Tuesday, January 10, 2017
“My secret is one the world needs to know - nearly a billion people a year die from unsafe drinking water.” — Bella Thorne
A major killer of children here in Tanzania are water borne diseases like cholera and dysentery. These come from bad water sources. In our area, water comes from wells which have bad bacteria in them or Lake Victoria which is a major source of parasites. This means the water needs to be boiled to kill the bad stuff or the more expensive option of buying bottled water.
Some Canadian engineers, years ago, figured out another solution, a biosand water filter that uses a macrobiotic layer on the surface of the water coupled with a sand and gravel filter that rids the water of all the bad stuff, 100% of bad bacteria (eaten by the good macrobiotic layer) and the sand and gravel filter out all (100%) of the parasites. These are big, heavy filters, about four feet tall and weighing almost 200 pounds, but they last forever, have no moving parts, and almost never need any maintenance (see picture at the right). We can make them with locally provided cement and gravel. In addition, one biosand filter can filter almost 200 gallons of water a day, enough for four families. One of our beloved and frequent mission guests trained in Canada and made our first biosand filter in 2005 (we are still using it for our household filter). Since then, we have built and placed over 500 of these filters in this area, which can provide clean, safe water to over 10,000 people. We don’t do that many every year, just about four or five a month. We had hoped they would take off, but that hasn’t happened yet. Quite a number of missionaries in our area use our biosand filters in their homes. Seems one of these missionaries talked about it to her mother who talked about in her church. One of the church ladies, a friend of this mother, sent money early last month to build six or seven biosand filters to give to deserving families. They were intended to be like Christmas presents, but my prostate cancer got in the way, and we weren’t able to get them built and ready until last Thursday. So, Friday and Sunday we (this means Shaban—I don’t do manual labor) installed seven biosand water filters that will provide over 200 people with clean, safe drinking water. They went to families with children and with relatives living nearby. The biosand filters are really simple, no moving parts, just sand, gravel and bigger gravel. There is about an inch of water above the sand where a layer of good bacteria cover the surface of the water (takes about three weeks to provide a good cover) and the good bacteria eats all the bad bacteria. The bacteria and the sand and gravel filter out all the parasites and water borne diseases that kill so many here and sicken thousands. The schools where we have two or more biosand filters report much better attendance because the kids aren’t out sick. Many of the kids wait to drink till they get to school and bring containers to take it home in the afternoon. Each filter costs about $50 (we don’t make any money on them, it all goes into parts and labor). Thanks to a generous woman in the U.S., seven more families will have these filters and will share with their neighbors. How we love to have work like this. We have two molds, so we can make two a day, and it takes about five days to cure after they’re made, so it’s not a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. Now they are finished, delivered, installed, and the recipients taught how to use and maintain them. Without clean, safe water, we are all at the mercy of disease and death—just ask the folks in Flint, Michigan. This is not even one of our major projects, but we do what we can, where we are, with what we have. You may have heard that before, but it is what God calls us all to do. We are blessed to be a small part of keeping Tanzanians alive and well by preventing water borne diseases where we can. We are very thankful that we know how to make them (thanks, Jerry Buckingham) and get asked to do so. Water is such a blessing, but it needs to be clean and safe.