Living on the outskirts of the Andean city of Arequipa, these families are looking forward to what we in the west take for granted – access to clean water and sanitation.
We were alerted to their plight by Maltese Missionary Priest, Father Giovanni, with whom the Trust has a long standing partnership, and I had the privilege of meeting some of them when I visited Peru last year. With up to eight living in one room with no facilities, their living conditions were unbelievably basic. It is no exaggeration to say that having access to water and sanitation would transform their lives. Especially for people like Victoria, who not only has the hardship of poverty to contend with, but also the care of two severely disabled children.
The good news was that the government were going to lay water and sewage pipes in the area. However, the $300 connection fee meant that most families simply wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Which is where the Trust has been able to step forward. We have agreed not just to arrange the connection fees for these families, but also to provide each with the materials for a proper bathroom, with toilet and shower. I can’t wait to hear when Victoria is finally able to turn on the tap in her own home, for a better and healthier future.
Right at the other end of the country, near the Amazonian city of Iquitos, the Trust has been working with local conservation organisation CONAPAC to introduce clean water to communities.
A clever but simple water filtration system turns water pumped up from the river into clean, potable water and the accompanying workshops explain the importance of drinking this, rather than continuing the age-old habit of consuming water straight from the river. Each family pays a nominal fee per month, which goes into maintaining the system which is managed by a nominated member of the community.
I met with several of the communities who now have these systems in place and it was a special moment when a 76 year old elder stood up and said – much to the amusement of the others – that she felt 20 years younger since she has been drinking clean water. The fact that there has been a dramatic reduction in cases of water-borne illnesses has, I am sure, something to do with that!
The Trust has already funded eight water treatment plants, and due to their resounding success over 2,500 people now have access to clean drinking water. On the basis of this, the Trust will be constructing three more. Alongside these, we are also part-funding a pilot sustainability programme which will provide each community with support from a central depot, managed by trained water technicians. The latter will make monthly visits to each community for maintenance, testing water quality and to provide additional training and advice on the systems.
Seeing how our funding has worked is the absolute highlight of my job – especially as we are able to build and develop relationships with the communities we work with. All projects are located near to where Saga operates holidays, which means we are not only able to identify and target local needs, but ensure our funds are used effectively with complete transparency.
And that really does make a world of difference