Monday, August 6, 2012

Sr. Rosemary to Speak on OU Campus

"An Evening with Sister Rosemary" promises to be an inspiring event in which, in addition to viewing the debut of a film on her life, the CNN Hero will speak of her experiences in Uganda on behalf of the orphan girls for whom she has given her life and ministry.  The event will be held on Thursday, August 23, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m., at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on the OU campus in Norman, Oklahoma.

Sr. Rosemary has spent her adult life rescuing orphan girls from the ravages of Joseph Kony's army, and then training these girls in beneficial life skills, such as cooking, tailoring, reading, and other matters of education. She was recently honored by the Starkey Hearing Foundation with one of this year's humanitarian awards. The event in Minneapolis (August 4) was filled with stars and honored guests, including President Bill Clinton, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Robin Williams, Maria Bello, and many others. To see more about the lovely event, go to the Starkey Hearing Foundation 12th Annual Awards Gala website.  

Sr. Rosemary is pictured along with Maria Bello (actress), President Bill Clinton,
Forest Whitaker (actor) and Okello Sam (Ugandan artist).
Sr. Rosemary Hyirumbe is a Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
and founder of St. Monica's Tailoring School in Gulu, Uganda.

Two students from Sooners Without Borders (SWB) traveled to Uganda this summer to work with Sr. Rosemary and, specifically, to help in the building of an ecolatrine for the children at her school. Cate Lynn (see additional information in this newsletter) and Chris Brazile spent several weeks in northern Uganda engaged in some of the many projects that this little dynamo has begun!

Cate Lynn and Chris Breazile pose with Sr. Rosemary
and one of her Ugandan sisters, proudly sporting their "Pros for Africa" t-shirts.
Event details:

Thursday, August 23
6:00 p.m. ……. reception
7:00 p.m. … film / talk / Q&A
Sam Noble Museum of Natural History
University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

The event is being sponsored by Pros for Africa, OU's School of Civil Engineering & Environmental Science, OU's School of Law, Sooners Without Borders (SWB), 
and the WaTER Center. 
The event is free and open to the public.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cate Lynn's Summer in Africa

OU senior microbiology major Cate Lynn spent four weeks this summer in Africa. In June she participated in a Pros for Africa trip to the Saint Monica's Girls School in Gulu, Uganda, which was founded by CNN Hero, Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. During her three weeks in Gulu, Cate participated in planning and supervising the building of an ecolatrine and worked in the free clinic at the school. In July, Cate returned to Africa as an intern for the ONE Campaign sponsored by Chegg. That trip took her to Johannesburg, South Africa and Lusaka, Zambia, where she visited several community centers, schools, and HIV clinics. On both trips Cate had the opportunity to interact with development and health professionals invested in water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Children playing on a water pump that supplies the a community center's water tower in South Africa.
 In the clinic in Gulu, Cate saw many patients who suffered from malnutrition and skin issues. She also saw many cases of malaria. Sadly many of the illnesses she saw could have been prevented by improved water and sanitation.

According to Cate, the most overwhelming part of her experience was realizing how understaffed free clinics like the one at St. Monica's really are. Given her plans to attend medical school, Cate is considering working in a developing country and donating some of her time to a local free clinic. Cate called the trip a unique opportunity to absorb the culture and the influence of everyday life on health-related behavior.

Cate and OU student Chris Breazile with a novice at St. Monica's and a University of Oregon student.
Unfortunately, Cate also had the opportunity to learn what many people in developing countries already know about the effects of contaminated water. She was sick five days of this three week trip from using tap water to brush her teeth. She learned from tests later that although water directly drawn from the well in Gulu was clean, storing water presented challenges for keeping it clean. She is depicted below testing water from the storage tanks at St. Monica's.

On her July trip to South Africa and Zambia, Cate spent a week traveling with eight other interns with interest in developing country work. During this trip, she was able to see a broad range of development and medical settings that will be very influential in helping her choose the type of work she wants to do after medical school. Of meeting the many HIV patients, Cate said she learned the invaluable lesson of the maintaining humanity, humility, and patience.

In addition to the clinics Cate visited, she also saw many community centers that provide a home for widows, many of whom are HIV positive. The centers often provide schools for the children of the widows. These centers are an impressive example of social entrepreneurship as they are sustained by the sales of craft goods produced by the women.

Cate with women at a mostly-female community center in South Africa. These women make their living by selling crafts like the bracelets Cate is holding.

Save the Date - Conference 2013

The Third Biennial OU International WaTER Conference is set for Monday, Sept. 23 - Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, in Norman, Oklahoma. As in past conferences, the conference will be two full days followed by an additional half-full day of workshops.

Participants were treated to a banquet and presentation by the Water Prize winner.
The 2011 opening ceremony included Native American dance and music,
a special Oklahoma treat!

Workshop participants were able to study the construction of an eco-latrine
and learn how to master the art of hand-drilling, among many other things.

Save the date on your busy calendar.
We hope you will join us!

GeoGen2013 International Conference in Ethiopia

GeoGen2013 International Conference - February 5-7, 2013; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The sustainable supply of contaminant-free drinking water requires a multi-faceted approach. This includes an understanding of fate and transport of the contaminant, the importance of diet, and the suitability of alternative water sources. Robust, simple technologies are necessary, but major hurdles are often encountered in the form of economics, logistics, and human preferences and behavior.

The full title of this conference is:
"Toward sustainable safe drinking water supply in developing countries: 
the challenges of geogenic contaminants and mitigation measures"

This 3-day conference will focus on two significant geogenic (originating in the earth) sources of water contamination - arsenic and fluoride.  Experts from diverse settings will discuss technical. social, policy, and economic aspects in a unique interdisciplinary dialogue.

The main topics will be:

  • health challenges for mitigation
  • policy
  • fluoride and arsenic mitigation options
  • behaviour change / acceptance
  • public - private partnerships

Call for abstracts - for oral and poster presentations - is out, and the deadlines for submission are below:

             Abstract deadline…….August 1, 2012
             Notification of acceptance…….September 15, 2012
             Conference…….February 5-7, 2013 (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia)

See the Conference website for more information.

Support Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act

The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act (S. 641& H.R. 3658) was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 19, 2012. The bill, which would expand existing U.S. programs aimed at improving conditions for those in developing countries who lack access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation, was previously passed in the Senate in 2009 before dying in the House. Having passed committee for a second time, the bill is in position to be passed by the Senate, but needs your support to be successful in the House.

Many people are still forced to use polluted water sources
as there are simply no other options.
Some facts about the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act:
  • The goal of the act is to help 100 million people gain sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation over six years.
  • It is an extension of the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, which was signed in to law in 2005.
  • It is backed by a bi-partison group of 26 senators.
  • A companion bill is waiting to be voted on in the House Foreign Relations Committee.
  • H.R. 3658 currently has a bi-partisan backing of 61 co-sponsors, including Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole (R).
To learn more about the Act and how you can be involved, visit the Act page on WASH Advocates' website. To find contact information for your local representative, click here.

These boys in Tanzania can collect water from a new well
in their community.

Cambodia in June

Chris Cope and Hayley Ryckman (grad students extraordinaire) and Jim Chamberlain (ordinary research engineer) spent most of the month of June working in the arsenic-impacted areas of Cambodia. Dr. David Sabatini joined the group midway through their time in country, flying over from Thailand where he was teaching a summer course.  
Cambodian boys playing near the bogs, where fishing is a common pastime.
While working in the rural villages, they stayed in a bungalow provided by RDIC (Resource Development International-Cambodia), a non-profit organization that builds local capacity through projects such as ceramic water pot manufacturing, construction of rainwater storage vessels, health education, sustainable farming and agricultural practices, and media production. Their wet chemistry laboratory is the finest in Cambodia, and Chris and Hayley each set up equilibrium tests using various media to treat local well water of high arsenic concentration (as high as 1000 ppb). In addition to laboratory work, the group had meetings and built relationships with Cambodia's Minister of Rural Water Supply, along with representatives of UNICEF, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, IDE-Cambodia, and EWB-Australia. As an added bonus, they had lunch with Joe Brown of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and scientists with WaterSHED-Asia.  

Dr. Sabatini, Jim and Chris are joined by a new Aussie friend for evening drinks and conversation
at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Phnom Penh. 
Chris, Hayley and Jim spent their last week in Cambodia doing household visits in three different villages in the Kandal province, a region heavily affected by naturally-occurring arsenic in the groundwater produced by wells. Our informal survey consisted of finding out what water sources people used for drinking, cooking, and washing during both the dry and the rainy seasons. Typically, Cambodia has abundant rainfall during the months of May through November, and many people use rainwater harvesting in traditional pieng jars and in larger manufactured barrels. During the dry season, families will quickly run out of stored water, and resort to a variety of measures, including consumption of arsenic-laden well water. In the words of several villagers, “We have no other choice.”

Two pictures of villagers showing some of their household necessities - a comfortable hammock and several large pieng jars for collecting and storing rainwater during the wet season.
Our research at the OU WaTER Center is 1) to develop locally-producible adsorption filters that can be appropriately scaled to the household or to the community level to remove arsenic (Chris, Hayley), and 2) to compare best alternatives to using arsenic well water in terms of both cost, effectiveness, and life cycle environmental impacts (Jim). Our work for these three weeks in country have been to support both of these efforts, and the work now continues back in the States.

Monks carry precious water underneath their saffron-coloured robes.
The brilliant orange of the monks' robes still dots the landscape of most rural villages and city streets. 

The OU WaTER Center team, gathered for Sunday Mass at St. Joseph's parish in Phnom Penh.
The group was hosted by the Missionaries of Charity, a religious order of nuns founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. 
Many more pictures from this trip and the summer trip to Ethiopia are found at OU WaTER Center group Facebook page.

Ethiopia in July

Laura Brunson and Anne Kroeger, grad students in Environmental Engineering and Anthropology, respectively, arrived early June in Ethiopia to do some traveling in the north, get set up in the village of Meki, and begin their PhD research. Laura set up column studies to test the suitability of several different types of media and coatings for fluoride removal. Anne is a medical anthropologist who visited several villages where residents commonly presented with pain and physical symptoms associated with excessive intake of fluoride in their diet and water supply.

The market in the village of Meki is alive with activity on at least three days a week.

Laura looks over her lab notes for her column experiments in her makeshift laboratory in Meki.
Lowell Busenitz (OU College of Business) and Jim Chamberlain (WaTER Research Engineer) arrived several weeks later to being their 2-week sojourn in Ethiopia. Their primary interests were in understanding the small business and entrepreneurship potential in rural Ethiopia, especially as it might allow for a sustainable market for the introduction and adoption of sustainable fluoride mitigation technologies. In addition to meeting with key players in Ethiopia’s water future – Catholic Relief Services, USAID, the University of Addis Ababa, government ministries, etc. – they also visited villages in the affected areas, hoping to understand what makes a small business work in these locales.
Over two million people worldwide are impacted by drinking water that is higher than the WHO recommended limit of 1.5 mg/L, many of these in the central Rift Valley of Ethiopia. Fluoride is an element that is beneficial for preventing tooth decay at low levels, but causes discoloration of teeth (dental fluorosis) and skeletal deformation and brittling (skeletal fluorosis) at very high levels as is found here. While many treatment methods exist for the removal of fluoride, there is still lacking a set of mitigation options that are inexpensive, readily available, easy to maintain and effective. Our researchers are working on these sustainable solutions both in Ethiopia and back in the United States.
Lowell, Teshome and Jim catch a ride on a donkey cart
in order to travel flooded roads back to a water treatment installation.

Lowell demonstrates a public tap that delivers fluoride-safe drinking water
for villagers for a small water tariff.

Many more pictures from this trip and the summer trip to Cambodia are found at OU WaTER Center group Facebook page.