How two members dug deep to bring sanitation to developing nations – by Susannah Maxcy of Renaissance Winter 2012 magazine.
On the impact Water Ambassadors has had on volunteers: “We’ve had big, macho Canadian men tear up. When some village person shakes your hand and says, ‘thank you’ for saving the lives of our children, it’s pretty humbling. It becomes a marker in people’s lives and that will change them forever. I think people realize the blessing that Canada has. You will never drink a glass of water out of the tap and think about it the same way again,” Barry expresses.
Access to water and proper sanitation are easy to take for granted when you live in a country with the world’s largest fresh water supply. We will neither know what it is like to walk for kilometres to a well nor will we ever know what it is like not to have access to a clean toilet. Enter Barry Hart, District 18, Haliburton and John P. Smith, District 13, Hamilton-Wentworth, Haldimand whose twists of fate inspired them to change the world one well and one latrine at a time.
… Barry Hart, founder of Water Ambassadors Canada, discusses the pressing need to bring clean water to third world countries … The interview is conducted by Lorna Dueck, host of Listen Up TV, a weekly television program exploring news and current affairs from a Christian worldview ~uploaded to YouTube on Nov 19, 2009
Barry Hart and his wife, Heather Alloway, first heard about the global water crisis 10 years ago at a conference they attended. “It went from our heads to our hearts. Within a year we were in Guatemala building a well in a remote location, a little scary at first, but totally blew us away … we remember sitting in the Houston airport coming home. By memory we were calling people using a phone card back in Canada to try to tell them what we had seen, heard and experienced. It was absolutely life-changing.”
Upon returning home, Barry and Heather formed the Water Ambassadors of Canada, a faith-based non-profit organization dedicated to improving and providing access to clean water to impoverished communities throughout the world. Since its inception, Water Ambassadors has sent approximately 300 Canadians to Central America, the Caribbean and Africa to help build wells, install water filtration systems and teach hygiene. Empowering the communities they help with the tools and knowledge to maintain these systems, Water Ambassadors provides water security in a time of increasing water instability.
… “Access is a big deal, because many of these places, people walk miles to get water from wells. We repaired on well in November that had been broken for 14 years, which forced the people to walk by that well to get to the next town to get their drinking water … when you fix wells you’re giving them access to clean water close by, or in some cases access to water period, rather than drinking out of the local mud hole. People totally appreciate it; they know what’s going on. It’s a matter of their time and their health that you’re giving them … kids can go to school with healthier tummies and a lot of little girls are not spending hours getting water each day,” says Barry.
Get involved. Are you interested in becoming a water ambassador? Water Ambassadors offers travel volunteer opportunities in Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Learn more about Water Ambassadors of Canada at http://www.waterambassadorscanada.org.
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CARA, founded in 1999, is a water resources training network funded primarily by CIDA (Canada‘s equivalent to USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency. It is run by the Universities of Calgary and Waterloo, with the former the lead university. David Bethune is the coordinator. CARA is a water resource training network focusing on building local capacity to improve the management and protection of Central American water resources.
The following excerpts are taken from a Water Canada’s September/October 2012 article, “Making It Local. The CARA program empowers students in Central america to manage groundwater resources in their own backyards.” by Kerry Freek and Brendan Mulligan.
Eighty-percent of Central America’s water supply comes from groundwater, and that includes some huge urban water supplies, says University of Calgary’s David Bethune. “With population growth, deforestation, and poverty, the stress on watersheds in central america is huge,” he says. “the natural water balance is being altered, and a reduced natural recharge is affecting the groundwater supply.” For a region that relies so heavily upon threatened groundwater supplies, central america, like many developing countries, desperately lacks qualified individuals to make decisions about water use and management … With funding from Canada’s International Development Research Centre, Farvolden initiated a program to train future hydrogeologists at the University of Costa Rica. In 1995, Bethune and Ryan travelled south to help begin the first project. In the first cycle, they had students from Colombia to Guatemala. Soon, there was a strong consensus that other countries would like to have similar programs. They continued the program in Guatemala, Nicaragua and, later, El Salvador, Honduras, and Bolivia. As the current project director for the Central American water resource management network (CARA), Bethune now manages the Canadian International development agency (CIDA) funded program that supports six master of science programs in Central America … Within a short period of time, the CARA programs are becoming self-sustaining. That, says Bethune, is the key. “The intention is independence from Canadian support. the people managing and developing water supplies are from their own country.” The program in Nicaragua has been particularly successful. CIDA has rewarded the initiative with additional funding for a project titled community water management in Nicaragua and Central America, which Ryan is directing. The two are also involved in Hydrogeologists Without Borders (HWB), an organization formed to provide further assistance to CARA students and other similar programs and NGOs. HWB is currently funding five Central American master’s students in the field of hydrogeology in their own regions.
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