What’s In A Phage?
Our family was away on vacation for a while, but we’re back and everyone is back to work at the mission. I feel like August is the start of a new year for us because of our summer vacation, and I always come back feeling refreshed and ready to go again. Being away also gives me time to think about the different aspects of what we do at Clean Water for Haiti, and I find myself marvelling at all of them and feeling privileged to be part of something so important.
As an organization we find ourselves in a unique position that many other orgs don’t in that we have our roots in our faith and do what we do with purpose and that helps define us, but we work in the development/humanitarian sector and what we do is technical and has a lot of science behind it. Because of those things we essentially have a foot in both the missions community, and the development/humanitarian community. Having a foot in each world means that we get to meet all kinds of interesting people. People that genuinely want to help Haiti, and who come at it from all different approaches.
Over the years we’ve had the great privilege of supporting and helping research teams that want to look at Haiti’s water situation and see how they can fight different kinds of water-borne disease. Some of that research has centered around technologies, like the bio-sand water filters that we build and distribute, and how those technologies can be improved or implemented more effectively. Sometimes the research is about the program and education side of things where people look at the data and figure out what kinds of education and end user programs need to be developed to improve sanitation and hygiene education. And then there are the really technical research projects that look at things like the microbes that are causing sickness, different strains, and what can be done to eliminate them.
Today we got to meet Ben and Clare. Ben is actually Dr. Ben, and Dr. Ben works in the science world in the realm of bacterias and vaccine development. A few months ago Dr. Ben got in touch with us to see if we would help him with a research project. We had been recommended to him by past researchers who thought we could help him out. Clare is an ecologist and is helping Ben with his research.
Ben is looking at phages – strains of bacteria. Specifically he’s here to get samples from water sources filled with Cholera, which is, sadly, most of the water sources we find in Haiti.
The work that Ben is doing with this project is ridiculously important. His goal is to take water samples from Cholera filled sources, take them back to the US, isolate the Cholera bacteria, grow it in a petri dish, then start working on a vaccine bacteria that can kill it. Cholera is one of those bacteria that actually has two strains – one that can sit in your system and never cause you to have symptoms, and another that can make you so sick you can die. The goal is to eliminate the disease causing strain.
If I understood everything Ben was telling us correctly this morning, his ultimate goal is to develop a bacterial vaccine that could actually be released into water sources that could attack the disease causing strain, and in turn, eliminate it.
Let’s think about that for a second.
You know what’s so impressive about this? Ben isn’t here on a research grant or any government funding. He’s funding his whole trip and the research out of pocket because he believes it’s that important.
When I say that we get to meet fascinating, passionate people doing what we do, this is what I’m talking about. People like Ben who want to make a difference so big it could change a nation, and even the world.
Eradicating disease is big work. As an organization we want to do what we can do to support big work like this. I love that we can use our people and their skills to do that. Today Ben gets to drive all over the Artibonite Valley of Haiti with Evens, one of our longest-standing filter technicians, who will direct him to communities and water sources where we know they’re battling Cholera. We know because we’ve gone into these same communities with bio-sand filters. We’ve had a chance to visit homes, to talk to people and hear their stories. Stories that tell of lives of friends and family lost because of contaminated water.
When you choose to support the work of Clean Water for Haiti I want you to know how far reaching that is. You may think that you’re just helping to pay for a water filter, but what you’re actually doing is helping us to train people. We train people to build, deliver, install and support our filters. They work directly with families to support and educate them about water-borne disease and good sanitation and hygiene practices in their home that will stop the spread of water-borne disease. That training and work that we provide our staff with, trickles over and helps them to become not just community health workers, but a valuable resource. Every time our staff go out on deliveries, follow-up visits, and to repair filters they’re building relationships within the communities we serve. In turn, those relationships can go a long way to help people like Ben who want to make a difference at a different level.
Would you consider making a donation to Clean Water for Haiti right now? You know what we would love even more than a one time gift? A smaller gift that you give each month. $10, $25, or $40 each month might not seem like a lot to you, but over time it will not only far exceed a one time donation and help us to do more of what we do so well. We love one time donations too! Whatever you can give right now will go a long way to helping families get clean water, whether it’s through a bio-sand filter, or whether it’s helping research like what Ben is doing.
To donate right now (or anytime!) visit our DONATE page (click the link) and make a donation through our secure giving options. You can even give a gift in honor or in memory of someone.
Every bit helps, whether it’s a donation, a filter that gets installed, a conversation our staff have with a family, or developing a phage.