"Love and water" combine to improve quality of life in remote Haitian villages
January 14, 2013 - CH2M HILL has built an impressive record of volunteer service to improve quality of life in challenged parts of the world. One of many examples of this outreach is a December expedition to Haiti that included volunteers from CH2M HILL and ESCO. The team's mission was to install a water chlorination system in the town of Port-Salut on Haiti's South coast.
Group of volunteers.
The trip was organized with the help of Voice of Haiti, a group dedicated to motivating "agents of change" for Haiti. It was led by Esco Corporation Project Engineer Carolyn Shapiro, a mechanical engineer who previously served as the lead for Engineers Without Borders Haiti water projects since 2008. She teamed up with Voice of Haiti in 2011 to bring clean water solutions to more Haitian communities.
Waterborne illness is a leading cause of death for Haiti's children. Cholera has been a serious concern across the country since the 2010 earthquake. In under-served areas like Port-Salut, chlorinators can mean the difference between healthy and contaminated water for thousands of people. This was the fourth system installed and there are plans to provide chlorination to almost a dozen communities on Haiti's sometimes forgotten South Coast.
This is the third Haiti water volunteer project in three years for CH2M HILL engineers Steve Blaine/PDX of I&AT and Dave Kelly/SEA of the Water group. Carolyn recruited Steve and Dave because of their engineering skill, affinity for teamwork and personal passion for working in Haiti. Carolyn's brother Steven Shapiro was in charge of the tools, materials and basically making everything work – an amazing feat for a project of this kind.
With each trip there, Steve and Dave have felt their bond with and admiration for the Haitian people grow stronger. That spirit is epitomized in the name of the Haitian host group, Tout Bagay, that arranged for the team's equipment, trucks and hospitality. The group's name derives from Tout Bagay Deja Byen, the Haitian expression translating to "Everything is Already Alright!" It's an expression tirelessly repeated in the face of poverty, disease, famine and drought.
"After the last few trips, I was not sure I wanted to go again. It's never a convenient time and frankly, it's not the easiest or safest place to travel. Luckily, Carolyn was very persistent and I'm very glad Dave and I were able to do this together. How many opportunities do you really get to work on something so important? Haitian people are quite amazing and it really is a beautiful country."
"Working in a place like Haiti gives you a sense of understanding about the challenges facing emerging countries that no documentary or article can convey," adds Dave. "They appreciate the help and we appreciate the opportunity to make life a little easier for some very impressive people."
On the Voice of Haiti website http://www.vwaayiti.org/ is the observance by poet W.H. Auden that "Thousands have lived without love, not one without water." Thanks to the growing bond between CH2M HILL and Haiti, the lives of thousands in Haiti are getting a little better thanks to love and water.
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