The Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, recently received a grant for $4,680 from the Toledo Rotary Club Foundation to purchase portable water-purification devices for residents of Haiti in the mountains where the Catholic sisters minister.
Clean drinking water is an ongoing problem for the people of Haiti and is a major cause of death of children under the age of 5. This grant will allow the sisters to purchase 100 water-purification units for residents in five villages above Pestel, 90 miles west of Port-au-Prince, where they have served since 2000.
“Having clean drinking water, especially for the real young and the elderly is a serious issue,” said Sister Joy Barker, a member of the sisters’ stateside Haiti Committee. “Haiti has experienced a return of cholera, with almost 1,000 people infected in the last two years where our Sisters work. Having these portable purification units will go a long way to help alleviate this problem.”
Dr. Richard Paat, former chief of staff at St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee, was instrumental in securing this grant. He took a team of healthcare professionals to Haiti in late January to train the residents how to use the water purification units. Dr. Paat, who has gone on numerous trips to impoverished countries, said that “clean drinking water significantly decreases the mortality of new mothers by as much as 42 percent.”
The Sisters of St. Francis work with the Haitians to help them develop a better way of life. Their efforts include malnutrition and midwife programs, regular visits by nurses and aides for health monitoring and distribution of medicine, and the construction of cisterns to collect water and, now, the purification units. In addition, the Sisters help the Haitians grow gardens for food, learn how to sew to make money, and develop leadership skills to be able to organize their villages.
The water purification units were purchased by a local manufacturer in Haiti, thus helping sustain the local economy. Being able to purify their own drinking water is a proactive stance that will help reduce the number of people who get sick and need medical attention. The goal of the project is to organize the villagers so they can purify water for all of the people in their immediate area. They also learned how to maintain the equipment.