–contributed by nurse practitioner Cody Bowers
For years now, Wuqu’ Kawoq has been expanding access to supplementary nutrition and potable water for Guatemalan children while educating communities about health and hygiene. Omar Al-Shafie and I, Cody Bowers, are two people captivated by the effectiveness and functions of WK, and we are attempting to advance the drinking water filter project implemented by the organization.
Omar, as a civil engineer with an interest in elevating communal health, is in the field right now, implementing the water project. I am a nurse practitioner, directing administrational duties from the United States. As a volunteer with the organization, I learned about the water project, then passed the story along to Omar who desperately wanted to get involved. It is our objective to refine WK’s process of implementation to create a model that will influence and assist more communities. A recommendation from the regional technical engineer of the Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST) directed us to Hecho 2:8, an organization that has installed 2000 filters over the past two years. We are working to enhance the distribution of treated drinking water in the Guatemala Highlands to reach these kinds of numbers with WK.
We each purchased a steel mold to build two water filters a day and with the direction of WK’s community educators, families will start receiving filtered water at the beginning of June. The project will start in San Juan a La Laguna with the help of community leaders. We will provide filters to all of the families that want to participate in developing a higher standard of living for themselves. With the help of Peter Rohloff, we are applying for a grant from ERM to obtain financing, which will allow us to hire a Guatemalan technician and purchase eight more filter molds.
After San Juan a La Laguna has been outfitted with all the filters they desire, we will move our installations to Paquip, which was devastated by Hurricane Agatha. WK currently has a malnutrition project in Paquip using Nutributter from Edesia. Omar is designing a water storage tank for the town, and now we are hoping to add the benefit of potable water via Biosand filters. With the money from the ERM grant, we would immediately begin a very aggressive installation in Paquip. We believe Paquip will greatly benefit from these filters and with WK’s current relationship with the community, we are equipped to fulfill the need for filtered water.
Omar is beginning construction on the water filters now with the two existing molds. There is already a list of families in San Juan a La Laguna who want a Biosand filter. A member of each family will provide a half bag of cement, two wheel barrows full of sand, and labor to construct their own filter. Omar will manage the construction site during the building process and he will be teaching the community how to build the filters. Then he will educate families about the ecological process within each filters, the proper maintenance, and usage.
We are following a model that promotes community independence by cultivating a sense of ownership in the filters and implementing effective educational techniques. This hybrid model utilizes what WK and Hecho 2:8 have taught us about culturally appropriate interventions that improve the health of a community.
Soon, we will share pictures and updates to show the progress at San Juan and a starting date to begin construction in Paquip. Stay tuned!