Jon Jordan, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Wednesday marks one year since an earthquake devastated the country of Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands. Locally based charity Water Is Life was on the ground in Haiti just days after the quake and a year later is still sending straws that provide clean drinking water to Haitians.
Even before the earthquake hit, clean water was considered a luxury for the Haitian people, but today because of Water Is Life, clean drinking water is becoming more and more accessible. As a result Haitians that otherwise would have died are now living healthier lives.
The effort to bring clean drinking water started almost immediately. Water is Life just days following the earthquake sent 1,000 of their $10 straw filtration systems down to Haiti. The straws help to remove 99.9 percent of bacteria in the water. Simply put, these straws saved lives.
"Because of this little filter and the generosity of a group of Oklahomans and some other people, there are 15,000 people who will be alive because someone cared enough to send help to them," said Water Is Life founder Ken Surritte.
Now Water is Life recognized there just simply isn't enough of their filter straws for everyone in Haiti, so the organization has ramped up their efforts to begin repairing the country's water wells.
"The goal for us is to be able to take and set different local people up with well drilling businesses. Basically where they can go in and drill a well and cap a well and within in a week just by using manpower to develop a well that could feed a community," said general contractor and Water Is Life volunteer Mark Bender.
Bender, his wife and their two daughters and even the family dog traveled to Haiti for three months. The family's timing couldn't have been better because when they arrived Haitians were dying at an alarming rate from the intestinal disease Cholera, a deadly infection caused from drinking bacteria filled water.
"You die of dehydration because you cannot get enough fluids back in," said Bender.
And while he had the difficult task of rebuilding their wells, his wife may have had the toughest job educating Haitians about the importance of clean water.
"We went to many, many schools there and did this education. And we felt we could touch a new generation that over time and as we begin to go back there, they will start to get it," said Bender.
Very early on the charity learned for change to happen, it would take the children to do it.
"The adults really have basically given up but the eyes in the kids and the smiles in their faces there is hope and it's this next generation that really helps them to come along," said Surritte.