Rotary clubs always pumped for World Water Day
Sara Lucena, a member of the Rotary Club of Puerto Plata Isabel de Torres, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, helps four-year-old Eric Antonio Polanco write his name on the new bio-sand filter she just installed in his family’s home in Aguas Negras. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
J ohn Hopf is letting his feet do the talking to drum up support for safe drinking water.
On 22 March, World Water Day, Hopf plans to take his first steps down the Appalachian Trail as part of Hike4Water , a fundraiser to support clean water solutions in Guatemala and Tanzania.
Hopf, an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, USA, hopes to complete the entire 2,200-mile trail from Georgia to Maine in about five months, stopping along the way to raise awareness among Rotary clubs and talk to the media. Part of the proceeds will help support the Oconomowoc club's efforts to set up a center in Guatemala to build and distribute bio-sand water filters.
The 26-year-old quit his job as a fitness manager to devote time to the hike and to volunteer on projects. He got the idea for hiking the Appalachian Trail from a friend who had completed the trek.
"She said it was the most difficult but most rewarding thing she had ever done, and that really clicked with me," he says. "I knew I wanted to do something bigger than myself that would push me mentally and physically."
Though the United Nations designates 22 March as World Water Day, Rotarians worldwide are focused on the issue throughout the year, volunteering their time and resources to provide safe water and sanitation facilities to communities in need.
Charles Clemmons, general coordinator of the Water Resource Group, estimates that clubs are involved in 6,000 to 7,000 projects internationally, all aimed at addressing the lack of access to clean water and sanitation that claims more than two million lives each year, a majority of them children.
"Rotarians bring a unique set of qualifications to such projects," says F. Ron Denham, who heads the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group. "Being members of the community, they understand how to get local ownership. They understand local culture, which often determines success or failure. They know the local nongovernmental organizations and which ones are good partners for their project. And they connect with a worldwide network of people with similar values and commitment."
The action group will hold its second World Water Summit 19 June in Birmingham, England, immediately before the 2009 RI Convention .
Here’s a sampling of water projects worldwide:
- In the Dominican Republic, Rotarians have facilitated the installation of more than 18,000 bio-sand filters through the District 4060 Children’s Safe Water Alliance. The simple and inexpensive filters cost as little as US$60 and can reduce the incidence of diarrhea by up to 40 percent -- a dramatic decline in a leading cause of child mortality in the developing world. Collaborators include 120 Rotary clubs in 17 districts in Canada, the United States, and several Caribbean countries, as well as organizations such as International Aid, the Peace Corps, and the U.S. Navy.
- The Rotary clubs of Bamenda, Cameroun, and Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, have teamed up with students from the University of Virginia engineering school on a water project funded partly by a $13,500 Matching Grant. The effort will help establish three water storage tanks and a connective piping system to deliver clean water to 50,000 people in the village of Wum. The clubs have contributed $18,500 toward the three-phase project, which will be completed in 2010. In November, six students joined Rotarians on a visit to Cameroun, where 3,800 villagers dug about 1.5 miles of trench for the pipes.
- The Rotary Club of Paramaribo, Suriname, worked with clubs in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States on a Matching Grant project to set up a new water system, including holding tanks, filters, pumps, and other equipment, powered by solar panels. The clubs received support from the Alcoa Foundation, Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, and Georg Fischer Clean Water Foundation on the $73,000 project.
- Using a $330,000 Health, Hunger and Humanity Grant, the Rotary clubs of Denver Southeast, Colorado, USA, and Nairobi-Langata, Kenya, are partnering to build shower and bathroom facilities for 150,000 residents living in the Kibera slum of Nairobi.
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