Happy World Water Day!
What a perfect day to introduce Hands Helping Haiti (HHH). About a year ago, the founder of the HHH, Pat, reached out to me via email. He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him, but after doing some research on his own about organizations that were working in Haiti to bring clean water solutions to the Haitian population, he came across information about the WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) program I had established in the Sud-Est Department near a town called Jacmel.
In Pat’s email, he discussed how HHH had been working in Haiti for quite a few years. They ran a biosand filter factory in the Sud-Est Department of Haiti near where I would be working, and considering that I was also working to provide WASH education and water filters to the community, he wanted to know if there was some way we could work together. He also invited me to check it out and met his staff.
I was stoked. From my work with the NGO (non-governmental organization) Wine to Water in Uganda in 2017 and from training I had completed with the Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST), I was familiar with biosand filter technology and excited about the prospects of working with HHH.
What is a biosand filter?
I am so glad you asked that question. Since CAWST is the expert on the subject, I am going to let them explain:
“A biosand filter (BSF) is an adaptation of the traditional slow sand filter, which has been used for community drinking water treatment for 200 years. The biosand filter is smaller (about 1 m tall, 0.3 m wide on each side) and adapted so that it does not flow continuously, making it suitable for use in people’s homes. The filter container can be made of concrete or plastic. It is filled with layers of specially selected and prepared sand and gravel. The sand removes pathogens and suspended solids from contaminated drinking water. A biological community of bacteria and other micro-organisms grows in the top 2 cm of sand. This is called the biolayer. The micro-organisms in the biolayer eat many of the pathogens in the water, improving the water treatment. (Pathogens are micro-organisms in water that make us sick and suspended Solids are dirt and other small pieces in the water).
You can use any kind of water in the biosand filter – well water, borehole water, pond or river water, tap-stand water, or rainwater. This makes it very convenient for people because they can use whichever water source is closest to home, make it safe to drink. The water must not have been chlorinated though, or the chlorine will kill the biolayer. The water should also not contain any dangerous chemicals, because the biosand filter cannot remove most chemicals from water.
Contaminated water is poured into the top of the biosand filter at least once per day (but not continuously). The water poured into the top of the filter slowly drips through the holes in the diffuser, and flows down through the sand and gravel. Treated water flows out of the outlet tube. No power is required – the filter works by gravity. It should take about 1 hour to get 12-18 liters of filtered drinking water.
Pathogens and suspended solids are removed through biological and physical processes that take place in the sand. These processes include: mechanical trapping, predation, adsorption, and natural death.
The biosand filter has been studied in the field and in labs. It has been shown to remove the following from contaminated water:
-Up to 100% of helminths (worms)
-Up to 100% of protozoa
-Up to 98.5% of bacteria
-70-99% of viruses
The filter can also remove up to 95% of turbidity (dirt and cloudiness), and up to 95% or iron (which people often don’t like because it turns water, laundry and food red!)”.
That is so neat!
I know, right? I glad accepted Pat’s invitation to visit the HHH biosand filter factory.
When I arrived a few months later, I was greeted by Elie, HHH’s manager who oversees that filter building. As he showed me the process of how the filters were built, I had a chance to ask them about their work in the region.
Elie told me that that the HHH Water Project works with communities in Southeast Haiti to develop safe drinking water supplies which alleviate waterborne diseases and the incidence of malnutrition.
Their community workers, a Haitian staff of about ten people, install biosand filters in homes which provide safe drinking water for a family, which will alleviate sickness, missed school and work, high infant mortality and premature death caused by drinking unsafe water.
The filter program itself consists of building and installing filters, teaching families proper water, sanitation and hygiene practices, follow-up through the community organizations and continuing health education. The total cost for all this: $60 per filter — all of which is spent with to pay Haitian workers and teachers salaries.
Since 2009, HHH has installed 2,000 filters in homes, schools, and orphanages covering an area of 100 miles outside of Jacmel and reaching some of the most remote communities in Haiti.
After we finished our visit, I knew I wanted to work with HHH. I loved that they employed an all-Haitian staff and that they not only provide biosand water filters, but they educate families and communities on the proper use of the filters as well as other essential WASH practices.
How can I get involved with HHH?
You can get in touch with HHH directly through their website. https://haitiwaterproject.org
Their contact information is also listed here:
Hands Helping Haiti
PO Box 231
Lacon, IL 61540, US