Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Much has been going on as we endeavor to get this project off the ground as soon as school starts in September.

Remember to use as your search engine of choice. Use it like any other search engine (Google, Yaoo, etc.) Just be sure to type in Housatonic Valley Regional High School in the "Who Do You Good Search For?" box. we receive a penny for each search completed in our name. The funds raised will be part of our "Walk Ten Miles In Her Shoes" fundraiser. Many African women and young girls must walk up to 10 miles each day to get potable water for their families ... 84,400 pennies equals 10 miles! A school our size will certainly make that many searches int he course of a school year!

Mike DeMazza has been asked to make a presentation to the new Student Leadership Council on August 13 and, possibly (hopefully!) to the incoming freshman class at Frehsman Orientation late in August. Any faculty members interested in joining him at those events should contact Mike at

We have been matched with three Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) who are working on water projects in Africa - one in The Gambia, one in Madagascar and one in Senegal. We are in contact with those PCVs and will determine which one (or possibly two) we can best help with our efforts.

Additionally, the Peace Corps "World Wise Schools" program - through which contact witht the PCVs was established - has sent us a wide variety of materials for use in Social Studies, Science and other classroom settings.

Finally (for now!), be sure to check the posts made in June and July. Each explains the problems the continent of Africa faces regarding fresh water, what we hope to accomplish and the ways in which fresh water can be made more available to those in need.

Thank you for your interest in and attention to this project! Together there is so much positive change that we will be able to effect.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Need For Water in Mekele, Ethiopia

As you may know, Chris Hanley, Lee H. Kellogg art teacher, and many others in our communities, have been working with the blind school in Mekele, Ethiopia. The entire village, however, is in need of water-related support as indicated in the following "Postcard from Ethiopia":

A Woman's Work


Hello from Mekele, Ethiopia!

After a couple of full days of meetings, it was great to spend yesterday visiting three of our sites. The projects are doing well and moving forward according to schedule. Because of the direct tie to improved health, one of our project goals in Ethiopia is to increase household water consumption. Unfortunately, my site visits showed this challenge still seems to exist.

Overall, average usage seems to be lower than we’d like to see. Prior to the start of these projects, our partner organization reported that our communities’ average household consumption was about 4 gallons per day, which is not enough. (For comparison, in the US, we use around 178 gallons per day per person.) Our goal is to double average household consumption by the end of project.

At one of our sites, I visited the house of Berhanu, a local tap attendant. His community had just finished their project. It is a beautiful water system. As with all of our communities, the local water committee has established an operating fund to pay for future repairs or other problems. In this case, each household is charged a small, monthly fee in exchange for unlimited water usage rights. When I heard this, I immediately assumed that Berhanu and his family would be using a lot of water. After all, he’s the tap attendant, has the house closest to the tap, and has unlimited usage. But, while they may have been using more water, I still saw some very dirty children wandering around the house. One of the hardest things to see was that his youngest daughter had flies all over her face and eyes. All I could think of was how similar it was to what you’d see back home in TV reports from Africa. The hardest thing about seeing that was that the flies didn’t seem to bother her anymore. She didn’t wave her hands in front of her face or shake her head like you or I would. You could tell it was a common occurrence.

Before we left the site, I did get a chance to talk with Berhanu about the water project and how it had impacted him. I really wanted to find out how much water his family was using and whether he thought it was enough. But, even after talking with him, I’m still not sure if they aren’t using more water because they are used to conserving it or if more hygiene and sanitation education is needed.

On the ride back to the hotel, I talked about this observation with our partner organization. They’ve noticed the same problems and are continuing the hygiene education component of the project at this site and at a couple of sites with low water consumption. I hope that the continued emphasis on the links between hygiene and sanitation and the cycle of disease will continue to have an effect. My guess is that the next time I visit, I will see dramatic differences – I can’t wait!

Sarah BramleyWaterPartners InternationalProgram Manager

Stories of Water in Cameroon

Below are some of the stories from Peace Corps volunteers in the African nation of Cameroon. Currently we are in touch with the Peace Corps to be linked with one of their neediest communities in Africa. The second story, by Kathleen Reaugh, is quite compelling.

The Source of Our Water
(by Serena Williams, Kribi, Cameroon)

I live near the Atlantic Ocean, 80 kilometers north of the Cameroonian border with Equatorial Guinea. The Kengue/Kinke River is also in my town. Water has been controlled by SNEC (Societe Nationale des Eaux du Cameroun) since 1897. SNEC water is supplied by the Kengue River, and undergoes an elaborate filtering process that includes sand, bleach, aluminum sulfide, chlorine, and lime, which increases the pH level of the processed water.

(by Kathleen Reaugh, Batouri, East Province, Cameroon)
There has been no water since yesterday, and the electricity has been out for over four days. It's not that we're out of water, exactly—the Kadei River flows constantly past my town (in fact I think I can hear it taunting me now). But at seven kilometers it's a healthy trek for 15 liters of questionable water. That's probably all I could carry on my head for that distance, if it didn't all splash out. My water is always questionable though. It always comes straight from the Kadei, directly and unfiltered. An electric pump stores some of that water in a tower. But when the power is out, the water lasts for two days. So, on day two of the outage, I fill all the buckets I own (approximately 120 liters) and hope it will last as long as the outage. The Kadei's water is deceptively clear, masking amoebas and other parasites to which other Volunteers have fallen prey. For bathing and washing clothes, water straight from the Kadei is just fine.

(by Maryanne Pribila, Bogo, Extreme North Province, Cameroon)
My water comes from a well. The well is about a hundred meters from my house. It is a deep well, at least 30 feet. The water is always murky. During the hot season the water becomes sandy, because the well often dries up from the increased use of water. During the short rainy season, the water is an opaque color. I would never drink this water, but it works fine for washing.

(by Madhuri Kasat, Garey, Extreme North Province, Cameroon)
There are two year-round water sources: forages and wells. During the rainy season most people abandon these and go to the Mayo, or river, for their water. Usually, the Mayo flows like a river for a few hours after a heavy downpour, and then the waters retreat, leaving behind stagnant pools. This water is quickly contaminated. Nevertheless, many people prefer its taste to forage water and tell me that while I may get sick from river water, they possess an African immunity. During the dry season, from sunrise to sunset, the seven forages of Garey are adorned by queues of 50 to 100 buckets. Women and children place their buckets in line and then seat themselves beneath the shade of trees, sometimes waiting two to three hours for their bucket to arrive at the front of the line. By mid-dry season, pumping water requires considerable strength, but the forages have yet to dry out completely. The forages access a water table many feet beneath the Earth's surface. As a result, forage water tends to be hard—that is, concentrated with minerals and salts. But forage water is considered potable because forages are covered (as opposed to open, like wells or the river) by a concrete surface. Water is retrieved by pressing on a foot-pump. People are still advised to boil their water, as there have been outbreaks of epidemics such as cholera in the past years. But few people actually boil it.
Wells provide the third water source. Like river water, well water is softer and more palatable. Wells are generally left uncovered, however, unless it is a private well in someone's concession. Because of this, debris falls into the water. When the lines at the forages are too long to endure, women and children fetch water from the wells. During the rainy season (June–October), water lies in the riverbed at everyone's immediate disposal, but the dry season demands strategic planning or relentless patience. I know women who get up at 3 a.m. to avoid the lines at the forages.

(by Lea Loizos, Bati, West Providence, Cameroon)
If you were to ask the people of Bati what their greatest problem is, many would tell you that it is the lack of clean water. There are many streams flowing throughout the village, but some of them dry up during the dry season, and none of them is very clean. Upstream, a woman may be washing clothes. Next to her, a few children are bathing. Downstream, a young girl comes to fill her bucket with water to take back to the house—unaware of the activities occurring upstream.
Luckily for me, there is an underground stream that was tapped near my house. The water flows out of a pipe and becomes an above ground stream. The source serves a large number of people in the community, as it is by far the cleanest water source in the village. During the dry season, the flow reduces to a trickle and people are forced to stand in line—sometimes for an hour or more—waiting for those ahead of them to fill their buckets. Fortunately, people often let me cut to the front of the line out of respect; I guess they know I'm not used to fetching water every day. In fact, people still giggle as they see the American woman walking down the road with a bucket on her head. During the remainder of the year—the rainy season—I catch the rainwater that falls off my roof by placing numerous buckets and pots outside. That's usually enough to hold me until the next rain.

One Nation's Water Problems

Cameroon: Little to Quench the Nation’s Thirst

Yaounde - For people in both rural and urban areas of Cameroon, getting clean drinking water can prove a daily ordeal. Efforts are underway to address this problem – but they’re being regarded with a healthy degree of scepticism by many.

"If you knew how many plans and resolutions there have been about our country’s water problems, you would be hard put to understand why (people are) still without potable water," Daniel Manguelle of Catholic Relief Services, a non-governmental organisation, told IPS.
"But there’s nothing inherent about our country that has forced us to have these problems."

According to Manguelle, plans to improve Cameroon’s water system fail because of delays in execution – or because of the corruption which plagues large water deals. In the case of ‘Yaounde Horizon 2000’, a multi-million-dollar project to provide water to the Cameroonian capital and surrounding areas by 2020, several officials were accused of demanding payoffs.
Only 60 percent of the project was ultimately completed, and the contracting company, Collavino, quit in disgust.

According to a 2003 report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), only 44 percent of Cameroon’s 15.8 million strong population has access to clean water. This translates into seven out of 10 households in the country’s main cities, compared to one in four households in rural areas.

The lack of clean water has, on occasion, had disastrous consequences. Between January and March of this year, an outbreak of cholera claimed 26 lives in the economic hub of Douala. In 2000, thirty people died in the east of the country as a result of diarrhea – another disease related to the consumption of dirty water.

"We’re aware of the dangers our people incur," the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Mines, Water and Energy, Fritz Nassako, told IPS. "A project dealing with water access is in the final phases of completion to remedy water supply problems nationwide," he added.

The first phase of the project (1998-2000) focused on assessing what water-related infrastructure was already in place. "The study will allow a better understanding of the best ways to supply potable water to urban areas and their vicinities," says Nassako.

According to Joseph Ngoua of the Water Office, "The minister envisages the provision of either a well or a borehole equipped with a hand-powered pump for every 300 to 500 people, with an average consumption of 25 liters a day per person." It is hoped that the project will be financed by funds that are freed by partial debt forgiveness for Cameroon.

However, some fear the government’s plan could be derailed by a failure to address the sanitation problems that are already compromising existent wells. "Douala hardly has a sewer or drainage system," says Jules Kamgang, an urban planner in Yaounde.

Adds Max Antoine Grolleron, head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Cameroon, "Several of the town’s 8,000 wells are not protected and are located near latrines, which end up contaminating them."

In a bid to address these concerns, government began a campaign in March to sanitise the city’s wells by putting chlorine in them. About 4,850 wells in Douala have been treated to date; 3,150 remain. Health authorities are also urging people to keep latrines and garbage away from wells.
‘Douala 2005’, a programme financed by the French Development Agency at a cost of about 19 million dollars, is another project in the pipeline. It aims to renovate the city’s entire water network – and finance the construction of up to ten pumping stations.

In the meantime, some look to privatization of the Societe Nationale des Eaux du Cameroon (the Cameroonian National Water Company, SNEC) as providing a possible way out of the morass.
"I hope that privatization of the SNEC will contribute to improving supply, and to renovating and maintaining infrastructure," Catherine Mballa, a member of the non- governmental organization ‘Women, Health, and Development’, told IPS. (It is estimated that only 15 percent of households are connected to SNEC.)

But according to Christophe Ebong, a lecturer at the University of Yaounde I, this will only make matters worse. "Western firms who buy companies want to make a profit. They are not in the business of investing. In the case of the SNEC, it makes me laugh when I hear people putting their faith in privatization."

Although government has started the process of privatizing SNEC, Cameroonians have yet to derive any benefit from it. The company has been forced to raise the price of a connection to the national water system from 472 dollars to 943 dollars in certain cases. SNEC has also increased the price of water from 26 to 51 cents per cubic metre. This amount is completely beyond the reach of many Cameroonians – particularly those in rural areas. According to the UNDP, 75 percent of the rural population lives below the poverty line of a dollar a day.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Water Stats and Facts

Gender, Water and Sanitation

This policy brief, prepared by the UN Interagency Task Force on Gender and Water, provides an excellent overview of the issues of clean water and sanitation. You will find information about the involvement of women in water and sanitation management in developing countries The document also lists the key issues that need to be addressed for a “gendered” approach to water resource management and makes recommendations for action. The entire policy brief is available for review at

Water Facts

Though we use it constantly, we think very little about water and its place in our lives. Here are some water facts to ponder:

• More than half of Africa's people lack access to safe drinking water (UN)

• Of all the renewable water available in Africa each year, only 4% is used -- because most Africans lack the wells, canals, pumps, reservoirs and other irrigation systems (Africare)

• In developing countries, one person uses an average of ten liters of water per day. In the United States, one person uses an average of 75-80 gallons in the same time period (

• Each flush of the toilet uses the same amount of water that one person in the Third World uses all day for washing, cleaning, cooking and drinking (

• In the past ten years, diarrhea has killed more children worldwide than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II (Water Aid)

• Twelve million people die each year from lack of safe drinking water, including more than 3 million who die from waterborne diseases (WHO)

• Over 80% of the disease in developing countries is related to poor drinking water and sanitation (WHO)

• 1.5 billion people in the world are suffering from parasite infections, which can cause malnutrition, anemia and delayed growth, due to the presence of solid human waste in the environment. Many of these infections could be controlled with improved hygiene, clean water and sanitation. These (

• The average distance a woman in Africa and Asia walks to collect water is 3.75 miles (

• The weight of water that women in Asia and Africa carry on their heads is equivalent to the maximum baggage weight allowed by airlines – 20 kg, or 44lbs (

• Women are the primary caretakers for those who fall ill from water-related diseases, reducing their time available for education and productive economic efforts (

• One-third of women in Egypt walk more than an hour a day for water; in other parts of Africa, the task can consume as much as eight hours (

• Medical research has documented cases of permanent damage to women’s health as a result of carrying water, such as chronic fatigue, spinal and pelvic deformities, and effects on reproductive health including spontaneous abortion (

• In some parts of Africa, women expend as much as 85% of their daily energy intake on getting water, increasing incidences of anemia and other health problems (

UNICEF Video Report On Water

These are video reports from UNICEF about the search for water in one part of Africa. Real Player is needed to view the video. Copy and paste the link into a new window and play the video.

Photo essays from UNICEF:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Good Search

Please begin to use the search engine found at

By logging onto that site and making Housatonic Valley Regional High School the organization you "Good Search" for (select us under the grey button "Who Do You GoodSearch For?"). For every search completed in their site we will receive 1 penny ... that doesn't sound like much but it WILL add us qucikly if we all make it our search engine of choice. We have used it recently and it is quite comprehensive.

Thank you for you help!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Initial Appeal

“Housy - LifeStraws for Africa” Appeal

Please help us raise money to buy LifeStraws by donating as much as you can afford right now to HVRHS LifeStraws, c/o Mike DeMazza, Housatonic Valley Regional High School, 246 Warren Turnpike, Falls Village, CT 06031

Or read on ...

Just a few dollars from you will buy a Lifestraw that can provide drinkable water for an adult for a whole year. Please help us to raise as much as we can to really make a difference to people in time of devastating natural disaster.

There is no point in waiting until disasters strike - by then it is too late.

What is a LifeStraw?

The LifeStraw is a personal water purification device designed to turn surface water into drinking water, thus providing access to safe drinking water wherever you are. It was developed by a specialist commercial company, Vestergaard-Frandsen who research, develop and manufacture disease control textiles.

LifeStraws are approximately 25cm long with a diameter of 3cm, very light and of solid construction. It has a cord to place around your neck. It kills disease-causing micro organisms which spread diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and cholera.

The LifeStraw contains a number of filters and a pharmaceutical pouch that cleans the water and treats it chemically. There are no electrical or moving parts and no maintenance is required - simply blow back after use to remove the debris that has been filtered.

Why are LifeStraws needed?
There is a massive need. More than one billion of the world’s population is without access to safe water, half suffer from waterborne diseases of which approx. 6000 people, mostly children, die every day from consuming unsafe water - even if we could help a small fraction of these people, what an achievement that would be.

LifeStraws can be used -
• For immediate use in disaster zones when the water supply is polluted or interrupted
• For populations on the move e.g. refugees or those in war zones
• For people working away from home all day - in fields on remote farms
• As emergency water purification for people in difficulty

What does it do?

By sucking through the LifeStraw the user can drink from surface water such as streams or rivers and it protects them from the micro organisms responsible for causing waterborne diseases. It will filter approx 700 litres of water - more than enough for one adult to survive for a year. After this it will become become clogged up and therefore inoperable.

Does it do what it says it does?

The efficacy of LifeStraws is backed up by data issued by the manufacturers. The LifeStraws website ( has testing information.

How much do they cost?

The cost of a LifeStraw can be less than the price of a cup of coffee by buying them in bulk loads. That way every penny raised will have the maximum effect on helping improve lives of people in real need.

Where will they be used?

Distribution will be via African aid organizations and other international organizations, such as the Salvation Army, to ensure that LifeStraws can be effectively distributed to exactly where they are needed, with a minimum of delay.

About this appeal

We are a new service organization at our local high school getting off the ground with students when we return to classes in September. Our school has a wide range of active student clubs that have raised money for many great causes - from helping raise funds for the FaceAIDS project to other local concerns and much more.

Today many areas of our own nation is experiencing a drought. We are concerned about this shortage of water, but truly have no idea what life is like for the one billion people around the world for whom water isn't just in short supply - it is positively dangerous for them to drink. 6000 people die every day from drinking contaminated water!

How can you help?

Right now - please donate today by check! As much or as little as you can afford. Every dollar - EVERY PENNY - will help save lives.

In the longer term -
• Tell everyone about our new "Housy- LifeStraws for Africa" program and send them to this blog site.
• If you have your own mailing list, please tell your friends, readers or subscribers about this appeal and point them to this page.



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LifeStraw News Links

Check out the "Links Of Interest" button to the left ... news articles, video clips and more about the LifeStraw. The video clips will work best in Internet Explorer and (usually) don't work in Mozilla Firefox.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Housy and LifeStraws

LifeStraws were featured in a Newsweek article in May. In September 2007 Social Studies teacher Mike DeMazza will be initiating a student service program to raise funds for the purchase of LifeStraws and their distribution to those in Africa without fresh drinking water.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What are LifeStraws??

To best understand the concept of LifeStraws please logon to the website at