Spotlight: Olancho Aid’s Clean Water Champion, Pablo Sarmiento!
Starting in 2014, Olancho Aid began to confront a significant issue facing rural families in Honduras: the lack of access to clean water. It is common in Honduras for many rural communities to source their water from rivers that can be contaminated with agricultural waste and other pollution. Water contamination can also occur due to broken water system pipes or unsafe household water storage, which can lead to illnesses that often affect the most vulnerable in the household; children and the elderly.
For almost a decade, Olancho Aid has worked with Pablo Sarmiento, our Water Program Coordinator, to install clean water filtration plants across Olancho. Today there are 24 systems in operation. One of these, installed at Nazareth School, provides purified water for all of Olancho Aid’s schools, offices, employees, and volunteers.
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Currently, our Water Program provides high-quality clean water to over 5,000 households, impacting over 20,000 people, who use the water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning produce. Pablo, along with many international partners, including individuals and parishes in Massachusetts, Tennessee, Louisiana, and South Carolina, has worked to educate rural families on the importance of consuming filtered water to avoid getting sick with bacteria and parasites that are commonly present in community water projects.
While working with Olancho Aid, Pablo became a trained water filtration installation technician. His expertise has created a multiplier effect as he trained over 125 community leaders to become clean water plant operators. Pablo provides ongoing support and training to the operators at the water filtration plants. He supports them in managing their community filtration system, getting replacement parts, maintaining the facilities in working order and ensuring that the projects distribute to households based on the community’s demand for filtered water. This important work sometimes requires Pablo to travel up to two hours each way to communities where Olancho Aid has installed systems so that he can support the needs of the operators to keep the water being produced for community members to drink.
In 2022, Olancho Aid has innovated and injected new life into our own water filtration plant by designing a new vocational project “Agua Nazareth”. Pablo is leading this very special project at Nazareth School for children and youth with disabilities. He has successfully trained five students to become water plant operators. These students, pictured below, were selected to participate in this new vocational project pilot to help them gain work skills and experience.
“Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.” – Pope Francis, Laudato Si 8