A Vision for Clean Water

In April of 2019, I had the pleasure of participating in a weekend-long training with the non-profit organization A Vision for Clean Water (AVFCW).

Based out of Troy, Michigan, AVFCW “is a non-profit 501(c)(3) with the goal of teaching and training others how to design, implement, and sustain clean water and sanitation projects in countries around the world.”

A workshop participate framing out a latrine slab before pouring concrete during the AVFCW Latrine Building Workshop.

I first found out about AVFCW through an email I received from the Center for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST). CAWST leads workshops around the world that “teach people how to get safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene in their own homes, using simple, affordable technologies.”

Getting to know CAWST

Having participated in a Teaching Effective WASH Training workshop with CAWST in 2018 at their office in Canada, I was quick to sign up for AVFCW’s Latrine Building Workshop. Having no personal knowledge of their work, I was confident that because of their partnership with CAWST, AWFCW was a reputable organization. Plus — the low cost of their three-day training was something I could not pass up. It was actually unbelievably inexpensive to participate, and so I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

I was not disappointed with my experience with AVFCW. In fact, they blew me away. I spent three-day training with attendees from across the United States and Kenya, El Salvador, Ecuador and Haiti with varying backgrounds with clean water and sanitation projects including clean water advocates, drillers, civil engineers, teachers, students, and implementers. The workshop was well-organized, and our hosts went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. I couldn’t have been more impressed with this well-oiled machine and the professional and personal manner in which they conducted their workshops.

A history of AVFCW

Lead by its founders Eileen and John Heasley, who were both in attendance, throughout the weekend I had the chance to learn about the history of AVFCW:

From the AVFCW website:

“Eileen and John Heasley visited Nepal in the spring of 2002 and fell in love with the country’s gentle people and breath-taking scenery. But the Heasleys also witnessed people bathe in the same water they carried home to drink, and women walk great distances every day with vessels of the unclean water.”

“The Heasleys came away acutely aware of the unsafe water conditions. The people in the remote villages and even the cities had taken careful precautions, but they did not have access to safe drinking water. They learned that in Nepal alone, about one in twelve children under the age of five dies every year from a water-related disease. It was then that the Heasleys decided they needed to make a difference.”

The Heasleys found that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was researching a simple household Biosand Water Filter that removed enough biological contaminants to make water safe for drinking. Both John and Eileen decided to attend the CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology) training seminar in Toronto conducted by Dr. David Manz, the designer of the biosand filter. The Heasleys wanted to become trained in the correct way to use and maintain the biosand filter. After completing the seminar, Eileen and John were prepared to train and share knowledge with others on how to use these technologies.”

A dome-shaped latrine slab under construction.

The Heasleys began by supplying the biosand water filters to an orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal. They then prepared 25 schools and provided them with filters. This was the beginning – A Vision for Clean Water was formed.”

An admirable non-profit

Not only is their story pretty amazing, but how AVFCW is run is admirable as well. AVFCW is an entirely volunteer-run organization, with 100% of donations going straight to education and training programs. Their unpaid staff even pays all their own travel expenses to ensure that all donations go directly to supporting clean water and sanitation education.

AVFCW also has a lot of accomplishments to be proud of through their work.

In the past eight years, they have trained over 100 workshop graduates who have taken on safe water projects in India, Mali, Rwanda, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, South Africa, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. The organization also works in South and Central America, Nepal, and Lebanon to bring villages and schools water filters to ensure that communities around the world are healthy and protected against water-borne illnesses.

If you would like to donate AVFCW, contact them directly on their website: https://avisionforcleanwater.org

Some of the workshop participants in front of a squatting pit latrine slab.

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