I met Nguyen Thi Thu on a gray morning when I joined a NEW IDEA-supported workshop about biosand water filtration, which was co-hosted for three days by CWS in partnership with the Dai Tu Health Center. By the time I visited, hands-on teaching and learning was underway with a session in the Center’s backyard where 20 people
busy mixing concrete. What surprised me was the number of women participants, among which I noticed a woman with a trowel in hand and scooping concrete into a biosand filter mold. Mrs. Thu is 59 years old, and she leads her village ‘elderly club’. (Yes, in Vietnam, people at her age are considered as elderly!). When we spoke, she told me: “Like many other villages in Vietnam rural areas, mine does not have clean piped water, so people use water from a hand-dug or mechanically-drilled well, which is just few meters deep or from a gravity-fed source. But we always worry about the quality of the water from all sources as it is contaminated by chemical fertilizers that people are overusing for farming nowadays and by animal waste.” To protect my own family’s health, she added, “I bought an imported water filter for 5 million Vietnamese Dong ($220). This is a big investment, yes, that also requires frequent filters replacement that, in fact, makes it costs more. So obviously it is not suitable for poor families”.
Never having heard of biosand water filters before, Mrs. Thu joined the NEW IDEA 2 training course to become a biosand filter promoter in her village. Now, she is completely convinced of its filtration capacity and, importantly its low cost to create and maintain. Having joined all workshop sessions to get a full understanding of the model and its operation, and hands-on experience in building a filter, she can now explain it well to other people in her club, her whole village and even her own family. “I will still make one for my family as it quite small, affordable, easy use and also to maintain. I will build it in front of my home so other people can see it and try a drink … and then I can explain better about it”.
In thinking of my time with people like Mrs. Thu, who is always thinking of others, I have no doubt that the lives of people in her Phu Thinh village will be easier, not only on water access, but in many other aspects of life.
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