But we were known in the area of Cite Soleil because of the water work we had done, we were the only people delivering water into that area for almost 60 days."

(Keese) The international relief agency Save the Children helped fund Pure Water’s delivery efforts. The contract just ended, but Pure Water is still delivering water daily to about 80,000 people.

It’s also resumed its work in Haitian schools.

Carolyn Meub of Rutland is married to Bill Meub, and she’s the executive director of Pure Water for the World. She says the quake has increased her organization’s visibility – not only in Vermont, where donations poured in, but within the international aid community.

(C.Meub) "So people know what we do. They like our hygiene curriculum, so we’re getting exposure in that way. So the big players, Save the Children, World Vision can see what we do."

(Keese) Meub says even before the earthquake, Pure Water was poised for growth. It had contracted with UNICEF to work on the Nicaragua-Honduras border. Now other contracts are in the works.

But growth also presents challenges. Meub hopes  what grows is not so much the organization as the number of children and families leading healthier lives. And one way to achieve that, she says, is through clean water.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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