Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lave Men Ou Ak Savon, Ak Savon!

by Joanna M.T. Krajewski, MPH 
Department of Community & Behavioral Health
College of Public Health,
University of Iowa

         Out of all the incredible experiences I've had here in Haiti, I think this was my favorite.  Liz, Alin, John, several of the community health workers (CHWs), and I went to a school in the Raypool district and gave a lesson on safe water and hygiene.   

The school does have a Gadyen Dlo safe water system bucket and uses it (and the chlorine) every day.  But, we still brought them another one (in addition to two free bottle of chlorine) because the school has over 300 kids.  We also gave them a Gadyen Dlo bucket that we fashioned with two bars of soap attached by rope, and wrote "Lave Men Ou Ak Savon" (wash your hands with soap) on it. This was also conveniently one of the main lines in a song we made up and taught all the students.  We used the tune of the "Head, shoulder, knees, & toes" song, and made up this song about hand washing.  Since Alin has lots of experience teaching in schools, he was excellent in his role as translator/teacher.  Specifically, he was able to inspire the boy students, the “baritones” as he called them, to let loose and belt out the "ak savon" (with soap) phrase at the end of each verse. They took this job very seriously - it was adorable.  I should note that the week after we gave this lesson, I was doing surveys in this district, and whenever kids saw me they ran up and start singing that song to me.  Talk about heartwarming.

The school has kids from age 3 – 16, but we were able to divide them into three different age groups, so we taught our lesson a little differently for each group.  However, the main messages were the same: wash your hands after using the bathroom and before eating, and always drink treated water.  We also taught the songs (we made another song to the tune of "if you're happy and you know it clap your hands" that was about always drinking treated water) to both groups, we played a game with glitter which demonstrated how quickly germs can spread, and explained the concepts of germs (best translation in Haitian Creole is ‘Mikwobes’) and water contamination with multiple posters we made for each of the three groups.

Storm Conditions

By Ashley Stevenson, Illinois Center for Broadcasting student

Hurricane Sandy, a deadly force of wind and water, leaving destruction in her wake, brought an abundance of water to the East Coast of the United States. Even with early detection and preparation for this natural disaster, we, as a country, were still under-prepared. This grand show of water brings a whole new perspective to my water pressures. 

The recent display of power and destruction caused by water comes as a stark contrast from the water shortage in India and other developing countries. In America we have harnessed water for power, for irrigating crops, for cleanliness and food and drink. Water is expected. Water is provided. In contrast, in developing countries, people travel for miles to collect water, and it may not even be drinkable. Whereas I can travel steps indoors and find potable water. Now during Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, Americans will have to wait for the water to recede, the power to be reconnected, and normalcy to be returned to our reality.

Not all water pressures are created equal. Too much or not enough, one thing stands true; all living beings need water to survive. As a limited resource, water conservation efforts are important whether your glass is half empty or half full. How do you feel the water pressure? More importantly, how do you alleviate water pressures?

Monday, May 20, 2013

A collaborative effort in sustainability at NU 
North Shore Channel
By Meghan McNulty, Northwestern University Student

Finding a solution to a problem rarely involves moving directly from point A to B. Instead, the problem itself changes and new obstacles present themselves along the way, leading to an unprecedented and often greater solution. A group of Northwestern University students working to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants in the North Shore Channel can attest to this phenomenon first-hand.

After learning from students on the Northwestern rowing team that falling into the contaminated water in the North Shore Channel was correlated with incidences of several students becoming ill, a group of students representing majors as varied as biomedical engineering, film, global health, materials science, and history decided to find a way to clean-up the channel and make it safe for those using it. After researching potential sources of pollutants and aeration techniques, the students believed that tackling the pollution at the source of the channel, near Wilmette Harbor, was the best method to resolve the issue. 

This strategy, while admirable, would prove to not be the best way to utilize the Northwestern students’ resources to their fullest potential- with access to top professors and an administration that would support innovative water projects on campus, why not take advantage of these opportunities? After learning about the vast scale of the problem and the multiple sources of pollutants with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the students decided that it would be more feasible to implement a smaller scale, more attainable solution on the Northwestern campus- a rain garden on the roof of the Northwestern University library.

While the project is small in scale, its ambitions are grand. The water collected in the rain garden will be deterred from the overburdened North Shore Channel, preventing damaging run-off from entering the channel. Furthermore, the addition of the rain garden will revive a dead public space and hopefully spark conversations about sustainability. Perhaps most importantly, the project involves a wide array of people working together towards a common goal to make the world a sustainable place, including Northwestern students, professors, and employees, PBS, the MWRD, the city of Evanston, After all, this project isn’t just about Northwestern- it’s about a community working together to make the North Shore Channel safer for everyone.