Excerpt from our blog post "Welcome to Development" , June 20th 2012:
If someone has no means, such as chlorine drops or charcoal to boil water, that number would be a fantastic improvement on the lake water they currently drink. However, 97% effectiveness for kegs, or even the 98.5% for just a pot filter will still result in occasional sickness. Therefore, both of these household systems pale— mildly, next to the community chlorination systems that SHIM promotes in the region. They will achieve 100% safe water when operated correctly. Ultimately, unless the kegs or pots were able to match that, we would not have had our host’s full support.
I'm fortunate to be able to qualify this explanation with a revelation that came about after the original post. It made and continues to make to sense to not introduce any ceramic filter in a place where a majority are already using a "100% solution" for water purification. As I explained then, Lingira Island is such a place and to our collective frustration, is poorly suited to receive a 98/99% solution, such as our filters. We had turned to the Community-Lead Total Sanitation [CLTS] team at SHIM, consisting of the most-knowledgeable and driven water guys in the area. The appointed leader of the team, Samson helped us to understand why Lingira was not the place for the filters and why his team could not promote our filters in other areas where their team works. Short on time, it seemed our best hope would be to gift the remaining 200 or so filters to an NGO working in an area where ceramic filters could widely improve water consumption habits.
What we failed to consider was the communities that Samson has personally set out to develop. Born and raised on an island where SHIM has had a tremendous impact, he saw little role for the filters there or anywhere else SHIM works. However, in a follow-up conversation with friend and CLTS member, Julius, I got a totally different outlook on the project. After feeling hamstrung for a day or two, he explained the plight of those people living in his home district of Mayuge. Like Samson, Julius was considering the peoples that he has set out to impact, though who that is, seems to be a product of where home is. Almost immediately, he proposed that we let the team use the filters to reach beyond SHIM's normal territory, to places where the water in the lake is the same as the water in the drinking glasses. (Forgive this crude map, but the blue line approximately identifies the areas I describe. SHIM's normal activity extends West a little, but southward otherwise. Here is the live map if you want to explore.)
At the time of our departure, the CLTS team intended to do some sanitation workshops and introduce the technology. There is really no other group in the area that I am aware of that is more equipped to take over the project and see that a productive resolution comes about. Our continued role will be serving as a resource for information on the filters as they need it, as well as continuing to direct our supporters' donations to the water project towards the needs of the CLTS team as they distribute the filters. Currently, there are no plastic containers to contain the pots, which we set out to subsidize to reduce the final cost per unit. We will likely supply the funds for those to ensure a low cost and prevent the lack of a container from being an issue for an interested family. In all, we're happy to say that over the next couple of months, the filters will be moving into a couple hundred deserving homes on the beaches of Mayuge District, at the hands of knowledgeable and capable friends.
As a final note, I again extend an invitation to discuss things further as the people who helped make this possible. Also, my dear sister, who is among our donors, essentially asked me what heck these filters looked like and how they work. That was a fair question, considering the lack of visuals that we have supplied. I'll say now that any ceramic filter relies on the ceramic being porous, but only porous enough to permit the flow of water. As to the rest, I offer a video assembled by Dr. Buz Kloot, who was present on the island for 3 weeks of our stay. While we didn't give him much of a narrative to work with, the visuals are all there, accompanied by helpful dialogue.
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