Some families in Jérémie, Haiti stand in line for up to two hours each morning to receive clean drinking water.
Since March 30, Tek4Kids — a nonprofit based in Haiti with a local office in New Albany, Ind. — has distributed 250,000 gallons of clean drinking water at no cost to residents.
Gary Boice, founder of Tek4Kids, estimated that 95 percent of residents in Jérémie lack access to clean water for drinking and washing hands.
“They don’t have running water. Purified water is very important for them,” Boice said in a phone interview last week. “Very few have bathrooms or indoor toilets or kitchens. They all cook outside.”
For more than a decade, Tek4Kids has sought to improve the lives of Haitian families, first with clean water and later with educational opportunities.
Tek4Kids incorporates computer technology in classrooms with six partner schools in Jérémie. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it also purified 10,000 gallons of water per week for school families. In 2015, Boice expanded that mission to include job training skills at the St. Francis School of Technology.
Boice, a 1962 graduate of St. Xavier High School, first traveled to Haiti in 2006 with a group of volunteers from the Cathedral of the Assumption to install water purification systems. Boice, and his wife Cathy, have dedicated much of their retirement to developing and growing Tek4Kids in Haiti. Now, his son Michael Boice spends about 10 months a year in Haiti overseeing Tek4Kids.
“Water is very important for the health of the people. That’s why we provide it in schools,” he said.
With schools being out of session due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boice and his Tek4Kids staff decided to expand the organization’s mission to provide water to anyone in the town that needs it.
The World Health Organization reported a total of 958 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 27 deaths in Haiti as of May 26.
Six million people already live below the poverty line and 40 percent of the nation is food insecure, the WHO reported. Boice said he hopes the clean water his organization is providing will save lives.
“We hope to save many lives. By not getting bad water, we hope to help them survive longer. The virus is just now getting started there,” he said.
The extra water distribution costs about $470 a day, a figure not accounted for in the operating budget, Boice said.
For more information about Tek4Kids or to donate to the relief efforts, visit tek4kids.org.