Because it's not just what you do... but how you do it.
Through experience and research, the staff and directors of ActiveWater understand that many times charity can become a problem in and of itself. Recipient communities can become very frustrated and left feeling hopeless with organizations who, with good intentions, bring lifesaving supplies and equipment to improve their quality of life, only to quickly abandon them and move on to their next quest. That's why ActiveWater works with water partners that are locally-based and offer long term development, not short-term relief. We believe that training leaders within the recipient community is the greatest key to long-term success.
Biosand filters are a simple technology that can reduce contamination of water by 98%. In communities with ready access to surface water (which is nearly always highly contaminated), biosand filters can make the water safe to drink. A filter costs $85 and will serve a Zambian household for 10 - 15 years. The biosand filters are an adaptation to slow sand filtration, which has been commonly used in community water treatment for nearly 200 years. They work by using a multi-barrier approach of mechanical trapping, predation, adsorption, and natural death. In essence, harmful bacteria and pathogens die from being either physically trapped, consumed by other microorganisms in the biolayer, attach to each other and become trapped or suspended in the sand grains, or die because there is not enough food or oxygen in the filter for them to survive. We call it "God's design in a box". With our Zambia project, filters are made on site by our partners, SHIP, and their local Zambian staff.
Wells are drilled in communities and filters are installed in homes after recipient families have underwent valuable training courses on hygiene and sanitation practices within their own village. Family members are also invited and transported to the biosand factory to participate in hands-on education by assisting in building their filter with trained staff. We believe this increases their understanding of how slow-sand filtration works and provides an opportunity for them to give of themselves towards the project and not simply be a recipient of charitable goods. At the time of installation, the household leader is given further training on maintenance and receives a certificate of ownership for their new filter. When possible, families contribute 15,000 Kwatcha (the equivalent of $3 US) to the purchase of their filter. All of these steps encourage ownership, more effective use and maintenance of the resource, and instills a sense of accomplishment.
Drill rigs are used to drill new boreholes that are then equipped with hand pumps. A well can provide water for up to 750 people, but the average well serves roughly 300 - 400 people. The cost of a well is not a flat rate, not even within the same project area. But to drill a new borehole and equip it with a handpump suitable for daily use by hundreds of people can cost as little as $4,000 and, on some occassions, as much as $9,000. Variables such as terrain at location, drill equipment required to reach the water point, extent of disinfecting the site and removing all nearby contaminants, as well as time and resources involved in carefully removing obstructions near the site all have an impact on determining the cost of a specific project. For instance, the ground composition in Zambia can require nearly 5 days of drilling alone to reach a water point suitable for public use. And our drill sites within Cambodia are within the Banteay Meanchey Province which falls along the western Cambodian border with Thailand. Before any drillwork can be done, deadly land mines hidden under the surface must be carefully searched out by metal detectors and dug out by hand.
There are many wells drilled by other organizations, missionary teams, and governments that are no longer working because they have not received adequate maintenance. Wells can become contaminated when used by communities where training in hygiene and sanitation was never offered or not taught to the extent that it reached all community members. Overtime, if little to no maintenance has been given to a well site, concrete foundations of the well pad may sink or crumble, pipes in the borehole may crack and leak causing inadequate pressure, and simple parts such the cranks on handpumps can break completely off due to excessive use. By repairing these hand pump wells, we are able to restore access to safe water for communities without the expense of drilling new wells. Standard repair cost to a well can be as little as $500 or as much as $1,500. And when possible, community shareholders assist in subsidizing this cost.
It is a common practice in many rural communities to openly defecate in your yard. This leads to major issues in water-related illnesses and disease transmittal from bacteria that eventually transfers from hand-to-mouth contact. Once girls reach puberty, lack of access to sanitation becomes a central human health issue, contributing to female illiteracy and low levels of education and, in turn, repeating the cycle of poverty. We build latrines at public areas such as schools, markets, and community centers. By simply providing a separate latrine facility for girls, school enrollment rates have been shown to improve by over 15%. We also fund sanitation training within villages and demonstrate the many types of latrines that can be built. Our "Community Champions" become experts on demo latrines and share their new knowledge of constructing latrines and how to properly place family latrines away from water resources, improving everyone's health.
We believe in the living water found only in Jesus. It's what propels us not only with the work being done in Africa and Asia, but also with our fundraisers right here in the USA. We are often asked how our faith translates to the families receiving our resources. We feel that we are very transparent as leaders and as an organization at large. Although life-saving resources like filters, latrines, and wells are never withheld from community members who disagree with our faith, we do feel that because our projects are led through actual community members (not just people working within communities), and because we are meeting tangible needs, people respond to the Gospel more freely. This means that we are not only daily showing the love of Jesus, but we are able to present the love of Jesus and know that majority of people will at least pause and give our presentations an attentive ear. Some of the ways these presentations take form during the course of the year are one-on-one, such as praying for families during home installation of filters or beginning conversations on hygiene and sanitation by equipping families with illustrated manuals that actually read like devotions. These manuals encourage families to not only have clean hands, but also clean hearts for God, too. ActiveWater and our local partners also invite the entire community to public viewings of Jesus outreach films that yearly bring in thousands of villagers, and every summer we put on a full VBS production for the kiddos in the communities we are partnered with too.
ActiveWater's international partners, SHIP and CHO are also reaching out to communities through their own funding. In Zambia, SHIP teaches improved irrigation techniques to farmers, offers welding and sewing classes to people desiring useful trade skills, and will soon offer HIV testing and distribution of anti-retroviral therapy drugs. In Cambodia, CHO responds to multiple needs, including but not limited to, hosting a safehaven to children recovered from human trafficking, teaching desireable trade skills such as sewing, and offerring micro-finance loans to hopeful entrepreneurs. Although ActiveWater only funds water, sanitation, and hygiene aspects of their development programs, we are very proud to work with partners who are daily seeing and addressing these other needs.