With the kick of his boot, Willian Martinez’s 200cc off-road motorcycle roars to life. The small city of Marcala situated under Honduras’ picturesque mountains is waking up. Children in uniform head to school, small storefronts unlock their doors, and open-air taxis scoot up and down the narrow dusty roads.
Willian isn’t planning on staying long in Marcala, where EOS’ Honduras offices are located, operating under the name of ADEC (Agua y Desarrollo Comunitario — Water and Community Development). In truth, Willian and the other six Clean Water Technician Circuit Riders spend very little time at the office. Instead their day is spent on the road, visiting communities large and small, near and far, all across Honduras.
Equipped with only a motorcycle, a tool box, and a backpack, a circuit rider can do quite a lot. On a typical day, one rider will visit a minimum of two communities, traveling up to two hours from the centrally-located Marcala office.
Together this team visits 270 communities a year across 17 municipalities, reaching 108,000 people in total.
After a 40km ride across sometimes treacherous roads, Willian arrives in Yamaranguila. This is a relatively short ride for Willian, who has been doing this work for six years. On other days, he may need to travel over 90km to reach remote villages, a task especially difficult during the rainy season.
Parking his bike along the road, Willian takes a short walk to the community’s large 8,000-gallon water tank where he is greeted by three young community water board members. His first site visit of the day is focused on educating the eager volunteers on how the system operates and appropriate procedures to test the water for the presence of chlorine.
EOS’ water purification technology is a low-cost, low-maintenance solution that attaches to any rural community’s water tank, sanitizing the water and killing bacteria in the water supply by releasing a controlled dosage of chlorine from a locally sourced tablet that fits easily into the system. One system can provide clean water for up to 1,000 community members and requires no electricity to use.
After explaining the operation of the system, Willian collects a few drops of water in a small vile. Adding a reagent, the water turns from clear to a soft red, indicating that a sufficient amount of chlorine is in the water to make it safe to drink.
The small group makes its way to a nearby home, where they test the water again, ensuring that the system is delivering safe drinking water to its end user. Much of the field testing is done with easy-to-use chemical strips or digital read outs. More advanced water testing is done in EOS’ advanced water analysis lab in Marcala, where water can be tested for bacteria, arsenic, nitrates, turbidity, and a dozen other important water quality parameters.
Willian puts on his helmet, swings his leg over the seat, and brings his bike back to life. After a short ride, he reaches his second community. This visit will be a little more time intensive than the first. The water chlorinator EOS installed was adjusted when the community made improvements to their water tank. Now the chlorinator is dissolving chlorine too quickly.
These types of occurrences are not rare, and that’s why Willian understands the importance of revisiting communities long after the initial installation of their technologies. For sustainable impact, EOS knows it is imperative to educate beneficiaries on how to use, maintain, and repair their technologies. Not only is education essential, but having a locally-managed team dedicated to the successful implementation of technology through tracking, evaluating, and regular revisiting ensures installations create long-term, positive impact.
Working for the better part of the afternoon, Willian and his co-worker, along with two men from the community, finish the needed alterations. They test the chlorinated water output, and grin when the water turns red. Their job is complete.
Before leaving the community to head back to Marcala in the dwindling light of the sunset, they make a final stop in the town square where they step into the office of Francisco Solano Peres. Francisco has served as the president of Yamaranguila’s water board for nearly thirty years. He is pleased to see Willian, and asks him to sign a thick book, yellowing with age, to document his visit.
Francisco has made it a habit to take detailed notes on the community’s water system. With limited government assistance and intervention, it falls on individual towns to not only gain access to safe drinking water, but to monitor, test, and maintain their systems, a job made exponentially easier with the help of EOS.
Willian tests the water in Francisco’s office and shows him the readout, demonstrating the water is safe. The two shake hands, and Willian exits the small building to reunite with his bike.
After firing up the motorcycle for one last time, Willian accelerates down the road, leaving only a small cloud of dust behind him that drifts upwards to the pastel colored clouds that hover low over lush mountain tops.
To many, bringing clean water to over a thousand people in an afternoon seems like a monumental task, but for Willian, it’s just another day at the office.
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Photos & Story by Slade Kemmet (www.sladekemmet.com)