MARS — They look like slightly modified 5-gallon buckets, but they have provided clean drinking water to hundreds of Hondurans for six years.
The Rich-Mar Rotary Club will demonstrate the inexpensive yet effective water filters at its booth on Grand Avenue during Saturday's Mars Applefest.
Rotarian Gary Weston said two teams of Rich-Mar club members have been travelling annually to Honduras and the Dominican Republic for six years to distribute the apparatus, which is made of a 5-gallon bucket with a ceramic filter on top and a spout of the side.
Weston said he leads a team that travels to La Villa De San Francisco, a poor, rural village about an hour from the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa to distribute more than 100 of the filters.
Weston said that the public water system in the small village only delivers water every four to eight days. He said parasites that thrive inside the human digestive system creep into the water distribution pipes when they're empty.
“Also, they keep water in everything from old Pepsi bottles to garbage cans,” Weston said of the impoverished villagers.
Polluted water can be poured into the filter, and because the filter mechanism is treated with colloidal silver, it is decontaminated before it drips into the bottom of the bucket. The users can then retrieve clean water and use it for drinking and cooking.
Weston said most families pour about two gallons of water into a filter and allow it to drip overnight. The next morning, the family can start its day with a supply of clean water.
Weston said a church in New York began distributing the filters after they were invented by a Hispanic researcher at the University of Illinois. The project came to the Bakerstown Presbyterian Church, where a retired Mars physician heard of it. The doctor presented the filter project to the Rich-Mar Rotary Club.
Weston said last year the club distributed 252 filters in La Villa De San Francisco, and another 134 in a nearby city.
“We're trying to make a difference in people's lives,” Weston said.
He said the filters are now manufactured in Honduras, and a village nurse who was assisted in her studies by the Rich-Mar Rotary maintains and services the filters as needed.
There is no end in sight for the Rotarians in their quest to provide clean water in the village because Weston said several thousand more families need the filters.
Weston said doctors, nurses and optometrists from this area accompany the teams to Honduras to do medical check-ups on villagers and treat them for ailments they may have. He said much of the doctors' and nurses' time is spent treating intestinal parasites with a special antibiotic that eliminates them.
Weston recalls an initial trip to Honduras when a woman on the Rich-Mar team cradled a young Honduran baby. The baby sneezed, and a large tapeworm landed on the woman's blouse.
“That was probably the real catalyst for getting us started with it,” Weston said.
He said Rotarians drink bottled water while in Honduras, and take a course of the parasite-fighting antibiotics before they come home.
Weston said the Rich-Mar Rotary Club spends about $30,000 per year on the mission trips, all of which is raised through donations and sponsors who have pledged $25 per month toward the cause.
He said the filters will be displayed at the Rich-Mar Rotary booth at Applefest. The booth will be in front of the Mars Bank on Grand Avenue.
Donations toward the filters will be accepted at the booth.