The need for clean water is widespread around the world. Karen, a Nicaraguan from Tipitapa, knows firsthand the importance and need for clean water, as well as the difference it makes. Throughout Nicaragua, there is a large problem with the water because of contamination from latrines. Some communities have wells and others have city water, which is sometimes treated with chlorine. Many know that their water is not good and that it is the cause of their stomach problems and diarrhea. In order to protect newborns, mothers will try to kill the bacteria with chlorine, but this is not done for everyone’s water.

Karen is able to give back to her community by working with an organization called Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners, a not-for-profit organization working to enhance quality of life in both Wisconsin and Nicaragua, by people-to-people programs promoting cultural awareness and sustainable community development. With her mother, Lilliam, working at Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners for 20 years, she practically grew up in the organization and knows it well. 

She began volunteering in 2006 and was awarded the “Spirit of Service to Volunteerism” award for her workshops in Tipitapa promoting education and reading habits for children. Karen and her brother, Jonathan, also traveled multiple times to work with an English as a Second Language program in Wisconsin. This pushed her towards pursuing a degree in International Relations. Now, Karen manages the Dulce Porvenir Learning Center which provides classes in sewing, carpentry, beekeeping and other marketable skills. The organization also has an organic farm where they raise chickens and grow other vegetables to sell. This helps the organization be sustainable for the future.

Aware of the need for clean water, Karen worked with Amy, the director of Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners, to come up with a solution. Wisconsin Association for Home and Community Education (WAHCE) members Lylene and Marcelline, who traveled with Wisoconsin/Nicaragua Partners, were also key as they collaborated with the National Volunteer Outreach Network to support the project. Amy recommended the VF100 water filter from Business Connect.. They also received donations of five gallon buckets from Portesi’s Italian Foods, a business out of Stevens Point, WI. Through their shipments of humanitarian assistance, Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners brought the items to the capital in Nicaragua where a group of volunteers assembled the filters. 

Karen and Jonathan then worked to identify 12 different communities in the Tipitapa area based on their extreme needs. In these communities, some of the most impoverished families actually have three or four families living in one house. In order to ensure they were connecting with the families most in need, they collaborated with community leaders to compile a list. Going door to door, Karen and Jonathan distributed the filters. They explained how to use the filter and how to maintain it for many years. They also explained the health benefits of clean water so that the families were motivated to use the filter.

Those who received the water filters were so happy. One family shared that they had felt sick for a very long time. They used to go to the doctor often, but still did not understand the reason for their sickness. When they started drinking clean water, their health improved. They were finally able to save money instead of spending it on visits to the doctor. 
This all came together because of collaboration, where people working with people helped improve the quality of life for all involved. Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners continues to provide clean water in Nicaragua with the VF100 water filters. In the past, there have been many challenges getting water filters to the Nicaraguan communities, so the project has been a huge help to those that have been in need of clean water for a long time. The organization is actively distributing filters throughout Nicaragua’s most underserved communities. If you would like to learn more about Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners and their work or to make a donation to their water filter project, visit their website at https://wisnic.org.

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