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Clean Water Project in St. Monica

PROJECT REPORT FROM PHILLIP CHANSummary: The purpose of the trip was to implement a small scale clean water project in the Amerindian village of St. Monica.  The decision to conduct this project was based on ongoing communication I had with my village since COS-ing regarding the rise in gastrointestinal complaints (vomiting and diarrhea) reported at the health post and village concerns about the increasingly polluted waters of the Pomeroon.  Prior to the trip we conducted research on applicable clean water applications, including portable filtration systems, Life Straws, water purification packets, and river bank sand filtration.  We consulted with the local Philadelphia chapter of Engineers Without Borders (regarding the river bank sand filtration method) and with Dr. Andrea Thorpe of the Miami Chapter - Rotary International.  We also invited a guest speaker, Dr. Christiaan Morssink-president of the United Nations Associations of Greater Philadelphia to come to our school and give a lecture on water security in the developing world.  Dr. Morssink had previously lived in Suriname, where he was head of the Department of Planning and Project Management in the Ministry of Health.  Ultimately, we settled on rainwater collection as the application for use in our project, primarily for three reasons:

  1. Turbidity and conductivity data collected by a 2006 CDC team to the Pomeroon indicated rainwater as the cleanest natural source of water in the region.

  2. Village leaders identified rainwater collection as the desired source for clean water in the community, and already possessed resources to support the set up of a rainwater collection system on the central village compound (including four 450 gallon rainwater tanks).

  3. In conjunction with Rotary International, a successful larger-scale project to set up rainwater tanks had already been conducted in the neighboring village of Kabakaburi.  Assessment plans to expand this project to St. Monica and Karawab were already underway, and our efforts would complement those of the RI team. We arrived in Guyana on the morning of Sunday, March 22, and arrived in St. Monica the following day on Monday, March 23.  On Tuesday we traveled with the tushao to Karawab at the request of Dr. Thorpe, who wanted to collect population and resource data for expansion of Rotary's clean water project to this community.  We were also planning on setting up a second water tank stand at the Karawab village compound, near the primary school and health post.  However, due to time limitations we were restricted to setting up a single water tank stand at the St. Monica compound.  Wednesday and Thursday were devoted to clearing the work site area and gathering materials for the stand, including 384 BMs of lumber donated from community members, representing nearly half of the necessary resources for the project.  Construction commenced on Thursday, and was completed the following afternoon.  Friday evening we had a sendoff dinner and party at the village community center.  Paiwari was shared.  I danced the Worm.

Clean Water Project in St. Monica
Clean Water Project in St. Monica
Clean Water Project in St. Monica
Clean Water Project in St. Monica
  1. Function as an alternative to working in the interior of the country in the logging or mining industries, where there are much greater occupational, environmental, and health risks. Most of the older male teens and men work in either logging or mining.

  2. Help to empower women who choose to take part in the manufacture and sale of goods through the woodwork shop by providing them with a source of income. Some of the goods, especially the wicker-like arts and crafts, could be completed at home.

  3. Present an opportunity for which younger people, especially those who may be out of school and unemployed, could learn the trade of woodwork from their elders. The school headmaster stressed the importance of advancing the teachers' computer literacy and proficiency with respect to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. This would help them better prepare future generations of students to function in a more computer-centered society.  To this end, we conducted an after school lesson helping with his own Word and Excel skills on Wednesday afternoon. Phillip: On a personal note, it was really awesome to be back in St. Monica.  There were moments of nostalgia, bizarre feelings of deja vu, and a little bit of sadness (such as seeing my old Grade 8 students pregnant or having to get malaria meds from working in the bush).  However, for the most part I was actually heartened by all the positive steps the village seemed to be taking, from the woodworking shop and functioning village telephone to the head teacher's enthusiasm and continuing use of the computers.  There is an especially promising long house left behind by the Barama Lumber corporation which the village is hoping to make use of (some ideas included a tourism guesthouse, health center, and Upper Pomeroon marketplace).

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