By Celine Klosterman
Thanks in part to students and a teacher at Notre Dame Schools in Burlington, four Ethiopian villages now have potentially lifesaving water purification devices.
Middle and high school students in Corey Lamm’s science classes at Notre Dame raised $600 in spring 2012 to buy four handheld chlorination systems through Water Our Thirsty World, a Mount Pleasant-based organization. The family of Notre Dame second-grader Grant Boal then traveled to Ethiopia Aug. 4-17 to train residents on using the units.
In addition to Notre Dame, local churches and contributors to an annual Water Walk fundraiser in Mount Pleasant donated money to purchase devices for the August trip. In all, they provided enough funds to buy 40 water purification units.
Water Our Thirsty World says the devices can produce enough chlorine to purify water for thousands of people for several years. That potential gives hope to Marti Boal, who is Grant’s mother and Lamm’s sister.
In Ethiopia, “We distributed the units to remote villages where people are still collecting water from ponds or mud puddles. It’s horrific. You see babies with distended bellies because of worms,” she said.
She traveled to the east African nation with Grant; her daughter Mollie, a freshman at New London High School; her husband Chad, a member of the board of directors for Water Our Thirsty World; and two other members of their church, New London Christian Church.
Ethiopia was among 10 countries with the most people who didn’t have access to improved drinking water in 2010, according to a UNICEF and World Health Organization report. That year, 46 million people in the country didn’t have access to water protected from outside contamination.
That’s about half of the nation’s population. Proportionally, it’s better than in 1990, when less than 20 percent of the population had access to protected drinking water, according to the World Health Organization.
Marti, who visited Ethiopia with Mollie last year as well, knows change comes slowly. “You could spend years there and not fill all the need,” she said.
She demonstrated use of the chlorination systems to students in Lamm’s science classes this past spring. Lamm then placed an empty water jug in his classroom and invited students to drop loose change into the container to go toward buying water purifiers. One student donated all the money he’d earned from mowing lawns, Lamm said.
Also, New London Christian Church held a summer luncheon that raised $10,000 for Ethiopia. Marti said that money went toward purchasing cows — a source of income for Ethiopians. Representatives of the Montana-based agency Look Development Ethiopia show Africans how to milk and care for the livestock, she said. “It’s a hand up, not a handout.”
Chad and another traveler will return to Africa in December to buy additional cows.
In addition to providing water purifiers and livestock, Iowans contributed clothing for children at an Ethiopian orphanage that Marti had visited on her first trip. “Their clothing was very tattered.” She said her church helped provide an outfit, soap, washcloth and small gift for each child.
“Students at Notre Dame are grasping the concept that God has blessed Notre Dame families so they can bless others in need,” Lamm said.