Did you know that more people die every year due to drinking contaminated water than all fatalities resulting in all the wars currently being fought on this planet? Every year almost 4 million people die worldwide due to drinking contaminated water. That’s almost 10,000 people every single day occurring almost entirely (about 98%) in developing regions like Roatan’s La Colonia, which have seen its share of illness and deaths as a result of have little or no access to drinkable water.
Five years ago Frances and Henry Zittrower visited Roatan by sheer happenstance. Like so many of the hundreds of thousands of tourists that visit this island on any given year, philanthropy was indeed not on their agenda for the day. Henry, a retired project manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield had long since retired. The couple, like so many, embarked on a cruise for their 39th wedding anniversary. They hailed a cab at the Port of Roatan and started driving. “We were travelling through Flowers Bay,” remarks Henry, “and witnessed a line of children in their very Sunday best walking up toward a church barely standing over the ocean, like they were pine needle sticks or something.” To Henry now, looking back it seems funny how certain images standout in ones mind, this one could not escape his memory. “That was the image that really stirred my heart and nothing else. We had gone on other cruises and visited countries like Jamaica, we had seen poverty.”
After returning to Jacksonville the issue continued to surface, “How do we help?” A return visit was scheduled less than six months after the initial trip. Tours were scheduled with a guide who resided in La Colonia. During the very first time visit their tour guide Henry noticed a young girl carrying two large buckets of water toward her home many meters up one of the numerous peaks in Roatan’s largest barrio. With one sentence, without the slightest hesitation Henry remarked “we can take care of that.” The rest is history. Subsequent travels were made back and forth between Jacksonville and the island, logistics were planned and soon the couple was building a house backing the edge of La Colonia.
Separated into four districts, Balfate, Monte Carlo, Bella Vista, and Policarpo, La Colonia is staggeringly big. Most that walk through only see fractions because of the extremely undulated terrain. Some would even describe it as mountainous in some areas. Although these borders are not physically marked, the Patronas keep a close eye on their respective neighborhoods. On the Policarpo side neglect of the region’s well had resulted in the manual digging of ground water, and three children died in 2007 from drinking contaminated water. This is where Henry and his team began their mission. Three plans were laid out, an emergency plan, a short term plan, and a long term. The past couple years have seen much progress and since Living Water 4 Roatan’s inception the emergency plan has finally given way for Henry’s short term plans of access to water through much of La Colonia every 8 days, hopefully this will soon be shortened to 6 days.
The ultimate and final target is to provide clean and purified water to every home throughout La Colonia; however this objective cannot be done exclusively with outsourced management such as Henry and his team. “This is their water” says Henry. “It’s not mine, it simply must be theirs and they have shown great ownership of this project.” Truly this problem, and the solutions which Henry Zittrower has put into motion is merely the beginning, help is needed in all reaches. [/private]