ST. PAUL, Minn. – June 28, 2016 – Unsafe drinking water is one of the primary causes of disease and death in the world, but in Nicaragua, more than 400,000 people have solved drinking water contamination with help from community leaders and a water treatment device from nonprofit Compatible Technology International. Adrian Diaz, a 2016 graduate from Northland College, recently traveled to Nicaragua as part of an internship at CTI to explore out how rural communities are leading efforts to eliminate waterborne illness.
Diaz visited several communities that have purchased a CTI Water Chlorinator, an inexpensive technology that uses chlorine tablets to disinfect a community’s water source. Diaz spoke with Angela Kuan, head of the water committee in Siares, a small village in the mountains of northern Nicaragua. This January, Kuan mobilized her neighbors to split the cost of the chlorinator, and as a result, 1,500 people in her community have access to safe drinking water.
“Before the chlorinator, you would see up to two children being buried [each year] because of diarrhea,” Kuan explained. “Now the chlorinator has decreased sickness in our community, it has changed the lives of our people. I am happy to see the impact; children are being raised in a better environment.”
More than 700 communities have been trained to install and maintain chlorinators in Nicaragua since 2009. Community members purchase the chlorinator for $200 USD, and villages share the cost of replenishing the chlorine tablets, which amounts to less than a dollar per family annually. The systems are monitored by locally-elected volunteer water committees.
CTI engineers designed the chlorinator specifically for Nicaragua, where they have been leading installations since 2009, in partnership with local NGOs like EOS International, community organizations, and the Nicaraguan Health Ministry.
“Every approach and action CTI takes acknowledges and incorporates the backgrounds of the communities they serve,” observed Diaz. “They help communities to create sustainable and long-term plans that they can easily maintain. The work being done in Nicaragua encourages community empowerment and improves the quality of life for everyone.”
Diaz’s trip to Nicaragua was sponsored by the Wendy & Malcolm McLean Internship, and annual award given to a Northland College student in honor of the McLean Family. The late Malcolm Mclean was one of Northland’s longest-serving presidents and former CTI executive director. McLean was a strong advocate of CTI’s water program in Nicaragua, and personally led efforts to launch the project in 2009.
“I was able to see the way local leaders organized their communities,” said Diaz. “I also observed barriers that they faced and ways they went around them. Communities were hardworking and caring—they all believed in a brighter future for their children and Nicaragua.”
Diaz graduated from Northland in May, with bachelor’s degrees in sustainable community development and sociology. He plans to attend law school and pursue a career as an immigration or human rights lawyer.