Over the past few weeks the weather has made installations difficult to impossible. Our installation crew has been returning to report that areas were inaccessible due to flooding. Our follow-up people had the same problems. A few days ago I was in Ogè, a community in the Artibonite about an hour and a half north of us, and encountered water two feet deep on the road. Houses were standing in an immense lake as the irrigation canals overflowed. Other communities have been similarly affected. Therefore we have not been sending the crew out as often, and even when we do it is not with a full load of filters.
We have utilized this down time to do some promotions. A few weeks ago Bryan spoke in the church in Williamson, a community a few minutes south of us, and last week we installed 23 filters in the community. We expect there will be more orders as a result. Last week Bryan and I went with our promotion people to Robert, high in the mountains above Williamson. The trip was difficult, but we found strong interest in our Bio-sand filters.
However delivering filters to high elevation communities would come at a cost. The steep rocky roads are hard on our truck, tearing at the tires, viciously jarring the suspension and taxing the driveline to it limits. We estimate that the maximum workable load would be 24 filters, significantly less than the truck’s capacity of 34. It would be hard on our crews who have to make the trip as I did in the bed of the truck; I am still suffering some after effects more than a week later. It would be time consuming; it took us over 2 hours to travel the 11.5 miles from Williamson to Robert. Should it rain while our crew was there they would be forced to stay the night; the trip down on wet roads would be far too dangerous.
Remarkable improvements to roads in the area are rapidly expanding our effective catchment area. Locations that would have taken 3 to 4 hours to reach a few months ago, and therefore be well beyond our practical reach, can now be accessed in an hour. Many of these newly accessible areas would provide for easy installations.
Therefore we are facing a dilemma. The people in some of the remote and difficult to reach areas are in urgent need of filters. Unlike those who live near towns and highways, they have no alternative source of water. They must use whatever source they have, and if it is contaminated, which almost all water sources here are, they are at high risk for disease. Clean Water for Haiti certainly wants to provide service to these people. However, if we decide to go ahead with installations in difficult areas, we do so at considerable risk: if our truck was put out of service even for a relatively short time it would severely curtail our entire program. We need to find a way that we can offer filters to any who want them.
Regardless of where our Bio-sand filters are installed, we know they save lives. But the effectiveness of our program depends upon keeping interest at a high level. To achieve this, we believe that at least for a time we need to put more emphasis on promotion. From what we have seen people respond very positively once they are provided information on how our filters can benefit them, how to use the filters most effectively and how to purchase one. Our own well-trained people are very skilled at making presentations which provide this information. Their in-depth knowledge has been developed over years of employment with Clean Water for Haiti in the manufacture and installation of the filters, and is undergirded by a passionate belief in the program. The community promoters we hire, though they have been doing a good job, are simply not as well equipped to thoroughly explain the workings and benefits of our filters. Therefore it would be best to have our own people do the initial presentation as we move into a previously untapped community, and then let the local promoters move into their natural role as generators of sales.
~Barry Procter, CWH Volunteer