Hello everyone, we are the Clean Water Initiative from Tufts Timmy Global Health. Our current project—to provide clean, potable water to the community of La Victoria, Guatemala—is the product of three years of data collection and collaboration with community members and generations of Timmy volunteers alike. The five representatives who travelled to Guatemala this summer were Molly Goodell (Anthropology, LA’13), Lucia Smith (Biology, LA’13), Rebecca DiBiase (International Relations, LA’13), Nitin Shrivastava (Biochemistry, LA’12), and Patric Gibbons (Biochemistry, LA’12).
As we reflect on each of our experiences over the past few months, the hardest question—as always—is where to begin. Compressing a summer’s worth of sights and sounds into a few paragraphs and picture captions is daunting in itself (though already, each of you has done so quite eloquently in each of your blog posts). Filtering through all of the events of our trip (which has since ended for the last rotation of our group) has required some focus and careful organization. Each day in Guatemala brought a fresh wave of experiences; each conversation and exploration added to our growing understanding our project and our purpose. Hurriedly, we wrote down what we could, wherever we could—in notebooks, on the back of café napkins, and occasionally in blog posts—lest we forget any experience before another pushed it aside. Often our greatest step forward came after taking one step back, a necessary pause amidst a busy day in order to consider the lasting impact of a newly gained perspective. For us, Empower will be a continuation of this process. While most of our instantaneous thoughts on the trip have already been posted on our Timmy blog site (http://tuftstimmycleanwater.wordpress.com/), the Empower blog will give us a unique opportunity to reflect on the progress we made this summer—as well as consider the work that still lays ahead. Hopefully, as we relive—and occasionally repost from our Timmy blog—some of the most memorable events from our trip, we will gain a greater understanding of how to use all of this new information to our advantage and how to keep moving forward.
However, before we discuss our work from this summer, a quick introduction to our organization and the history of the project up to this point. Timmy Global Health is a national nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana, that works toward providing sustainable healthcare in the developing world. Tufts Timmy Global Health is one of 21 university and high school chapters across the country that advocates for global health awareness and participation, as well as fundraises for and organizes medical brigades to support various communities in Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, and Nigeria. Because each college chapter remains connected to specific communities year after year, students have the unique opportunity to develop a lasting relationship with the people they serve, as well as provide a reliable system of continuous care. Every January, Tufts Timmy sends a medical brigade of about 20 students and five medical professionals to Xela, Guatemala. It’s an intense week of mobile medical clinics with our local partner organization, Pop-Wuj, to bring healthcare to rural, indigenous communities. As Timmy’s connection to these communities continues to grow, we have been able to implement new programs that meet the specific health and financial needs of the populations, including the Clean Water Initiative, the Nutrition Project, and the new surgery program (for more information about Timmy Global Health, please visit http://www.timmyglobalhealth.org/).
Through our commitment with Timmy, we have begun to understand the lasting impact that basic resources (or the lack thereof) have on the communities’ health and social wellbeing. Many of the health conditions we saw and treated were directly related to unsafe drinking water, water-borne illness, and parasites. These problems cause dehydration, malnutrition, and, in some cases, fatal disease; however, such morbidity and mortality can be prevented through access to clean, safe drinking water.
It was upon this basic idea that the Clean Water Initiative came into being. Within our usual large group, a subcommittee of about six ‘Timmies’ formed, and eventually grew to over 10 members. Throughout the fall we met on Wednesday evenings to discuss various water sanitation methods, logistics, and how best to go about this process. Eventually, we decided the only way to make a culturally conscious decision—one that would benefit the community the most—was to ask the people themselves.
On the annual medical brigade January 2010, members of the Water Committee spent an afternoon La Victoria, a neighborhood of Buena Vista, a community that the Timmy Foundation has been serving for a few years. There, we held two focus groups with a group of about 30 women discussing possibilities.
When we got back to the United States, we eventually decided on buying water filters through a company based in Guatemala called Ecofiltro. Two members of our group, Pat Gibbons and Nitin Shrivastava, traveled back to La Victoria, Guatemala in March to deliver 13 filters to the community and administer a baseline health survey. The five of us returned this summer in order to check on these filters, distribute new ones to the rest of the group, conduct baseline and follow-up surveys, and determine how to best move forward with the project.
This summer has been incredibly successful, more so than we ever could have imagined (with more stories than we could fit in just this one blog post). Now that we’ve laid out our background a bit, we’ll be back soon with more details about our experiences this summer. We look forward to hearing more about all of your projects; best wishes to everyone in the meanwhile!