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Rotary Happenings: Rotarians hear from HANWASH founding member

By Staff | Jun 2, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Rotarian John Smarge, founding member of HANWASH — Haiti National Clean Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy — was the guest speaker for the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club's recent meeting.

It is extremely hard to believe that in today’s day and age with all the technology available, that there are still people who lack the fundamental property of clean water. The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club has been involved in clean water projects for quite some time, specifically in Haiti, a country that has seen more than its fair share of turmoil.

The club’s recent guest speaker was John Smarge, member of the Rotary Club of Naples and co-chair of HANWASH – Haiti National Clean Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy. HANWASH is committed to providing thoughtfully managed and sustainable clean water and sanitation to all the citizens of Haiti, along with the associated health, community and economic benefits. The organization has on-the-ground operators using cell phones to mark their coordinates on a GPS system along with water testing to map the quality of water at that location. Over 40 percent of Haiti has been mapped, with an astounding amount of areas having with no potable water. Little by little, Rotary and its partners are changing this.

Creating a shift in the culture of the people of Haiti has been determined to play as important a role in this process as creating the clean water kiosks. HANWASH also focuses on supporting a culture of social and financial buy-in from the local communes, replacing the attitude of “aid funding.” Aid funding, or charity, focuses on creating temporary fixes to the problems that exist within the country rather than building the necessary fundamental systems for the country to function. The end result of “aid funding” is this: A survey of 1,096 water kiosks and 2,266 water fountains by DINEPA, a Haitian group for clean water and sanitation, in 2013 showed that more than half of existing water kiosks are out of service and only 58.4 percent of existing water fountains inventoried are functional. In 2004, Haiti Outreach stated that over 40 percent of wells are non-functioning.

A sustainable solution is needed for Haiti that can serve as a blueprint for other developing countries as well. Rotary partners with Pure Water for the World, DINEPA, Haiti Outreach, multiple corporate partners, Haiti supporters and other non-governmental organizations. HANWASH is a 12-year, multi-billion dollar endeavor to bring clean water to all the residents of Haiti.

Smarge served as president of the Naples club from 1992-93 and as District 6960 governor from 1995-96. He was a member of the Rotary International board of directors from 2010-2012. Throughout his years of Rotary involvement, Smarge has been a member and chair of multiple Rotary International committees. He served as the aide to the 2018-19 Rotary International president. Currently, he is a member of the Shaping Rotary’s Future Committee and will serve as the chairman of the 2022 Rotary International Convention Committee in Texas. Smarge is a founding member of HANWASH.

In light of COVID-19, the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club is meeting on Fridays at 7 a.m. via Zoom. To take part or for more information, visit sanibelrotary.org or www.facebook.com/sancaprotary.