Thursday, February 27, 2014

Water Awakening

In the scheme of a lifetime, most people are likely to experience some form of “water awakening”—whether it be in the green world that exists on college campuses, doing humanitarian work, or just by following of the media’s depiction of Earth’s dwindling natural resources. We suddenly become aware that the showers we take are too long, or that we could stand to wash the dishes by hand for the night. For me, this awakening occurred rather recently, when I worked for an organization called Project Hearts.
Ruben Ottenwalder, a native of
the Dominican Republic
The organization is based in Baitoa, Dominican Republic, and was started by an ex-Franciscan monk named Ruben Ottenwalder. I first visited the Dominican Republic with a church group in 2005 and, until last year, was not able to return. When I went back this time, I was much older and more empathetic to the disparities that exist between developing countries and the U.S. In particular, I experienced firsthand the problem of clean water scarcity.

Over the past fifteen years, Ruben has been doing humanitarian work in Baitoa—everything from paying for operations to building houses and cook-stoves. It is only during the past few years that Ruben has decided simple charity is not enough to evolve a community. Now, he is working to empower the local people through personal accountability. The method he uses? The promise of clean water. With water borne diseases directly responsible for millions deaths per year (most of which are children under five), it has become vitally important to intervene at the household level to develop safe water practices. Ruben’s organization, and the many other non-profits like his in other developing countries, use filters like the one shown here—simple ceramic pots injected with metals like silver to purify water up to 99%!

Ceramic filtration vessels sit inside of a 5-gallon bucket.
The point is this: whether it is in the third world, or here in Harrisville, NH, water is necessary for life. In joining the Art for Water team, I hope to help expand the vision of global water awareness once again—this time through art.

Nick Ellis is in the Creative Writing program at Goddard College in Vermont. As he completes his BFA, he will be working with Art for Water as Administrative Assistant.