Did you know that more people die from polluted water every year than from all forms of violence, including war? That's what the UN reported a few days ago, in a study titled "Sick Water." What can we do about it? One thing I am doing is spreading the word of the Potters for Peace water filter project.
In the 1990's I had the great good fortune to do volunteer work in an earlier stage of this project in Nicaragua and Guatemala, guided by the late Ron Rivera, former International Coordinator of Potters for Peace.
I even presented a paper (with much help from people who know far more than me) about this water filter at an NSF conference.This water filter is amazing. It was invented by the Guatemalan chemist Fernando Mazariegos. Ron Rivera often called the filter a weapon of bacterial mass destruction. It kills almost 100% of the microbes in polluted water. The filter is made by local potters in Third World countries, trained by Potters for Peace, using sustainable technology and mostly local materials. The only imported material is the colloidal silver solution from Mexico which impregnates the porous clay filter.
The filter looks kind of like a clay flowerpot, but without the hole in the bottom. The filter goes inside a receptacle. The Red Cross uses five-gallon plastic buckets with a lid and a spigot as the receptacle when they distribute this filter in refugee camps. Some people use a handmade clay receptacle that keeps the filtered water cool with natural capillary action.
A lot of my friends in North America ask me where can they can buy one of these filters. Ron taught me that in North America there are so many different types of effective water filters readily available, that PFP is not focusing on working there. The focus is in Third World countries where children are dying everyday from drinking polluted water and there are no water filters available. Potters for Peace does not make or distribute filters. PFP goes to Third World countries and trains potters to make the filters and partner with health-related organizations to distribute the filters. The filter goes by the brand name Filtrón.
PFP funding comes mainly from donations by concerned individuals. In the past PFP refused a grant from the World Bank, because the policies and actions of the World Bank cause much suffering for people in Third World countries.
Right now, one of Potters for Peace's many projects is working to help provide filters for people in Haiti. The filters are being made in a workshop in the Dominican Republic. Filters are also produced and used in many countries including: Peru, Cuba (where the Ministry of Health gives one free to every family, along with their new home), Cambodia, Ghana and Nigeria. Nigeria is where Ron was bitten by the mosquito that carried the malaria that killed him in September 2008.
Ron would be very uncomfortable with how many times I have mentioned his name in this short article. When he talked about his work with Potters for Peace he always said, "we," as in, "We trained the potters in Cuba to make the water filter," when in actuality it was Ron, and maybe one other person, who did it.
And he never said the word "them." (At least he never said it once in the 50 hours I once spent transcribing an audio recording of his yearly verbal report at a board meeting of Potters for Peace). He would say "the potters" or "the women" but never "them."
Potters for Peace doesn't think in terms of "us" and "them," for we are one human family. And a lot of our family are dying from drinking polluted water, as noted in the UN Report, "Sick Water." What are we doing about it?