Our Global Director, Darin Fey, visited Lao PDR in February to meet with several NGO partners, as well as to connect with our new distributor in Vientiane called Soap4Life. A husband and wife team, Mac and La, started Soap4Life which is dedicated to changing the lives of impoverished Laotian families by training women to make soap that is locally sold. In addition to providing economic opportunities for families, Soap4Life promotes proper health and hygiene through giving school children access to handwashing stations and proper hand washing training, which is then passed on to the families. Each child also receives a bar of soap, which has been made by a local family-owned small business, completing the circle of empowerment.
Through this new partnership with Business Connect, Soap4Life has started distributing water filters to address the health issues faced by many people from remote villages in Lao PDR. Soap4Life saw that by providing clean water through the distribution of VF100 bucket filters, they would be able to lower the rates of intestinal diseases that lead to many missed days of school and work.
Darin was privileged to accompany La and 2 others on the first local filter distribution which took place on February 8 and 9. A day’s journey to the village of Natuey in Phongsaly Province included an hour long flight from Vientiane, a 2.5 hour bus ride to the end of the tar road, a 3 hour ride on gravel roads in the back of a pickup, and a 30 minute ride up the mountain. This community is where La’s father, stepmother and several other family members currently live.
The 30 families in Natuey village get all of their water via a solar pump that brings water from a river in the valley to their mountain top community. The village had received ceramic water filters 7 years ago and at least half of the households were still using them when the group arrived. It was great to see that the community understood the importance of having clean and safe water to drink. After seeing the fast flow rate and learning about the high level of bacteria that the VF100 filter removes, the families were eager to make the switch and utilize the new filters.
This filter distribution was made possible through fundraising done through Soap4Life’s network of supporters, specifically a Canadian non-profit organization called the Love Loas Project. In addition to receiving a water filter, each family also received a month’s worth of soap.
We are excited to see the expansion of Village Water Filters into other areas of Laos. Since this trip, Soap4Life has already implemented 8 of the VF500 Facility filter systems in rural communities along with ADRA, the global humanitarian arm of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Several other groups are ready to implement VF100 filters after their offices open up again after the initial lock down due to covid-19.