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Justin Price, third from left, Krisztina Kovacs, Roy Sheldrick and Greg Kesminas, far right, visited Haiti last month, along with Diane Price, not shown, to witness the progress of water and sanitation efforts in the Artibonite Valley north of Port-au-Prince. Also shown are Haitian residents who administer the water and sanitation program, including Renold Estime, second from left, and Dawn Johnson, third from left.

Local Rotarians look to expand clean water program in Haiti

By Mike Pearson, News Staff

With 240 wells and more than $2 million in fundraising to date, Diane Price knows she has a tough act to follow.

Price, daughter of Ancaster Rotarian Roy Sheldrick, is poised to take the reins of the fundraising program her father founded in 1995 for Haiti’s rural Artibonite Valley.

Sheldrick and Price were part of a local contingent that travelled to Haiti last month to oversee the progress of the water and sanitation program administered by Haiti’s Hôpital Albert Schweitzer. Supported by Rotary fundraising, Water for Life has helped provide clean drinking water for 300,000 Haitians.

“You can only say no to dad for so long,” said Price, who joined her father, son Justin, Krisztina Kovacs and Rotarian Greg Kesminas for a trip to the Artibonite Valley last month.

Despite the success of the water and sanitation program, Price and Sheldrick know there is much work to be done.

To give every village its own well, Price estimates another 500 units would have to be constructed at a cost of $5,000 each.

On their most recent visit to Haiti, the local residents met with representatives from three Haitian Rotary clubs, including a service club from the city of Saint-Marc. It’s hoped the Water for Life program can make greater inroads into the low-lying areas surrounding Haiti’s Artibonite River delta, north of the capital Port-au-Prince.

While it’s often difficult to watch people living in abject poverty, Price and Sheldrick know they’re making a difference.

“The biggest satisfaction for me is looking at a classroom of 30 or 40 kids and knowing that two out of five of them wouldn’t make it past age five without clean water,” said Sheldrick.

Price will carry some images of the trip in her memory for her entire lifetime. She was captivated by a girl wearing a T-shirt as a dress and a boy wearing pants that were several sizes too big. They were fortunate compared to a third child who didn’t have a stitch of clothing.

“I just leave there every time and say, ‘Life is hard,’” said Price.

The Rotarians brought smiles to children living at a local orphanage by delivering some small toys and stationery supplies.

Amid the desperation there are signs of hope, nearly three years after the country was devastated by a January 2010 earthquake.

Tent cities filled with refugees are slowly being dismantled, and ruined buildings are gradually being cleared away. Hurricane Sandy was a setback, crippling some of the country’s infrastructure. When a large truck became stuck on a makeshift bridge, Price and the other Rotarians were forced to wait four hours in their vehicle before the traffic jam cleared.

Water borne diseases like cholera present a constant challenge, especially when sanitation is compromised. All along the Artibonite River, Rotarians saw animals tethered just steps away from the main water source, contaminating the river with fecal matter.

Along with clean water, fundraising has helped to build 737 latrines which keep human waste out of the drinking water. Latrines are equipped with a “tippy tap” hand washing unit to promote proper sanitation.

The service club sponsors a group of Haitian students and has also helped to train 10 plumbers who inspect and repair the wells as needed. Working in partnership with Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Rotarians hope to see a Haitian worker hired on a full-time basis to maintain each of the 240 wells.

For more on the Water For Life program, visit www.ancasterrotary.com.

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