Fifty-three percent of the population in Haiti lacks access to a sustainable source of safe water, placing it last on the National Values for Water Poverty Index. Tragically, lack of access to safe drinking water is the second leading killer of children under the age of 5 (World Health Organization, 2004). Point-of-use water treatment systems have shown promising reductions of 30-50% in diarrheal disease in some countries (Centers for Disease Control, 2004). However, many rural areas of Haiti, like Les Cayes in southern Haiti, still do not have access to affordable systems. Equally disturbing is the lack of employment and job training for two-thirds of young people graduating from high school in these regions. The waste of human resources in one of the poorest nations of the world alarms policy-makers both locally and internationally. Despite the widespread concern, secondary schools in Les Cayes still offer no formal training in health or business.
Deep Springs International, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2006 by Michael Ritter and Ruth Dykstra, utilizes education and community development as a solution to these interrelated problems. Michael Ritter, an MPH candidate at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and Ruth Dykstra, an International Economic Development MBA candidate at Eastern University, are striving to unite their interests and expertise to help humanity. Mr. Ritter has dedicated himself to fighting poverty, specifically in the battle to improve access to safe drinking water. Ms. Dykstra desires to continue to positively impact poverty through empowerment and sustainable business development. They worked together to apply for 501(c)(3) status in the fall of 2005. Each raised support for two trips to Haiti during 2007 for the purpose of gathering preliminary information, developing relationships, and establishing DSI in the non-profit field.
The mission of DSI is to improve life in developing nations by identifying and encouraging the use of affordable water purification systems, teaching the importance of proper household water treatment practices, and creating new business opportunities for individuals via the teaching of entrepreneurship principles. With local partners, DSI will provide the mentoring, financing, and business relationships needed by new entrepreneurs. Deep Springs International seeks funding to develop business and health curricula that will equip Haitian students to participate in the sustainable development of their communities. A train-the-teacher program will provide Haitian schools with the necessary curricula, educational techniques, and equipment.
Since 2006, DSI has forged partnerships with the international humanitarian organizations World Concern and Missions of Love, the Haitian Ministry of Education, the Haitian Ministry of Health, and nine partner schools in Les Cayes in southern Haiti. In partnership with Missions of Love, DSI recently assumed management of the Jolivert Safe Water for Families (JSWF) Program that has successfully provided over 2,000 households with affordable water treatment products. The partner schools in Les Cayes anxiously await a train-the-trainer program for their teachers. World Concern has agreed to micro-finance the local entrepreneurs after training.
The immediate outcomes of the program are:
1.A business and health curriculum and teacher’s guidelines translated into French;
2.Two business centers in Haiti established to support and sustain graduates as they complete training programs from nine partner schools;
3.Twenty-seven teachers trained and supported in their educational efforts;
4.One-hundred and eigthy Haitian secondary students trained
1.Empowerment and support for twenty new entrepreneurs to distribute affordable water treatment products;
2.Improved access to clean water for three thousand households;
3.Introduction of the DSI program to other areas in partnership with the Ministry of Education for southern Haiti; and
4.A growing number of social entrepreneurs.
Long Term Impact
The impact of DSI will be a reduction in preventable deaths for children, more income-producing jobs for young adults in Southern Haiti, and heightened interest in social entrepreneurship among Grove City College students. Additionally, success in Haiti, an impoverished country with arguably the world’s most contaminated water supply, will give us the knowledge and capability to assist additional countries where water supplies are dangerously contaminated and education does not necessarily lead to the prospect of a decent job.