Safe Water Project in Ipiales

As part of the CAPD safe water program, Bob visits Rotary clubs in Colombia that are doing filter projects, mostly funded by Global Grants from The Rotary Foundation.  Something new that CAPD started in 2018 is a training program for community volunteers who live among the families receiving water filters.  These volunteers help the Rotary Community Coordinator in organizing community meetings, solve simple problems, and answer families’ questions when the Rotarians or the Community Coordinator is not there.  The initial training is a 2-day workshop at the beginning of the project with a follow-up refresher one year after the project gets underway.  Ivan Castro and Rocio Robayo have been delivering this training, sometimes at CAPD expense and sometimes at the Rotary project expense.

Ivan and Rocio, trainers and facilitators of the Safe Water Program.

Ivan, Rocio and I delivered such training in Ipiales in late 2018, , a city of 140,000, located right on the Ecuador border.  The area is at very high altitude (more than 3,000 meters) so it is cold, very fertile and gets lots of rain.  There are many small landholders who grow crops such as potatoes, broccoli and many other vegetables, within sight of the city.

Potato field, one example of crops in this zone.

The refresher training started off in an indigenous community called “12 de Octubre” where the 3 of us divided into separate groups, each including a Community Volunteer. Each group visited 4-5 homes and noted the physical aspects of the filters, familial processes and volunteer processes.  Later we reviewed our observations and found that the only problems encountered were the lack of a chlorine dropper bottle and incorrect outlet tube lengths .

Group members included Bob, Evan and Rocio, Rotarians from the Ipiales club and Community Volunteers.
Community volunteers are not paid but receive a shirt and a book bag with the program logo among other perks.

This tour and discussion was followed by a massive lunch at 10 am in the morning – they called it a light refreshment. We were in BIG TROUBLE because we knew the community in Guacuan, the next stop, was preparing a huge lunch for the entire community.

In Colombian culture one should shake hands with everyone, and I must say, it took a while.
Bob looked in a few pots and the ladies had been busy – a big pot of Sancocho soup, a pot with 3 kg of rice, another pot of boiled potatoes, and a monster pot of chopped up chicken.

Of course, as guests, we got the biggest portions.  Bob managed the soup but his main plate went back to community members who are more than happy to take leftovers home. 

Next came the speeches and photo opportunities with children, individual families and everyone together

Bob addressing the community.

The feedback from families using the filters was very gratifying.  Biological contamination in this area is extreme and people had been boiling their water with natural gas or wood in the past.  This was no longer necessary with the filters – and the water tasted great!

Bob visits with children from the community.

A couple stories.  Rumour has it that men prefer to drink filtered water after a night of hard drinking, because they wake up in the morning without a tummy ache.  Another gentleman stated that he preferred filtered water when making his guarapo (home brew) because it was sweeter. To each his own! 

Fernando, a 5-year old.

For me the most touching story was this little boy Fernando who, at 5 years, is small for his age. His mother is a conscientious Community Volunteer in the sector ’12 de Octubre’.  Because we were squished in the truck Fernando rode on my lap in the front seat.  As we were passing the Hospital in Ipiales, he pointed it out.  At 5 years of age he knew it well.  He and his mother had visited there several times when he had acute diarrhea. Now that they have a filter, they no longer need to visit the hospital to be treated for diarrhea.

How gratifying!