“I’m happy a filter can be in my home!” Harriette says proudly crouched by her concrete bio-sand water filter she received last year. “We use the filter every day. I can collect a jerry can of dirty water from our local water source, pour it in and I can get enough clean water for the day. My children can just come and use it for their water, there is no more illness in my home”
This hasn’t always been the case for Harriette’s life here in Lusaze, Kampala. “Before we got the water filter I would boil 10 litres of water and that would last us about 3 days. The charcoal would cost me 3,000 shillings [the best part of a day’s wages]. I would use it for cooking and then once the food was prepared, I would boil the water to make it safe to drink. When the children are on holiday there can be 12 of us in the house. Sometimes I can’t afford more charcoal and my children fall sick. Without proper treatment, the symptoms from typhoid or diarrhoea can last weeks, even months.”
I heard that the local church were training people in hygiene and sanitation (this is run with A Rocha, Samaritan’s Purse Partner) and that this could reduce the risk of illness. I decided to go along.
“I learned how to keep my home clean and how to dispose of rubbish, wash utensils and store food properly. I also learned how to wash my hands with the soap they had shown us to make. As the training was going on they asked if anyone would be interested in getting a BioSand water filter. Those who were interested then got the opportunity to go to Gayaza, north of Kampala, where we participated in further training in how to construct our own water filter. I was so happy to see that these people were willing to share such a wonderful gift like this with us, without cost.
“The whole filter construction process was amazing. It felt good to be building a filter for a family like mine, to bring clean water to them.”
Harriette’s filter and her knowledge has benefited more than just her family. “When I finished the training and learnt all these good things, I told my friends and neighbours about what I had learned and 7 of them signed up to do the training! There is a woman in the community who has started a business collecting water for families, she brings the water here and filters it for them.
“My hope is that there will be no more sickness here. I’m happy that there are families who will be getting their own filters and will be able to provide clean water for their children”
Joanne lives in a slum in Nakulabye with her elderly parents and her children. There is limited space for all of them. She gets just 80 pence a day renting out some small rooms in the community.
"Life is hard here and it's worrying," she explains. "The biggest challenge we have here is water." Her family collect water from an unprotected spring well.
"The water is very bad, very dirty, our children play in this water. They often drink directly from the spring well when they are thirsty; they don't understand the dangers. We have a lot of cases of typhoid and diarrhoea among our children."
She then gestures over to the sewage ditch which follows the road close to this only water source. “It gets worse when it rains. During the rainy season people empty their latrines into the drainage ditch and it flows through the community. It’s really dangerous.”
"We use water for everything - bathing, cooking, washing and drinking. We use between 100-200 litres a day. We boil the water to make it safe, but it takes such a long time…it can take up to 5 hours to boil it. We boil 10 litres a day for drinking but have to allow time for it to cool first. We spend 2,000 Ugandan shillings (40 pence, half of Joanne’s daily wage) on charcoal to do this. We often don’t have enough money to buy charcoal for both cooking food and boiling water. When the boiled water runs out, we are forced to drink the dirty water.
The result is that her children get sick. "I buy medication for them but the tablets just reduce the symptoms, they don't really heal them. When their illness has been really bad, my children have been admitted to hospital. During those times I can't do anything but take care of my child. I can’t work, everything stops." Joanne points to herself, "When I am sick no one gets looked after. Typhoid weakens you so much you can do nothing for yourself."
Joanne gets to her feet and checks on the bubbling cooking pot beside her. “If there is an opportunity to make our water safe we would be very grateful. We can then have clean water readily available for the whole community. I hope that my community will have improved health and reduced cases of illness. A clean community where all these children can go to school”
Dina Marques remembers the bad old days, when the 350 students at Los Nilos County School didn’t have safe drinking water.
“The kids came maybe three of the five school days each week because they’d be sick at home one day and have to go to a clinic the next day,” recalls Dina, who’s been vice principal of the school in rural El Salvador for more than 30 years. The school had a well, but the water was safe only for hand washing and cleaning the classrooms. Then, in 2017, Samaritan’s Purse approached the school with an offer to install a Samaritan Filter and provide the students with health and hygiene training.
“At first, Dina didn’t believe me that it would happen because many people offer things and never follow through,” says Ken Morill who leads the El Salvador filter programme. Still, Dina and the principal said yes to Ken’s offer. That’s when life started to improve at Los Nilos County School.
Samaritan Filters use the same sand filtration technology of BioSand Water Filters, which we are building and installing throughout El Salvador (almost 10,000 in the last 18 years) thanks to the financial support of supporters like you. BioSand filters are designed for families; Samaritan Filters—which we have constructed and installed in three El Salvador schools and churches—provide all the daily drinking and cooking water necessary for hundreds of people.
“This is a blessing,” says a grateful Dina, relaxing in a shady part of the school’s humid central courtyard while children attend classes in buildings around her and volunteers prepare student lunches. “We don’t have to buy water for the students and now they’re never thirsty; they have enough to drink so there’s no more renal failure (a common medical condition for people who don’t drink enough fluids).”
She estimates school attendance has improved 10 per cent since the filter’s installation. As part of that installation, Samaritan’s Purse built water stations throughout the campus so students never have to go far to get a drink.
Just as important, in Dina’s mind, is the health and hygiene training we began providing to students even before the filter was installed. That training included clear and simple messages about why the children’s lives will be better when they follow Jesus Christ, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8, ESV).
“We are so grateful that you wanted to talk to the students about Christ, not just about water,” Dina says, adding she and the principal asked us to do the training during classes (rather than before or after school), to ensure every student heard the messages.
“Many of our kids attend the nearby church, but others come from further away and never hear about Jesus,” she notes, adding in some classes a majority of students who heard the messages prayed to receive Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Praise God! The training has been so well received that Dina connected us with two other schools that didn’t need filters, but did need to hear the Good News of Salvation. The leaders of both schools said yes to our offer to tell students about the “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20, ESV) of Jesus Christ.
“We very thankful to God and to Samaritan’s Purse donors for all this,” says Dina. “We hope this work happens in many other El Salvador schools that lack clean water. You can help children suffering from parasites and renal failure.”
You can create healthier homes, schools and communities in developing countries through your support of Samaritan’s Purse Water Projects. Please consider contributing toward the £6,000 cost of building and installing a Samaritan Filter for a school, community centre or church. You can supply a family with a BioSand Filter for £70, and a gift of £20 can provide safe water for one person.