Singing in the Rain – Haiti

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Jon demostating the ceramic water filter in Carrefour.

The human body is a freak of nature.

In the slums throughout PAP, the conditions in which the people are living is unfathomable— and well beyond any biological standards that I’ve ever seen. So much of the city is suffocated with mounds of trash that seem to noticeably grow taller each day— then add the rain, and it all turns to an infectious sludge. Nestled between the trash piles are street markets filled with fresh meat and produce that is often displayed on dirty tarps; laid out directly on the narrow sidewalks. And with a constant flow of people and cars passing within inches of the concessions there is no hope of anything staying clean. I’m not writing about this in scrutiny, but rather in awe and appreciation for the human body. There are experts that could study these conditions and with their math, things wouldn’t add up. On paper they would prove that the human body couldn’t endure such an environment— yet a big portion of PAP’s population does everyday. And yes, it does have adverse affects on many of them but the fact that most are surviving through it is a true testament to the brilliance the human body.

The boys and I decided to do a shotgun filter distribution yesterday in a really poor area called Carrefour. It’s an area that see very little aid and I’ve been wanting to visit there for a while now. Our translator, Gino, is from that area and served as the perfect in-road. We only had ten filters left out of the 20 that I brought down in my suitcase, but it’s definitely a start and still translates to 100+ people getting clean water. Gino took us to a smaller sized IDP tent camp so that we could manage the crowd better. Most IDP camps have some sort of committee or group within it that helps manage it. Since we only had 10 filters and there were probably 300 families in the camp those are the individuals who can best decide where the systems end up and why— It’s their community and the people will listen to them. Our job is to find those leaders, do a demonstration, give them filters, and then leave them to empower their community.

We built one system and then let them build one— half way through the second demo it started to downpour which sent us all into a mad scramble— With stacks of buckets in our hands Rob and I followed them towards shelter; a classroom of the school next door. As we finished the demo in there, the sound of rain on the corrugated tin roof served as a nice backdrop. As did the screams and laughter from the children playing soccer echoing from the classroom next to us—

Once again, the filter system steals the show and everybody understands it with ease— because it really is brilliantly basic!

We traversed through areas yesterday that are as bad as anywhere in the world— and bearing witness to such things is gut-wrenching— and as always, incredibly humbling.

Attached are a couple pics from our time in Carrefour — the first is of Rob and I assisting them to build a system and the second is all of us inside the classroom after the demo’s were finished.

— Jon Rose

Jon & Rob assisting demo in Carrefour

Jon, Rob, & Gino (kneeled in red shirt) with crew after Carrefour demo.

Nike Game Changer Kits

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W4W / Nike – GameChanger Kit from Waves For Water on Vimeo.

Give Now

Well— back in Haiti and since I was here just a week ago its safe to say everything is a bit blurry.

It’s weird now though, I’m starting to feel more relaxed here than at home. I have felt a lot of things since my first mission here, but relaxed has never been one of them. I think because when I’m here I am focused on just one goal and at home I am coordinating more like ten. This last week at home was extra intense due to our recent commitment to launch a project for the flood victims in Pakistan. It’s a beast of a project and on top of our ongoing Haitian and Indonesian initiatives it is a lot to handle. That said we have great individuals stepping up to help— and frankly the result will be a lot of people, in a lot of places, getting access to potable water.

This trip down here is an exciting one— For months now, I’ve been working on a few projects for Haiti that are all seeming to climax now. This one in particular is a pilot project that I started to develop with Nike a few months after the quake. They sent down a few delegates to scout out some programs that they could potentially get behind. Because of my Hurley partnership (Hurley is part of Nike Inc), the delegates were pointed in my direction as a resource once they were here. Short story long, one of the delegates, Tom De Blasis, and I began talking about a way to combine my water program and their interest in sport based community programs. We felt that the bare essentials for survival were health & happiness, i.e. water & sport. The result is a concept called the “Game Changer Kit” — a first response kit (combining our filtration system with a sport element) that we intend to pilot in Haiti, and then implement around the world. The kit is based off our existing two-bucket filtration system that normally includes one filter/spigot/sock— but now also includes, a tarp & rope for catching rain, a soccer ball (deflated), cones (to mark the field), and a ball pump. To top it off, the ball pump also doubles as a pressurization tool for the filter— it mounts to a little hose on the filter bucket to create manual pressure that triples the flow rate of the existing gravity fed method.

So Tom and I worked on this concept for the past few months are finally bringing it to life on this trip! We made 30 sample kits and will be distributing them this week to two small communities in Leogane (quake epicenter)— through one of my existing networks — Thank you Fritz!!

By the time we actually give a filter system to a family in need there is so much that has gone into getting it there. So many steps and hurdles to overcome just to get this simple solution into their hands and I really want to take this moment to thank the special individuals along the way that help to make this a reality. At the end of the day we can all stand together and say that we contributed towards giving the greatest gifts of all — Health & Happiness!

Attached are a few pics from of the kit’s just after we assembled them and also the logo that Tom came up with for the project.

The Nike Game Changer Kit

What is the definition of a game changer?

For me, it is the moment when a significant shift is made in what seemed to be a certain fate. It is a new direction… a new path.

We just finished the distributions of our sample Game Changer Kits to two small villages in Leogane. The first one we went to was a little refugee outpost on the beach… and the second was a little mountain village that was only accessible by driving up a riverbed (pending rain of course!) with a 4×4 vehicle.

The state of things in Haiti is still as bad as ever. It doesn’t matter where I go – the center of Port-au-Prince or a rural village in the North that was virtually untouched by the quake… It’s all incredibly gut wrenching. The sheer magnitude of despair is mind boggling. People are existing under such extreme circumstances and bearing witness to it always dwarfs any sense of strength I may think I have. The truth is, I can only feel an emotion related to what I see. I have no real clue what it’s like to experience this way of life. My decisions are more like WHAT am I going to eat, not IF I’m going to eat. When I’m thirsty I reach into my bag at will and grab my water bottle. They are huddled around a broken pipe that is spurting water that they think is clean… what they don’t realize is that all the pipes are fractured under ground, including the sewer lines. You do the math! Their kids are malnourished and riddled with skin disease because they can’t properly bathe. To top things off, the rains have come… and are relentless… everyday, they soak the makeshift tents that these people call home. Overall sanitation challenges are incomprehensible.

Really, I could go on and on about the everyday challenges with their basic survival. I will spare you. I am just very impacted with all of this, yet again. I have felt all of these things in past trips but over the last few months down here I have been in development mode, with projects such as this GameChanger Kit concept, and my tunnel vision has kept my emotions somewhat at bey. But this trip was climactic, in that we were able to give two small communities the gift of water and sport. It feels obsolete to think that we only gave a few hundred people these things but I also guarantee each of them would disagree with me. It is this math that tends to stifle any sense of accomplishment I have… it has been this way for me since day one.

Contents inside the Game Changer Kit.

So, back to the game changer… I had a breakthrough on this trip that changed my path down here. I know that bringing people water is an incredible gift… a true game changer. But by adding the soccer element with these kits really changes the community dynamic. There is an innocent excitement that you just don’t get with giving water, food, or shelter. Those things are SO needed but they are still reminders of how challenging their lives are. The soccer is a step through the doorway of their shattered existence, to a new place where the weight of the world is not on their shoulders. It is a much needed departure filled with camaraderie, union, and laughter.

I come from a sport background… and that foundation has always been and continues to be my north star. So even though I am most likely the worst soccer player on earth, I can very much relate with their passion. And though food, water, and shelter is the obvious framework for survival, I honestly believe that a community based activity such as sport is the vehicle that will pull them through the hard times.

We need something to bring us together… and sometimes we just need a healthy distraction from the everyday challenges we face.

I’m so proud of this project… and I have a new found respect for ANYONE who can play soccer well!!

Jon

UN Military – Haiti

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Touring Peruvian base in border town, Malpasse.

Just finished a day and a half with URAMAR (Uragauyan Navy) and once again my expectations were exceeded. This project really is set up for success. Here’s the brief synopsis of how it works following my existing model for distribution, the military units I visit introduce me to the key leaders in their area. People running schools, church’s, hospitals, local (Haitian) NGO’s, youth groups, etc. Then I do a demonstration for them and gauge their response. Usually they are very receptive and I give them each a small amount of filters for a test.

Demonstration at Nepalese military base in Mirebalais

My goal is to never have the general population see me that is not the point! The leaders that I teach know their communities and where the needs are most desperate they know how to navigate the web of local politics they know what is fair. I’ve always said that this is an empowerment project first and the fact that they get clean drinking water from it in the end is a wonderful by-product.

After distro at Nepalese military base in city of Hinche.

After a few weeks pass the UN officers then go and visit each of the prospects we tested out. It’s always very clear which one (or two), rose to the occasion and distributed the filters to the right people in the right manner. Those that shined then become our formal distribution network for the region. They will always be the one to empower their communities, we (W4W & UN troops) will just facilitate the process from the shadows.

Jon & Peruvian UN military officer

As I’ve said before, there are many great byproducts with this program beyond just giving people access to clean water. But really, all sides have virtually everything to gain and nothing to lose. The UN gets a REAL reason to have ongoing relations with those leaders we selected and it builds a rapport around a sustainable solution that ultimately supports the growth and development of these regions for years to come. Obviously, Waves for Water gains from this partnership because it allows us to get filters to regions we didn’t know about or didn’t have the resources to visit. Lastly, the local people get the real gold at the end of the rainbow . . . clean water! So as you see, this is no different than what we have been doing on our own down here since day one, it is just allowing us to scale our operations to the next level.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the UN reps who helped make this project a reality MAJ Brian Woolworth (US), MAJ Brian Roach (Canada), and our newest addition MAJ Ashish Upadhyay (Nepal). Thanks boys!!

Jon with local leaders after demo at Uraguayan Base in Port Salut.

If the ultimate goal is to get every person in Haiti access to clean water then partnerships such as these, are the framework to do so. Our mission will have many players, over a long period of time, but in the end I feel the goal is attainable.

I have eight more UN military units to visit across Haiti before this project is done. I look forward to every last one!

Jon & MAJ Ashish, our new UN project rep, in chopper.

It is invigorating to feel like you are a part of REAL change. That’s what’s happening here.

Humble & grateful,

JR

Please see links below to view more posts of UN Missions:

Port-Au-Prince & Cap Hatien Mission

Port Salut Mission

UN Mission / Port Salut

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View form chopper of city, Jeremie, in Southern Haiti.

On my way to the South, a place called Port Salut… to connect with the Uraguayan Navy battalion of the UN Minustah Military for what will be the second trip of our water filter pilot project. The first, if you recall, was in the North (Cap Hatien) with the Chilean battalion last month. We have 8 more locations until this project is complete and its safe to say that by then, I will be well versed in Haitian geography… and in global military culture. For 2-3 days I get to live with the troops of each battalion and see what their approach is to relatively the same topics. It’s a crash course in human nature, organization, methodology, and of course humor. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity and proud that our partnership will result in getting clean water to communities that I would have never even known existed. In my opinion, this is the true definition of a partnership – multiple entities coming together and sharing their resources for the greater good.

I am tired from the very movement that I so desire… and right now, it is perfect.

Inside UN Chopper in route to Port Salut.

I need movement. I’ve realized this about myself… and especially regarding my work down here. There is so much to be done and it kills me when there are viable solutions just idling as a result of bureaucratic protocol. High level organizations having meetings about meetings and so on and so forth. It f$%#ing kills me! Not coming from a traditional humanitarian background has served me well. It allows me to look at existing models with a fresh eye and a sort of naive intelligence… which is where my best ideas have come from. And it has also been the source of my biggest challenges. But, this is how I see it – people are dying. Kids are dying… and we have a way to stop that. Period! We can talk about it all we want, but in that time more senseless deaths will have occurred, that could have been prevented. There is certain information out there in the world that is so simple, yet so powerful, that once you’ve been exposed to it – you have a responsibility to it. You are accountable. This work is that way for me… We go into a villages where one out of two babies die from waterborne diseases, then we do our program, and they stop dying… it is as simple as that. This is the information that in my opinion will keep you up at night once you know it. That said, people can do with it what they want. There are so many ways for people to help… even if it’s just a shift in their personal consciousness that organically begins to inspire those around them.
- Jon Rose

Crazy & Happy

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‘Crazy & Happy’ is the first of several stories from Jon Rose – currently roaming Haiti as part of a new U.N. initiative to bring clean-water systems to the faraway and overlooked corners of the country.

“Being in Haiti has always been, and continues to be, both humbling and enlightening. But, for the most part, the context has been about the relentless work at hand. Over the course of a half dozen trips here since the January 12 earthquake, I have experienced spiritual epiphanies, physical breakthroughs, and emotional growth. And though this circumstance drives me and demands my full attention, I have always tried to soak up the culture around me, especially when I’m in the field.

There may be some antiquated models of humanitarianism that say you can’t have fun while you help people (i.e. they’re suffering, so we should too). But, I say, Screw that! Go to the places where you can exercise your passions, live fully, and at the same time, provide some relief & refuge with solutions that help to restore the natural balance we are ALL entitled to. This is the core of what I founded W4W on – go out into the world, do what you love to do, experience new things, get out of your comfort zone, have fun, and help people in the process.

I have well-established networks all over Haiti now. Each one is lead by amazing individuals that have become dear friends. They are kind and generous with me – and it’s because of them I have been fortunate to gain access to the REAL culture on this island. I have always been thankful for this, and just a couple nights ago I had an extraordinary and life altering experience. I am indebted to my friend & guide, Fritz Pierre-Louis, for bringing me to the magical place and exposing me to the source.

He took me to a remote location in the hills above Port-au-Prince called Saut d’eau*(pronounced – Sodoh). It is a little village that hosts a Voodoo festival/pilgrimage attended by 20,000 people each year. People come from all over to visit the church, pray to the Virgin of Miracle, and bathe in a giant waterfall that is considered to be holy.

Just to enter the church, Fritz had to block for me as we jumped into a mosh pit of about 1000 people trying to squeeze through the front door. Once in the pit, there’s no way out. You just have to hope that the cluster you’re trapped in spirals towards the door and spits you into the church. It was similar to what I’ve read about in Brazil when a stampede breaks out at a soccer match.

Overwhelmingly intense – without Fritz I would have perished. After the church we set out to bathe in the waterfall, riding in the back of his pickup through little congested streets that smelled like earth and fried plantains. There were marching/dancing bands (similar to traditional ones you see in New Orleans) overflowing tiny roads – people drinking rum, selling local foods, and laughing. At one point the road locked up in both directions with cars and people clogging it like a fat filled artery. We turned the engine off and sat there in the middle of the chaos for two hours until a little window opened up for us to escape. It was awesome!

Finally, we arrived and, with the stars as our guide, we stood under the force of a 50 ft waterfall like brother iron crosses.

Afterward, we found ourselves back in town celebrating, enjoying, and flowing like the very rum we drank. Little houses, scattered throughout the village, hosted individual Voodoo ceremonies, each with their own drum beat, dance, and current. We stopped at nearly every one and watched as each priest tried to summon their own principal spirit.

I get the chills, even now, as I recall the details of this amazing time and place – and could write an entire book on those 20 hours.

The whole experience was surreal. Kinetic. Alive. Historic. It was the primal power that makes up our life force, exposed like a nerve-ending, sensitive, pure and strong. Undiluted passionate connectivity with none of the fluff. I’m still buzzing.

I’ll sign off with a quote from Fritz’s friend, Jackson. While sitting in the back of the truck driving through the congested streets,

I yelled to him,”This is crazy!”and he answered, “The crazy, to the world go!”

What else can I say…

Crazy & happy, – Jon Rose

Click to see more images of Saut d’eau

UN Mission / Port-Au-Prince & Cap Hatien

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Jon Rose returns to Haiti

UN chopper flights never get old, especially on these classic Russian military birds, with Russian pilots to boot. Yet another day here right out of an Indiana Jones flick. The flight to and from Port-au-Prince & Cap Hatien (on the north coast) takes about 50 min and we get to fly real low to the ground same journey by road is a challenging, full day trek. These missions are pure adventure, reigniting my long running desire to become a heli-pilot.

I just got back from 3 days up in Cap which marked the official kick-off of our UN Minustah* pilot project. We split the load of filters between two prospective networks (hospital & youth group) – and next, CIMIC officers from the Chilean Battalion will follow- up with the two groups in a few weeks to see who has really embraced the program. Then, based on that intel, we will send more filters and the soldiers will reinforce the proven networks. This distribution strategy is designed to continue indefinitely, eventually bringing safe, and independent, sources of drinking water to everyone who needs it.

At the local org that the general hospital works with for all their community based aid programs, Konbit Sante. I gave my clean water demonstration. The entire group got it and were completely on board within minutes. Next, the CIMIC officers and I were taken to the area in which they’ planned to be giving these first filters out. They explained to us that this place, called Petite Anse, was one of the poorest and deprived regions around.

What they didn’t mention was that the area used to be (and still is) a trash dump site. It’s also a brackish lowland that floods with every rain. The people build shanty’s literally on or beside the sea of trash. In this environment, with the standing water, it becomes a toxic breeding ground for disease and sickness. The site is fill with children walking around half clothed and usually with some sort of open wounds. It’s amazing that they are surviving at all.

I am glad that we hooked up with Konbit Sante because, otherwise, we would have never known about places like this that are completely under the radar. This is the very reason why I have always partnered with local leaders/organizers. It’s THEIR area, not mine. They know the need and have the means to delegate the aid far better than outsiders. Our job is to bring the tools & training for making clean water. They then get these into the hands of those who most need them.

The second prospective network was a youth group in Melot that I had visited on my previous trip. They had organized a clinic for our arrival and by the end of our visit people were walking back to their houses with fully assembled filter systems in hand. It’s a good feeling to be driving away and pass someone walking home with their new system and a GIANT smile.

We accomplished everything we set out to – and the Chilean UN soldiers are AMAZING partners. I am eager to continue with this project. There are 9 other Minustah Military units stationed across the country and we will be doing what we did in Cap Hatien with all of them.


I’m tired (as usual) but completely content. Life is good…

Much love! — JR

* to learn more about UN Minustah: http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/minustah

Incredibly Busy & Extremely Happy – Haiti

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Jon Rose in Haiti

Jon Rose in Haiti

Still going…. I literally haven’t stopped moving since I got here. As my father likes to say at the end of another day in Haiti, “Incredibly busy, extremely happy!”

I sit here now at our base camp in PAP and ponder the past few weeks. I’m heading back to US tomorrow, so just gathering my thoughts over a cold Prestige. I spent the last few days in Jacmel visiting Paula. She has fully embraced our program down there and it was incredible to see her operation first hand. This work really is a collaboration based initiative. I simply cannot do it without people like her, or Fritz in Leogane, Sylla in St. Marc, Jean Paul in Port-au-Prince, etc. These natural leaders know their communities inside and out, and the style in which they distribute reflects that very knowledge. They are soldiers fighting to make their communities better . . . and our program is just one of their tools. I went to areas where whole villages are now operating entirely on our filter systems and not one of the villagers had a clue as to who I was. This is beautiful, and exactly the point. My task has been to empower a select few who then empower their community. It’s a viral, grassroots program that is thriving.

Being back in PAP after three days in Jacmel is an abrupt shift. But this time around I have a subtle sense of satisfaction flowing through me. I’ve said many times throughout my journey in Haiti that it is hard to ever feel satisfied with so much devastation and despair all around. But this trip was different. There is still just as many problems here, and in some cases even more than before the quake. But at least with the little sliver that I have some control over, things are noticeably better. And with that comes a glimmer of satisfaction that I have been truly longing for.

I told a friend a few nights ago that when we follow your hearts, and make our decisions from that place, everything seems to work out for the best. There is a certain synergy that I have been experiencing lately that is a tangible affirmation of this way of living.

That said, I have a renewed confidence towards our quest to bring the people of Haiti clean water, mostly because I know I’m not doing it alone.

Much love…
Jon

Enormous Opportunity in Haiti

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My experiences in Haiti have taught me a boatload of things, but one of the more unexpected by-products has been a new-found understanding and appreciation for the global military community. In the first month after the quake I worked closely with the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and was blown away day in and day out by their incredible discipline and stark efficiency. They were such a great group of guys that genuinely enjoyed helping the local people through such a rough time.

Fast forward – I’ve spent the last two days living with the Chilean battalion of the UN Minustah Military (Minustah is the name for the UN’s Haiti operation). The Chileans are in charge of patrolling and securing the North section of Haiti. My stay here is part of a preliminary mission to start laying the foundation for a collaboration/partnership between the UN Minustah operation here and my water program. The idea is to utilize the Minustah Military’s knowledge of this area to help us establish and operate our program. It is an exciting step towards our goal of getting everyone in Haiti clean water; this kind of support is the very backbone of such a goal. The Chilean soldiers are hospitible and genuine people. They have let me in to their world and I will never forget it. Especially their cook, who insists on calling me “California!”

It’s been nice to be away from the intensity of PAP. However, the day before I came up here to the North I visited two camps in Cite Soleil – Haiti’s most desperate and crime-ridden area. There is a project going on there, spearheaded by Patricia Arquette, that involves our filtration systems. She has created a testing facility in one of the tent camps to try a few different sustainability concepts. Patricia and her team have mainly been addressing the sanitation challenges of this area – human waste, trash, etc., all of which are on the verge of creating a secondary disease-driven epidemic. She is incorporating our filter model into her program to combat the potable water challenges, but her main focues have been on composting, recycling, and bio-digesting. It was an incredible project to see and I’m honored to be a part of it.

I really believe that there is such enormous opportunity in Haiti right now. We have a chance not only as foreigners, but as humans, to try aggressive solutions here, solutions that in the future could end up being benchmarks for the global community. There are amazing people here doing amazing things, and once again I feel confident in our ability, as a species, to collectively change our destiny.

More to come…

Humbled and grateful,
Jon

Sweaty & Sleep Deprived – Haiti

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Where do I begin? I’m sweaty and sleep deprived but the work is good. I’ve had a 13 hr day yesterday with Fritz in Leogane. Like I said in my last update my networks have been exceeding all of my expectations. Mainly in their organization and persistent work ethic. Coordinating and operating a filter distribution is HARD work and they are not getting paid. They have truly embraced the empowerment aspect of this program.

Yesterday I went to some villages only accessible by a 4 wheel drive up a riverbed. In each mud/stick hut there was our filter systems… Operating perfectly! One mother said that her baby had severe diarrhea and now with the filter, it has stopped. It really is that black and white…. They say the differences in their health are nothing short of extreme.

There has been more civil unrest in PAP. Organized crime is getting more organized… And there are more and more reports of kidnappings and killings. Some aid workers have now been victimized. Which, is unsettling since I have been out in the thick of it almost everyday. I am relying on trust and quick wit… Psychologically, that’s all I have.

About to crack into my trusty Jack Daniels stash. I’m banking on it to make the bags under my eyes feel less heavy.

Signing off cause this update is now making me sweat more….

Jon

Empowering Communities in Haiti

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Good morning!

Been here for 2 days now and finally starting to adjust. Its a weird sensation for me to be back. On some levels I feel more comfortable than ever but there’s also been a lot of change. Mostly good changes – debris removal, better structures in the tent camps, and definitely a resumed sense of commerce and low level economic growth. But there has also been a vibrational shift within the people that is very noticeable. The sense of emergency has subsided and with that comes two things – most feel gracious for what seems to be a return towards normalcy… But for others, that normalcy is a return to a very unpleasant reality. The quake brought so much destruction and loss but it also brought people together… and in some ways, served as a distraction from what was already an incredibly hard life. It put a freeze on a lot of the existing problems because everything was about basic survival. Plus the amount of international attention and support. Now that the dust has settled the old issues are resurfacing in a sobering fashion.

For me, The experience this time is completely different. My sadness for their situation is the same except it’s not as specifically focused on quake victims, but rather the bigger picture – jobs, upcoming election, and corruption.

The focus, with my work, has shifted in he same manner. Less disaster relief — i.e. “band-aid” type solutions — and more long term ideas such as rain harvesting or potential well digging sites. Also looking into natural spring sources in the hills that could be contained and then piped down to villages.

On my way to Saint Marc with my bro/driver/comedian, Sylla. So great to see him. He’s been taking me to some of the regions he’s distributed filters to and I’ve been seeing firsthand the evolution of this program. He has done a fantastic job! The filter systems are in people’s huts and working great! These are all people I never demonstrated for and that is exactly the point. Sylla has taken the knowledge and started empowering his communities… Just as I’d hoped.

Please continue to spread the word. It DOES make a difference.
Much love!
Jon