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UMCOR partnership gives Haitians keys to clean water

Sharlene Jean offers a 
sample of treated drinking water to a child living in a makeshift camp 
in Gressier, Haiti.
Sharlene Jean offers treated drinking water to a child living in a makeshift camp in Gressier, Haiti. UMNS photos by Mike DuBose. 


By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Jan. 24, 2010 | GRESSIER, Haiti (UMNS)

In 20 minutes, Sharlene Jean learned how to save her community.

Jean, one of the thousands of Haitians living out in the open since an earthquake destroyed their homes Jan. 12, learned to take muddy river water and turn it into clean drinking water with PUR, a water purifying powder developed by Procter & Gamble Co.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief, working with GlobalMedic, brought the key to life-saving water to Jean’s community, encamped in an open field.

UMCOR’s Melissa Crutchfield 
offers samples of treated drinking water to people living in the 
Gressier camp.
UMCOR’s Melissa Crutchfield offers samples of treated drinking water to people living in the Gressier camp.

"Safe, clean water is central to all we do. It is one way to make sure people do not get sick,” said Sharad Aggarwal, executive with UMCOR.

PUR is one of several ways GlobalMedic, a Canadian first-response organization, helps furnish clean water. The group is also distributing tablets that replenish electrolytes in people who have become dehydrated and water purifiers that can work on a bigger scale.

A grant of $20,000 will help GlobalMedic distribute 6 million packets donated by Procter & Gamble to people who have lost everything. One packet of the dry ingredients mixed into 2.5 gallons of the worst water imaginable washes out the “germs and worms.”

Jean was on the front lines of the tight circle that wound around a volunteer demonstrating the process. She watched closely as he explained the ratio of packets to gallons of water. She quickly learned the stirring technique, making sure the powder was well distributed in the plastic bucket.

After waiting for the water to still, she carefully strained it through a cloth and was amazed at the ugly sediment left behind. A wide grin flashed across her face when she was offered a taste. She was happy to share cups with the others.

Quick and easy

Purification is quick, simple to do and requires only a clean bucket, Aggarwal said.

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The United Methodist Church has an emphasis on global health, so these types of projects are a good match, he said.

UMCOR works with organizations like GlobalMedic to bring quick response after a disaster.

“GlobalMedic will be here for a short time; we will be here for years,” Aggarwal said.

The power of watching dirty, brown river water turn into good tasting water was not lost on Jean. After the team provided most of the community with a drink of water and handed out boxes of the packets, she led the group up the rocky hill to a smaller group of family and friends.

Smiling proudly, she demonstrated how one small package of powder was the answer to their prayers.

*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service on assignment in Haiti.

News media contact: Tim Tanton or Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


Precious water
Residents of a temporary camp at Gressier get a taste of purified water.

A simple process
A relief worker demonstrates how to purify water.


Photos from team in Haiti

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