Delaney Thull - Spotlight on Service
Delaney Thull - Spotlight on Service: Water Filters Project
On a chilly early summer morning in January, I traveled to Huycho, a community of about 140 households. I went with Ober, the Cleaner Burning Stoves Project supervisor, and Ernestina, the Water Filters Project supervisor. The three of us were holding a charla with the community leaders to present the projects and gauge the community's interest in working with our NGO, ProPeru. We found ourselves seated on a small stage in the front of the village sala. Facing us, 12 women were seated along the left wall and 25 men were seated along the right. Ober and Ernestina led the meeting in rapid Quechua, with a sprinkling of Spanish added in. They explained how the stoves and filters function, as well as how they benefit health, family finances, and the environment. Afterward, we shook hands and greeted every person, leaving with the promise of returning the following week. During the coming months, we will build cleaner burning stoves and distribute water filters for each of the families in Huycho.
All six of us Princeton BYP volunteers work with ProPeru. My project is the ceramic water filter production and distribution. Ernestina and I make the filters from the raw materials of sawdust clumps and clay chunks. We grind the clay and sift the sawdust into fine powders, blend them proportionally with water, and then press the mix into a form similar to a flower pot. After drying and hand shaping with butter knives, we bake them in an adobe kiln. Finally, we bathe the filters in colloidal silver for its antimicrobial properties. We distribute filters to families, as well as sell them to anyone in the Valley who wants clean water.
Water in Peru is not potable straight from the tap. In order to drink or cook with water, you must boil it sufficiently or disinfect it with Clorox. For many families, the cost of cooking fire fuel and/or disinfectant is high. Even higher is the cost of healthcare needed to recover from a water-borne bacteria or parasite. Many children suffer from severe dehydration and malnutrition as a result of chronic diarrhea caused by gastrointestinal parasites. Using our water filters, a person can purify water from the tap, river, or rain, and it is free of particulates, parasites, and bacteria.
My project work is one of my favorite aspects of the Bridge Year Program. I have learned more than I expected about working with ceramics. I have been privileged to get to know Ernestina and her sweet family. I have made s'mores at the kiln, lifted endless bags of heavy clay, and been able to translate instructions for short-term volunteers. When I meet someone new, they inevitably ask why I am in Urubamba. I always respond that I work with ProPeru, with the water filters. It is such a satisfying and encouraging feeling when their face lights with recognition and they reply that they use one of our filters and they love it.