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Rotarians help bring clean water to Guatemala

Guatemalians get their filters and buckets, so they can have clean drinking water. (click for larger version)
September 11, 2013 - The Oxford Rotary Club teamed up with Hope for Tomorrow International, a Christian mission organization based in Lake Orion, along with Sawyer Water Filtration Systems, manufactured out of Safety Harbor, Florida, to help bring fresh drinking water to needy families in Guatemala.

A team of 11 went to the mountain village of El Chico from Aug. 1-12 to distribute water filters and 5-gallon buckets to 53 families.

"We had 100 filters with us, but sadly we were only able to acquire 53 buckets, so Pastor Noé, (of Christ the King Church, located in Zacapa Guatemala) asked the village leader to choose the neediest families to receive the water filters," Tim Fix said, who noted he will go back at another time to distribute the remaining 47 filters.

While the team was waiting for families to arrive to pick up their bucket and water filter, Pastor Noé heard about a 7-year-old boy in a neighboring house who had badly burned his legs after falling into a charcoal fire pit.

The boy, whose name was Jeremy, had spent 15 months in the hospital and his legs were still not healed. According to his mother, he was not eating because he was in so much pain. The team made sure the family received a water filter, so Jeremy's mother could stop cleaning his wounds with filthy river water.

Pastor Noé also gave him a brand-new soccer ball as a gift of "hope" something for him to strive for and encourage his healing.

After about an hour of waiting, the village leader began calling names and the women came forward one at a time to receive their buckets. Many of the women had two-to-four children with them, and the team was able to give each child a small toy, mostly new Happy Meal toys donated by children at the home church of the team. Several asked about receiving a filter system for another family, but because the people need to be taught how to clean the filter, only families with a representative present were allowed to receive one.

The first step to installing a water filter is to drill a hole in the bucket, which is done by hand-twisting a drill bit through the plastic, which is not easy. When asked why they don't bring a cord-less drill, Fix replied: "When the people do it themselves, they are invested in the filter system because they helped build it, so they are more likely to take care of it."

"We put the water filters on there, then I take dirt off the ground and make muddy water and show how it comes out crystal clear," he continued. "So, they can see an active demonstration of it."

Fix said they've been partnering with Sawyer Filtration Systems for about two years and the thing he likes about them is that their filter not only removes mud and dirt, but also all bacteria, amoebae and parasites.

We used to use (another brand) of water filters, but we knew we weren't getting everything out of the water," he said. "The Sawyer water filters are so low in cost ($54 retail price per filter) and last for so long and produce such good quality of water, that it made sense to switch over."

Fix explained that one filter and one bucket will make about 500 gallons a day, which is more than enough for a whole family to drink and cook with.

"(Sawyer Filtration Systems) estimate they will last for 10 years if you take care of them," he said. "If they start clogging up, they just back flush it with the filtered water and it's ready to go again."

Fix said he started going to Guatemala 14 years ago to help build orphanages, fell in love with it and has been going back and taking teams of interested people with him ever since.

"I think you always receive more than you can ever give and I really enjoy that you can help make some small changes in people's lives amongst people that are very happy, but really have nothing," he added. "They deal with starvation, life and death issues (everyday). It's not about how many cable stations they have. They're really on the subsistence level in a lot of the mountain villages in Guatemala."

"(Clean water) will make a huge difference," he continued. "If kids are struggling with malnutrition issues and now they have on top of that a parasite or amoeba or something like that, it can be life-threatening. It can be the one thing that dehydrates them and takes them out."

Fix said the project would not have been possible without the partnership with the Rotary Club of Oxford and the group's kind $2,500 donation, which helped cover the majority of the costs for the 100 filters.

"I am really appreciative to them and anyone who supports Rotary," he noted.

With 11,000 Rotary clubs around the world and being the oldest service club in existence, Oxford Rotarian President Greg Kudela said international projects are "one of the most important things we do in our club, which distinguishes Rotary Clubs from other service clubs."

"We're very blessed to have Tim in our club because we're able to see directly the fruits of our labor and the fruits of service to the international community. He takes our money and he goes down there and does things and reports back to us," Kudela said.

"Other clubs don't have a great connection like we do with Tim and they basically have to send a check to some foreign, distant land and get their benefit that way. The Guatemala effort was brought to us by Tim. It's his life's passion and we're just delighted to be able to share a little bit of it with him."

The Rotary Club of Oxford meets at 12 noon every Tuesday at the Oxford Hills Golf & Country Club (300 E. Drahner Rd.). Meetings consist of lunch followed by a guest speaker who informs the club on various topics ranging from governmental activities and history to education and helping folks in need. For more information on the Guatemala projects visit www.hopefortomorrow.org

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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