West Point Rotary aids in Haitian sanitation project

West Point Rotarian Bill Cawley and club president Linda Walton report on the club's participation in a water and sanitation grant for Chantal, Haiti.

WEST POINT — Bathrooms and septic systems may not be the most pleasant topics of polite conversation, but did you know more than 2.5 billion people around the world lack access to adequate sanitation facilities? At least 3,000 children die each day from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water usually caused by contaminated water supplies. Cholera and polio are just two of the diseases carried by polluted water.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in October 2010- just nine months after an earthquake devastated the Haitian capital city of Port-au-Prince and displaced an estimated 1.5 million people-Haiti's Ministry of Public Health and Population reported a cholera outbreak in two of the country's most impoverished regions. It was the first time cholera-a diarrheal disease associated with the consumption of food and water contaminated by feces infected with the bacterium vibrio cholerae-had been identified in the country in at least 100 years.

These are the frightening statistics that causes Rotarians around the world to rise up and take action. In order to help stem this unhealthy tide, the Rotary Club of West Point has joined with seven other District 7610 clubs to fund a water and sanitation project in the rural town of Chantal in western Haiti. Club member Bill Cawley updated the club at its Thursday morning meeting about the project and its impact on the people of this small village.

Chantal is wedged between two rivers. It is nearly a two hour drive from Les Cayes, the county seat-that is if the rivers are passable and aren't flooded by rain. If it rains, Chantal is completely isolated. Chantal is poor and agricultural. There is a very small middle class. Many fleeing earthquake refugees came to Chantal in 2010 including many children who lost their families.

We Care To Share (WCTS) is a small non-governmental organization formed after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to provide medical relief. WCTS is an entirely volunteer organization with no paid staff. WCTS provides intermittent medical relief as well as conducting several projects to help Chantal become medically self-sustaining. WCTS is non-sectarian but partners with the Knights of Columbus. WCTS does not proselytize. All volunteers pay their own travel costs and in-country costs.

WCTS has a long-term commitment to help Chantal and works closely with community leaders to determine needs. Since the earthquake, WCTS has held nine medical relief clinics treating 500 -1000 patients per day for all out-patient care. A 10th medical relief trip occurred in early January, 2014. Team members come from 3 continents, 6 countries, and 12 US states.

Chantal has asked for help to replace latrines at one of their schools. The four latrines at this school serve 550 kids. When it rains, they frequently overflow, flooding the schoolyard and the surrounding area with sewage. The river that provides villagers with water is only one quarter mile away. Rotary Clubs in District 7610, led by the Rotary of Centreville and Chantilly, with the Rotary Clubs of West Point, Falls Church, Dunn Loring - Merrifield, Fairfax, Mount Vernon, Northern Neck, and Purcellville have obtained a district grant to build a modern bathroom for the school. WCTS will be a partner for project supervision and monitoring ongoing progress. The district grant will pay for excavation and construction of a septic system and building a bathroom. The bathroom will be attached to the current school building with separate sections with five toilets for boys and a separate bathroom section with five toilets for girls. It will serve 550 students. The new bathroom will prevent flooding of sewage into the village and protect the water supply. That will help to halt the spread of parasites, e.coli, enterococcus, and cholera. A new septic system and modern toilets will replace the latrines to help prevent the spread of water borne diarrheas including enterococcus.