Water appreciation… lessons from our Peace Corps experience

IWS was founded by Blake West and Chris Maxwell-Gaines in March 2004 after a year of reminiscing about the rainwater harvesting systems they relied on while serving in the Peace Corps in Suriname, South America. Rainwater was the only potable water source in the villages that they lived in and by employing simple technologies they were about to manage their own water supply. After living off of this wonderful resource for two years in the jungles of South America, they found it strange that most homes and businesses in America don’t take advantage of this readily available resource.

Enjoy these pictures from their Peace Corps experience, showing the prominence of rainwater collection in their villages. Click on the pictures to view a larger image.

Water Well Project in Godo Olo, Suriname

Chris and his wife, Lindsey, served in a village named Godo Olo. They were placed in this village because the village showed a great desire to implement a water well project. The villagers wanted a more consistent water source. For their drinking water, the villagers either had to collect rainwater or bucket water from the river. Due to the wet and dry seasons of this part of the world, they would either have too much rain or not enough. During the dry seasons, they would have to
resort to drinking water from the river without any type of filtration or disinfection. This would sometimes cause sickness, especially for the young and elderly.

Chris assisted the village in designing the system and writing a grant for the funds to complete the project. This part of the project required a tremendous amount of time since we wanted to involve as many villagers as possible, especially the women, since they fetch the water in this culture.

They developed a plan for the distribution system and then began to explore for the best location for the well with a hand auger. They drilled test wells to explore the subsurface characteristics of the area. After drilling several test wells, Chris felt that one location in particular held the most promise for providing clean ground water.

The village submitted their grant application to a non-profit and eventually received a grant of approximately $15,000. This occurred at the end of Chris and Lindsey’s Peace Corps service. They attempted to make sure the villagers were prepared to run the project themselves.

This would not help since the village eventually lost the funds due to a year without activity on the project. After about two years though, Chris and Lindsey received a phone call from the villagers, informing them that they intended on re-applying for the grant and completing the project.

Chris and Lindsey received great news in 2008 when the village contacted them to let them know that the project was completed, just as they had originally designed back in 2001, and that they were drinking clean, sweet water.

The village now has a clean water source for drinking water, but that is not the best part of this project. The best part of this project is that the villagers completed this project without the help of Peace Corps. From this experience, they will be able to create future projects, on their own, and better their lives.

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