By Kristina Goetz, Special to The Record
VERETTES, Haiti — Thermonia Joudain wasn’t home in her Haitian village when two of her children, Simon and Lirone, started having diarrhea. They knew it was cholera. So a family friend took them to the hospital by motorbike. Simon stayed eight days. Lirone stayed seven.
Both survived but came home to drink the same river water tainted with cholera. Joudain knew the water wasn’t safe to drink, but her family had no alternative.
Last month, she was chosen by lottery to receive a Sawyer PointOne water filter through the Middletown charity called Water With Blessings. It filters out 99.9 percent of bacterial contaminants, turning filthy brown water crystal clear as if by magic.
Joudain listened to the training and heard for the first time that a filter — no bigger than the inside of a toilet paper roll — that needs no electricity would be hers for a lifetime. She planned to tell neighbors about the filter so they can clean their water at her home.
Through the Water With Blessings program, she was her village’s newest Water Woman.
“Now, my children won’t get
cholera, in Jesus’ name,” she said.
Four months ago, Water With Blessings launched a plan to eradicate cholera in Haiti. The plan, called Village by Village, is on track to succeed.
Since its launch in early November, the organization has raised $150,856 to bring filters to 10 villages in the city of Verrettes. The goal is to raise an additional $100,000 by May 1 — when the rainy season starts — so all 14 villages in the city will be covered against cholera and other waterborne bacterial illnesses.
“What we know is that the number of cholera cases for the area have dropped drastically,” said Ursuline Sister Larraine Lauter, who leads the organization.
“A large portion of that is because of the support of Record readers. The real proof will be when the rainy season starts,” she said. “And then, at the end of May and into June, we’re going to start being able to say: ‘Here’s the absolute proof.’ ”
Sister Lauter said she was confident people would be moved by the stories coming out of Haiti and the change these filters make in their lives, but she was surprised at how generous supporters have been in such a short time.
“It’s a wonderful blessing,” she said. “People have entrusted us with their sacrificial giving. They might not look like large checks, but every one of those $10 checks adds up to a Water Woman.”
The Water With Blessings team in Haiti has been sacrificing, too — at times even their own safety — to accomplish this mission. Young adults have ridden across mountains on motorbikes, walked hours on dirt paths and held training sessions in the rain. They’ve spent a lot of uncomfortable nights in schools and churches to reach places that to some might seem unreachable. Young mothers have left their own children to help other mothers’ children. And they’re doing it week after week.
“For me it’s important,” said Shelby Calisse, the in-country coordinator for Water With Blessings in Haiti. “I get the opportunity to help my Haitian brothers and sisters, and I am living my dream.”
Seeing women leave a training session without a filter because there simply aren’t enough to go around is heartbreaking, Sister Lauter said.
“They come with this terrible hope in their eyes. If you see that, you would understand, first of all, the need is almost beyond our ability to comprehend,” she said.
In addition to having better health, families that receive filters are relieved of the burden of having to buy bottled water or to pay for medical care for water-borne illnesses. But the filters do more than that, she said.
“Here you are, working hard for your family’s survival, hoping and praying you can send your children to school and, in your mind, is the ever-present knowledge that a disease could take them — a preventable disease — in 24 hours,” she said.
“When someone knows that this filter will provide a lifetime of clean water for their children, it’s not just a matter of saying, ‘Oh, my kids won’t get sick anymore.’ It’s also the sense of, ‘I can set down that fear.’ I think about what a non-stop, psychological, emotional drain that would be on people to live with the ever-present possibility that children will die. It saps at the human spirit. It is a drain. It just sucks it dry. And we can change that. You can change that.”
How it works
Sawyer PointONE filters are about the size of the inside of a toilet paper roll. They’re filled with hollow fiber membranes, similar to technology used in dialysis to filter bacteria out of blood. They work like a microscopic net with holes so small that no bacteria can escape. And its guaranteed for life.
A $60 donation pays for a filter kit, shipping and training for one Water Woman. The Water Woman signs a covenant that says she will agree to not only filter water for her own family but three other families. So $60 provides clean water for four families for life.
For more information on Water With Blessings’ Village by Village project, log on to www.waterwithblessings.org. Donations may be sent to Water With Blessings, 11714 Main Street, Suite D, Middletown, Ky., 40243.