A biosand filter is installed in a Haiti home. Supplied by the non-profit organization Clean Water For Haiti, biosand filters are an affordable option for providing families with a clean water source. (Photo submitted)

Armstrong woman leads Clean Water for Haiti

Non-profit organization looks to improve access to clean drinking water

Prior to the devastating 2010 earthquake, waterborne diseases accounted for 16 per cent of deaths in young Haitian children, the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti said.

Following the quake, which claimed an estimated 300,000 lives according to the Haitian government, the infant mortality rate as a direct result of contaminated water has risen and the outbreak of cholera is an ongoing issue.

The CWH Foundation of Canada, better known as Clean Water for Haiti, has been on the front lines since 2001 to install bio-sand filters — an affordable point-of-use filtration system that removes cholera-causing bacteria — and improve locals’ access to clean drinking water.

“Every year in developing countries an estimated 3 million people die prematurely from water-related diseases. The largest proportion of these deaths are among infants and young children, followed by women, from poor rural families who lack access to safe water and improved sanitation,” a UN World Water Development Report reads.

“Access to safe water and adequate sanitation services has proved to be one of the most efficient ways of improving human health.”

Leslie Rolling, born and raised in Armstrong, and her husband Chris Rolling lead Clean Water for Haiti as administrative director and executive director respectively.

“Everybody knows the water is really bad there,” Leslie Rolling said. “In order to see change in Haiti, it has to be a long-term process.”

Related: Making a difference in Haiti

Related: Vernon nurse shares expertise at rural Haitian clinic

Rolling has lived in Haiti full-time for 13 years. It all started when she met Chris in 2003.

“He really needed someone to come on staff and do administrative work,” she said.

Now, the couple has raised their family in Haiti and has helped the organization install more than 30,000 bio-sand filters and trained more than 250 filter technicians. However, it wasn’t always easy, Rolling said.

“It was really hard (in the beginning.) Haiti is a very tight-knit community and people didn’t know us,” Rolling said and added that they had originally relied on cold calls to sell the filters.

Now, Clean Water for Haiti employs locals to promote the filters to families in the area.

“It just kind of rippled. We developed this whole model of using community promoters,” she said. “It just fell into place.”

Designed by Dr. David Manz at the University of Calgary in the 1980s, a bio-sand filter is a water filtration system developed from the slow sand filter technology. The cost of a filter is about $100. However, Clean Water for Haiti subsidizes the cost and locals are able to purchase a filter for about $5. Local technicians are also trained to install and maintain the filters.

“We can build it in-country, which means we are supporting the local economy,” Rolling said.

To maintain a constant presence in Haiti, Rolling said the organization balances output and funding to work consistently and be able to assist those in need. Funding primarily comes through third party donors and Rotary International clubs, including a new partnership with Kalamalka Rotary, she said.

“We’ve been working to get more grant funding,” Rolling said. “We’re trying to reach out and some more of that.”

Currently, Clean Water for Haiti has a growing goal of 400 filter installations per month. In July, 430 filters were installed across the country. The organization also tracks usage of the filter at several intervals.

“We keep all that information so we can see how many filters are being used,” she said.

After one year, 95 per cent of filters are still utilized. And, five years after they first began tracking the information, Rolling said 75 per cent of filters are still in use.

“We’re always looking at how we can do what we do better,” Rolling said.

Because for Rolling and Clean Water for Haiti, the hope is to eventually see everyone in the country have access to safe drinking water.

“That change has to happen.”

For more information about the CWH Foundation of Canada or to donate, visit cleanwaterforhaiti.org.


@VernonNews
parker.crook@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Homeless to be relocated from temporary Vernon shelter

Homeless shelters in the city have been combined into one site at the curling rink since April

Armstrong food sharing program set to return

Armstrong Food Initiative Society will start its produce sharing program Monday, July 13

Boil water notice issued for Vernon’s Dunsmir Road area

Map shows which customers are advised to use caution when consuming water

Single lane traffic for Bella Vista in Vernon next week

Work planned for Monday, Wednesday to complete utility installation

Lake Country traffic bottleneck solution still lacks funding

No money committed yet but province will unveil solution options for Highway 97- Beaver Lake Road-Glenmore Road intersection this fall

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

Dozens of fish die at popular lake near Chase

A few natural phenomena are possible causes for their deaths.

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

Most Read