KSC & SISP join hands to bring water to the poorest

Each morning when I get up, I go to the bathroom and flush the toilet (6 litres), I jump in the shower (62 litres), I brush my teeth (2.5 litres), I fill up the kettle (2 litres), I do the washing up (5 litres). So 72.5 litres of clean, drinkable water used, all before 9am, without even thinking.

This is in no way a luxury afforded by inhabitants of the Vizhinjam Harbour and Kovalam Junction area. The majority of homes share one or two local outdoor taps, varying distances from their front doorstep. The water is not drinkable. It is full of parasites and germs. They have to carry it back and forth in heavy plastic containers, during the day and at night, vulnerable in the pitch darkness. There are no toilet facilities in the whole area. The only alternative for drinking water is to buy it every day, stretching to attain what should be a basic human right out of extremely meagre earnings. Some weeks, water cannot be afforded.

S.I.S.P. is slowly working its way through its beneficiaries and the children who attend the school to provide a simple but 100% effective water filter system for their homes. Rudimentary in its set up (2 buckets and a connecting pipe) this water filter can provide gallons of clean, drinkable water daily. So, as a group of enthusiastic volunteers, we set out with our task: to install 100 water filter systems in 5 days. Working with the local social workers and teachers of SISP, and herded by the extremely efficient organisation skills of the SISP permanent volunteer team, we worked to implement the systems and to train people how to use and clean them.

Each day we reconvened at lunch time to share our experiences. One word was used most often: heavy. Not just from the poor living conditions, the sickness, the vicious circle of poverty that traps so many of the people in the area, but from the lack of support they receive, the loneliness they suffer, the unreliability of their day to day living.

One beneficiary is in her 80’s. She has no family except for her 45 yr old son who suffers from a severe physical and mental disability and cannot leave the house. Cataracts mean that she cannot work. She receives a small allowance from the government but otherwise is left to fend for herself. With her water filter now in place, she can make much fewer trips up to her local water supply, and can have clean drinking water available from as soon as she wakes up. A small step, but one less obstacle for her to conquer in the daily adversity she faces.

In another home, we meet a father who broke his back out on the fishing boats. Despite several operations, he cannot walk, and will be unable to return to work. As a result the son, a student at S.I.S.P, has been pulled out of school to head out on the fishing boats and provide for the family. Again, the water filter allows respite in one tiny area of their lives, but the visit with the social worker has highlighted the recent change in their situation and allows for S.I.S.P to see where and how it can help alleviate the problems the family are facing.

The united effort in each of S.I.S.P’s projects is clear to see. We weren’t just installing water filters: we were working with the community, to connect to the community. To alleviate the immediate problem of poor drinking water, but also to build a network of support for the beneficiaries on many different levels. The work the local social workers do is invaluable on a grass roots level and the unerring and ongoing determination of all involved, to help the community, unfaultable.

Thanks to the financial support of SISP Belgium and Lelia Italy, who raised funds in schools, water companies, etc., we were able to provide  these families of a water filter and hereby access to clean drinking water! Hands up for all of the S.I.S.P. team and the volunteers!

January 2017

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© 2015 Emi Koch with Beyond the Surface International.

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