Tuesday, March 4, 2014

“Polluted water isn’t just dirty—it’s deadly. Some 1.8 million people die every year of diarrheal diseases like cholera. Tens of millions of others are seriously sickened by a host of water-related ailments.” ― National Academy of Sciences

We have been producing biosand water filters here since 2006 when Jerry Buckingham of Cherokee Village, Arkansas, had the molds made in Musoma and made the first concrete biosand filter (which we are still using in our home).  Since then, we have produced almost 400 of these biosand filters, each one of which is capable of filtering from 800 to 1,000 liters of water a day.  According to the National Academy of Sciences, “Each person on Earth requires at least 20 to 50 liters of clean, safe water a day.”  That means that a family of six (about the average size family here) needs a minimum of 120 to 300 liters a day.  Our filters can easily meet that need.  So, why aren’t we swamped for orders?  Cost is one reason.  A biosand water filter costs us about $50 to build not counting delivery.  That amount is out of reach of most of the population here.  Every member of our staff has one, but we paid for half and took the rest out of their pay at the rate of $2.00 per month.  We discovered the hard way that if we just gave away the filters, people didn’t take care of them, didn’t use them properly, and in some cases didn’t use them at all.  We gave two to a hospital in Mwanza, and when we visited a year later, we found them unused and pushed aside in a storage room because the nurses were afraid of them.  We have since always insisted that each recipient pay a tiny amount so that they would have some ownership.  It is also difficult to overcome the superstition and fear over new things.  Little by little, almost a filter at a time, we have won people over.  One of the most important things we can do is to teach the recipients how to set up, use, and maintain the filters.  Everywhere we have done that, the filters have been accepted, have worked, and in almost every case have done away with cholera and other water-borne diseases.  Since each filter we have placed is capable of providing clean, safe drinking water for thirty to forty people, we have now provided almost 16,000 Tanzanians (and more than a few missionaries) with one of the basic needs for survival.  We never just drop off a new biosand filter.  Each one, two, or fifty at a time must come not only with face-to-face instruction (picture at the right is Shaban teaching the staff of the Canadian mission about 30 kilometers west of us the basics and impressing upon them the importance of proper use and maintenance), but also must come with printed instructions and laminated, pictured directions in Swahili that are attached to each filter.  Thanks to Adrienne Lyons (part of my family) in Houston, Texas, we now have enough laminated instructions for another 250 biosand filters.  We have only scratched the surface here, but bit by bit people are learning about these biosand filters through word of mouth and seeing them being used in schools, orphanages, government facilities, hospitals, and private homes.  The Member of Parliament from Musoma wants to have two filters in every school in Musoma (around 200 filters) but getting budget approval is going very slowly.  He even offered to pay half of the money out of his own pocket, but we are confident that one day, every school in our area will have these.  The schools that do have them report that attendance is up almost 80% because the children aren’t out sick with the many common diseases that come from unsafe water.   If you want to subsidize a biosand filter, just send $50 to the One Book Foundation, 1910 Old Wire Road, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 72703.  It is a gift of life.  What did Christ say, “Just a cup of cold water is enough to activate the rewards of God!”   Matthew 10:42 (that’s in the Bible, you know).
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