A Glass of Cold Water
A San Diego charity seeks to provide clean water for Fiji’s poor.
Above: Mineer and little Ame at Tavarau Settlement
Darrel Larson, Give Clean Water’s founder and a veteran in nonprofits, has focused on improving the lives of the impoverished around the globe. During his international travels, he noted that many poor people lack clean drinking water — and that its prominent role in illness and death could be remedied or even prevented. In 2006, Larson decided to focus on the problem in Fiji, an island nation best known as a tropical paradise and vacation destination.
While we may pay a premium for Fiji-brand bottled water, many of the poor people on the South Pacific’s Fijian Islands drink untreated water. The island nation has a high poverty rate and more than 50 percent of the population does not have access to clean water for drinking and cooking. While some of the urban areas do have modern purification systems through established infrastructure, most of Fiji’s rural areas do not. The result has been periodic outbreaks of cholera, salmonella, typhoid, E. coli and other water-born pathogens.
Larson — pastor at Newbreak church in Scripps Mesa — thought the scope of the problem in Fiji was solvable, and that it could be used as a test case for other locations around the world. And the San Diego-based organization Give Clean Water, Inc. was born.
The organization serves “one household at a time” — giving out water filters so families in Fiji can have clean water to drink. The organization installs a Sawyer filtration system called the Point One Filter, which purifies and removes bacteria, with one filter cleansing up to a million gallons.
Torrie Bradley, installing a water filter with Give Clean Water in July 2011
“Helping people in another country with clean drinking water — a basic human need — is fulfilling,” says Amanda Mineer, the organization’s president and executive director for the last three years. “I care about it passionately.”
According to Mineer, the process “involves four basic steps that include identification and advance preparation, biographical data to be collected and filter installation, followed by two visits once the work is completed.”
Lori Lester Brown teaching local village woman how to use the filter
The filters provided to individual households are attached to a water source situated over a 5-gallon bucket. Paid staff and volunteers gather biographical and demographic data, visit homes and — with the help of Get Clean Water teams — install the purification filters and conduct training for the families on how to use and clean the filter. In addition, the organization focuses on a pay-it-forward philosophy by encouraging local residents who have already been served to help others with future installations and training.
Kristina Maxwell preparing clean water buckets for installation
The organization effectively partners with Dip Chand, the Fijian Ministry of Health’s Director, who “fully supports the organization’s work (by) identifying high-risk communities who are vulnerable to communicable diseases such as typhoid, diarrhea and shigellosis.” Communities already benefitting from these filtration systems include Nadroga-Navosa, Nadi, Ba and Rakiraki.
The filters themselves are relatively inexpensive to purchase and install — just $100 per household. GCW relies on a pool of volunteers and fundraising efforts to provide these services. Volunteers come from all walks of life, both within the United States and from local Fijian communities. In addition, volunteers can be sponsored to make trips to Fiji to help with education, installation and follow-up maintenance and data collecting.
“We take groups to Fiji three to four times per year,” says Mineer. “It is a wonderful experience to spend time in service travel, helping others in need and to learn about their cultures. So far we’ve equipped approximately 3,000 households with these state-of-the art filters.”
With an estimated 200,000 homes left to complete the project, there is certainly more work to do. Those interested in service travel, trip sponsorships, volunteering or donating to Get Clean Water can contact the organization by calling 888-429-6741 or visiting givecleanwater.org.