Labels: , Volunteers
Bula bula everyone! We had an exciting and productive week in Fiji! At port in Suva and anchored in Savusavu, our volunteers travelled to shore to participate in community health engagements, subject matter expert exchanges, and community outreach missions. Rose Wilson and I were fortunate enough to participate in a mission to bring water filters to Savusavu and to villages on the island of Taveuni. We worked with members of the Army Civil Affairs team (CAT) and members of the Navy to coordinate the delivery and installation of the filters, and engaged with students from a vocational school on the island to complete various renovations on the nursing centers we visited. We had the pleasure of meeting many of the individuals who will benefit from the filters.
To start the project, Rose visited the Ministry of Health in Savusavu to discuss how to better educate and implement clean water.
“We went to install these water filters on request from the Ministry of Health,” said Rose. Fiji has access to a lot of water on account of high rainfall, and some of the farms etc. do use tanks, but there are pockets of the community that use water out of creeks and other less sanitary sources. At places like clinics, hospitals, schools, and nursing stations, water is still boiled to rid it of impurities and bacteria. So we brought the filters to be installed in those locations. We installed one in the actual Ministry of Health to promote clean water and to teach them how to do it themselves, so that they are better equipped to help communities access clean water all the time.”
The next day we set out for Taveuni, a beautiful island inhabited by wonderful, welcoming people. It is one of Fiji's larger islands, but it is remote and access to filtered water is very limited. We flew there from the ship by helicopter and landed on a rugby field and were greeted by the local team in the midst of their morning practice. We then proceeded to drive north to the first nursing station of our visit.
Many of the water tanks we saw collected rainwater from gutters and were sitting on decomposing platforms. Our teams assembled the water filters and explained how they work and how to maintain them, and simultaneously worked with the students to rebuild and reinforce the platforms the water tanks rest on. While the students from the vocational school constructed the new platform under the guidance of the CAT, I met several inquisitive little girls whose mothers were visiting the nursing center. I explained how the water filter would give them cleaner, healthier water to drink and shared my MRE, or meal ready to eat, with them. One of the CATs shared his M&Ms with them, which were promptly spit out and traded for fresh mandarin oranges plucked right from the trees! I felt very lucky to be able to interact with and learn from some of the children whose lives will be positively impacted by this particular mission.
Before the water filters, the people at the nursing stations had to boil the water and wait for it to cool down before using it. After our visit, the benefits were visible right away. The brown, muddy water that went into the filters came out clear and clean, and, as Rose put it, “this was important for them to see because it heightened enthusiasm and excitement to install filters elsewhere, and now they know how to do it. They can now go and install them in spaces themselves.” Everyone was very happy! The children we met were thrilled and loved watching the water go in dirty and come out clear- it was like magic to them!
The mission was successful and directly coincided with Project HOPE's goal to help people help themselves. We left each location satisfied that the water filters will prove effective and be used properly for years to come. Empowering the people of Savusavu and Taveuni with the gift of clean water was very powerful and made Rose and I especially appreciative and conscious of the access we have to clean water.
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