Waterborne diseases are the leading causes of death globally for children under the age of five, and half the patients in the world’s hospitals are suffering from diseases related to dirty water.
After one year of having a filter, families report greatly improved health and fewer visits to the health clinic.
Our current focus is in Rwanda. Sub-Saharan Africa is ranked as one of the world’s most underserved areas for access to clean water.
Rwanda is a poor, rural country located in south-central Africa. With 80% of its population struggling to make it by with mainly subsistence agriculture, the 1994 genocide decimated their already fragile economic base. Today, though making strides to regain their economic stability, the population below the poverty line remains at nearly 45%. Specifically, we work along the Nyabarongo River, serving 5 rural districts that use the river and adjacent swamps as their main water source.
This district was selected as the initial place to begin our work in 2011 after a cholera outbreak killed nearly 500 people six years earlier. Though on the doorstep of the capital city, Maska is an underdeveloped rural area that was hit hard by the 1994 genocide. In 2013, we reached our goals in Masaka, by giving 15,710 people a decade or more of clean water through 1,082 slow-sand filters, 15 Rainwater Harvest Systems, and 7 SAM2 community filters. Ongoing visits to recipients attests that families are healthier and staying that way due to the constant clean water. Our certified volunteers from Masaka still help train new volunteers in neighboring districts.
We first met with the local committee in April of 2013 and by June we had trained 32 volunteers and begun filter distributions. Today, 21,710 people have access to a decade or more of clean water in Gahanga thanks to 2,400 SAM3 filters, six SAM2 filters, and 13 rainwater harvest systems. But the numbers don’t begin to explain the difference these clean water solutions have made in the lives of those in Gahanga—people like Hadja or the 58 children at the Gahanga Home For Vulnerable Children.
In early 2014, we entered our third district—Ntarama (pronounced Na-ra’-ma), an area inhabited by 11,581 people. Ntarama isn’t just hard to pronounce. It also epitomizes an extremely hard life on all fronts. This sector was especially impacted by the 1994 genocide with a disproportionately high death toll—around 5,000 people. Add to the mental trauma is the dirty, nasty Nyabarongo serving as the primary water source. By June of 2015 we distributed SAM3 filters to 1,545 families (7,670 individuals). But that’s not all, we also provided 9 Rainwater Harvest Systems and 6 SAM2 filters reaching a grand total of 15,125 people with a decade or more of clean water.
When we entered Mwogo Sector in March of 2015, we found muddier swamps, slimier water and a high prevalence of stomach worms. We had to step up our technical game, refining our filters and trying new approaches to combat the worst water we'd ever seen. No challenge slows us down for long and by May of 2016, we had hit our targets, reaching 17,500 people through a combination of 1,620 SAM3 household filters, 14 rainwater harvesting systems, and 8 community filters. We get a great amount of satisfaction when we hear mothers reporting that their children no longer have worms.
Juru is a large sector of more than 23,000 people. We started meeting with local leaders in February of 2016 to plan our work. Like other districts, subsistence farming is how men and women feed themselves and their families, most trapped in a generational cycle of poverty. Our volunteer crew believed not only could they improve their community's health, they could also increase days spent at work and school instead of home sick. We liked their attitudes and their speed. By February of 2017, we had distributed 1,653 SAM3 filters, 15 rainwater harvesting systems, and 7 SAM2 community filters. Our total reach in Juru exceeds 18,565 people who won't have to worry about dirty water for the next 10 years.
In 2017, we launched a new plan that includes the Gashora sector. Now 2 hours away from home base in the capital, Kigali, we rely even more on our local leaders and volunteers.
In March the community hosted a Walk for Water to raise awareness for the water project in the sector. Over 1,000 people attended, including our 43 new volunteers who are getting trained right now to help us reach our target of 3,210 SAM3 household filters, 13 rainwater harvesting systems, and 8 community filters to bring clean water to 25,750 people.
Rilima is a victim of Rwanda's progress. In 2015 the Rwandan government began implementing plans to build a new airport complex in one of the only populated regions of the sector, displacing 6,000 residents. The remaining population are left without the community infrastructure they relied upon and are struggling for survival. Our 2017 plan brings hope to those remaining in Rilima. By September of 2018, we will have provided 604 SAM3 household filters, 5 rainwater harvesting systems, and 2 SAM2 community filters, giving 6,320 people a decade of clean water.
For us, it goes well beyond installation and set-up. We work with local volunteers and leaders so our initiatives are sustainable and empower the communities we work in.
Always Following Up
Before we ever distribute a filter, we first train a group of local volunteers to be our technical experts. These volunteers visit each beneficiary to reinforce the health, hygiene and filter maintenance trainings and make sure the filter is working properly.
Our local staff, volunteers and committees live in these communities and are dedicated to clean water for the long run.
We believe that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. So we partner with organizations, such as Aqua Clara International and other engineers to continually push clean water technology forward. We also partner with local agencies like World Relief Rwanda who create committees of pastors, health workers and local government officials to lead and direct our work.... Read More Their church networks have enabled us to effectively reach those most in need and we partner directly with their programs that address Health and Hygiene, HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care, and Economic Development as a way to further educate and care for filter recipients.
Keeping It Local
The hope for a better Rwanda is the people of Rwanda. Committees of pastors, health workers and local government officials lead and direct the work. Like World Relief, we believe the local community must take all the credit. We encourage our recipients to share their filters and clean water with their neighbors, building stronger community ties.... Read More Our goal is to equip people from Rwandan communities facing clean water issues to be the solution to the very issues that surround them.
Taking A Simple, Cost-Effective Approach
We are constantly working to maintain and increase effectiveness while reducing cost, because lower cost solutions mean more people have access to clean water. People can’t wait for large infrastructure to be put in place. People are dying while waiting for a better option. So what’s our answer?... Read More Simple solutions like household filters, school and clinic filters and rainwater harvesting systems that put the power of making dirty water clean in the hands of people and communities we come alongside.
SAM2’s are large-capacity sand-and-membrane filters, providing clean water to 400 people a day. For health clinics, this means people can take their medicine with clean water and bring a full container home when they're done.
Schools providing clean water in the classroom means children don't have to miss school to fetch water. They can simply bring it home with them.
The sand in the filter strains out the larger particles like sediment, parasites, algae, worm cysts, protozoa, and amoebas. Then the water passes through membrane filters which remove any remaining bacteria and parasites. The result is water that meets the World Health Organization's standards for improved water.
A SAM2 requires no electricity or fuel and has no moving parts, making it the ideal solution for rural areas. Each school and clinic is trained how to use and maintain the filter, empowering them to be self-sufficient and address their own needs.
Our SAM2 community filter costs only $2,000 and last over 10 years.
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SAM3 (Sand And Membrane) filters are smaller versions of the SAM2 and are placed in households for a family and their neighbors. The upper bucket has 2 inches of coarse sand and 4 inches of fine sand which filters out sediment, parasites, algae, worm cysts, protozoa, and amoebas. The water then flows into the lower bucket where it is filtered through a .1 micron hollow fiber membrane filter which removes any remaining bacteria and protozoa. Each SAM3 costs approximately $100 for materials, training, and follow-up maintenance and home visits.
A SAM3 meets the World Health Organization's standards and requires no electricity to function, making it ideal for the rural sectors where we work. Each household is taught how to use their filter and given the phone number of a local volunteer to call if they have any issues. Volunteers are also assigned to visit each family to make sure the families feel comfortable using their filter and the health and hygiene training they received.
A SAM3 household filter costs only $100 and last over 10 years.
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Rwanda is not the dry, desert-like area you might assume. Based in the rift valley, Rwanda has long rainy seasons that provide 40 to 50 inches of rain a year—and it only takes 5 inches of rain to fill our 10,000-liter cistern.
We place these tanks at centrally-located churches, which often reduce the time spent traveling to collect water from other sources.
A rainwater harvesting system (installed by a volunteer Rwandan crew) costs roughly $3,200 for materials and installation. Each system shortens the daily walk for around 500 families every rainy season.
Churches sell the water at an affordable rate and use the income to maintain the system. Remaining funds are given to the poorest members of the community for school fees, uniforms, and other unaffordable costs.
A Rainwater Harvesting System (RWHS) costs $3,200
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Training local people to implement the solutions empowers them to lead and make the program sustainable. Patrice has been a key volunteer since 2011.
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