Water is essential for life on Earth as we know it. Yet how many times do we curse it as it overwhelms us with devastating floods… how many times do we raise our fists to the heavens as rain refuses to fall on the hard, sun-parched land?

In America, we take so much for granted, not the least of which is a glass – or more often a bottle – of water to drink, and clean water flowing from our shower heads and bathroom spigots to maintain health and hygiene. If every man, woman, and child were so lucky.

Consider these facts…

  • How Much Water is there in the World?
    Water covers about 71 percent of the Earth. 96.5 percent of that is ocean water.
  • How Much of the Water in the World is Drinkable?
    2.5 percent of all the water on the planet is freshwater that is drinkable.
  • How Much of the Water in the World is Drinkable Right Now?
    Only 1 percent of all freshwater is easily accessible in rivers, lakes and streams. The rest of it is stuck in glaciers and snowfields.
  • How Many People in the World Have Access to Clean Water?
    Out of around 7.8 billion people in the world, only about 6 billion of them have access to clean water.
  • How Many People in the World Do Not Have Access to Clean Water?
    785 million people in the world lack access to clean water. That is 1 person without safe water out of every 10 people.

The Situation

Haiti is surrounded by water.  While Haiti has suffered from a recurring drought in recent years characterized by the lack of rainfall and drying up of several water sources in rural areas, devastating hurricanes frequently pound and flood the island nation.  The quantity of water in Haiti is not so much an issue.  The QUALITY of water in Haiti is.

This became more important to me last week when our Barefoot School conducted its midterm exams like all the schools in Haiti…

Justin sent me sample copies of different tests; they are in French, and I translate them into English.  I noticed a true/false question on the 1st-grade science/hygiene test:  you must brush your teeth in the morning and at night.  I wrote back and applauded them for asking that question; it is good practice, and I am pleased they teach this to the young students, but I asked, “How many children have toothbrushes?”  As you can probably surmise, none of the kids has a toothbrush and has probably never had a toothbrush.  We discussed if we should get each student a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and deodorant.  I asked the follow-up, “If they have a toothbrush, do they have water to use to wash and brush their teeth.”  Sadly, Justin replied, “Yes, they have access to water but not clean water, it is one of the reasons why cholera killed many children in the community.  There was more DINEPA – National Directorate of Drinking Water and Sanitation – that used to provide good water, but unfortunately the gang wars they can’t Come and fix the pipes.”

The Solution

It is a terrible conundrum:  we must teach the students to practice good health and hygiene, but without the means to do it, the lessons appear counterproductive.

We continued our discussion early yesterday morning.  I explained my perspective to him, “The real issue and the key to hygiene as you write is CLEAN WATER.  Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc. will not accomplish much unless we have clean water.  It is VERY important that we have a solution to provide CLEAN WATER to our students.  There are MANY important lessons to teach our students about CLEAN WATER and health.  We must solve the water situation first, and then consider toothbrushes, etc.”  He agrees.  The fact is that water delivery is sporadic as a result of gang violence, but we think we can get around that.


In the past, we have purchased 5-gallon buckets at $3/bucket.  But Justin explains, “Since the shooting, there are no drivers coming in to sell water.”  What he means is that we cannot rely on drivers to bring water to Cité Soleil on a dependable schedule.  We may go a week, sometimes two without water.  While it is worth considering continuing to rely on this method – which would cost $300/month for 100 buckets] – we are searching for a better way.

Justin suggested this morning that we consider installing a 200- or 500-gallon reservoir and schedule a water truck to fill it.  I consider his solution much better than the buckets.  We’ve done the math and it is favorable.  We can get a 500-gallon tank in Haiti for $848USD which is comparable to what it would cost in the U.S.  We can purchase 500 gallons of clean water for $257USD, which is $.51/gallon; we currently pay $3 for a 5-gallon bucket, $.60/gallon.  Walmart sells a gallon for $1.16/gallon in the U.S

We currently use three, 5-gallon buckets a day at the Barefoot School when we can get them.  We believe we can cover our cooking and drinking requirements AND our hygiene requirements with 25 gallons a day, which is 125 gallons of clean water each week and 500 gallons a month

Where Angels Hang Around

by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini

As we deliberated our decision and considered our funding, we received an unexpected $2,000 gift this very afternoon from a special husband and wife in Pennsylvania.  She is a writer; he is a musician.  I know from her writings that she believes in angels.  I do too.  Angels hang around waiting to help people just like us!

“Where Angels Hang Around” by James Otto

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  1. I wonder if digging a well would work. I doubt of you’d have to drill very deep. Catching rain water from the roof is also an option.

  2. Thanks for ALL You do Gene to keep the “gears” working for Justin to be able to accomplish all that He and his team do ! Thanks TOO, to the “Wonderful Angels” from Pennsylvania who appeared at the perfect time !! GOD IS GOOD, and I am Grateful !! Hope You are feeling better…. Sending Hugs to You and Marie

  3. Wonderful news about the couple in Pennsylvania. I like the song. My wife is from Memphis. That is where we met. Our family visited Memphis, Beale Street, Graceland, and the Lorraine Motel where MLK was shot a few years ago. My wife is a big Elvis fan.