Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 19, 2013

Rotary club treks to Honduras

TRAVERSE CITY— A Honduran woman was so happy to obtain a water filter from Traverse City Rotarians that she rewarded her visitors with cups of boiling hot coffee.

“It was about 90 degrees that day,” said Jay Berger. “Nobody really wanted to drink it, but she wanted to make sure she said ‘thank you’ to us.”

Berger and 26 other area residents recently returned from the lush, tropical country where they installed 195 water filters in three days.

The filters are simply made: three-foot high plastic barrels with a PVC pipe and spout on the outside, and gravel and sand on the inside. Manufactured by Cascade Engineering in Grand Rapids, they cost $100 and can last 10 years or more.

“When you pour the water in, the sand and rocks filter it, and out comes clean water,” Berger said.

Berger said the idea for the trip came two and a half years ago when Rotary Club of Traverse Bay Sunrise members decided they wanted a more vital club and to “do stuff.”

Shortly after deciding on the project, Rotarians Amy Pullen and Laura Jolly went to the Central American country to scout the area.

“We found that most have running water, but kids were dying from diarrhea and dehydration,” Pullen said.

Fast forward to March 16, when a group of 27 left for a weeklong trip, including 13 Rotarians and five under the age of 20.

“It was a big crew, and that was part of the challenge,” said Berger, who helped plan the trip.

The group first traveled to the bustling city of San Pedro Sula, where they met with local Rotarians. They later drove 12 miles up a treacherous, steep dirt road in a seven-truck caravan to their base camp, a comfortable Catholic retreat, Berger said.

Each day, seven teams fanned out to villagers’ homes — most of the time with a translator or local Rotarian — to put together the filters, which had been delivered earlier.

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