UMCOR / News Room / News & Features / Archives 2010 / 0124 - Haitians get Keys to Clean Water

Haitians Get Keys to Clean Water through UMCOR Partnership

A UMNS Report

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

January 24, 2010—In 20 minutes, Sharlene Jean learned how to save her community.

Jean, one of the thousands of Haitians living out in the open since an earthquake destroyed their homes Jan. 12, learned to take muddy river water and turn it into clean drinking water with Pur, a water purifying powder developed by Procter & Gamble Co.

 The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), working with GlobalMedic, brought the key to life-saving water to Jean's community, which was sleeping in an open field.

 "Safe, clean water is central to all we do. It is one way to make sure people do not get sick," said Sharad Aggarwal, executive with UMCOR.

Pur is one of several ways GlobalMedic, a Canadian first-response organization, helps furnish clean water. The group is also distributing tablets that replenish electrolytes in people who have become dehydrated and water purifiers that can work on a bigger scale.

A grant of $20,000 will help GlobalMedic distribute 6 million packets donated by Procter & Gamble to people who have lost everything. One packet of the dry ingredients mixed into two and a half gallons of the worst water imaginable washes out the "germs and worms."

 Jean was on the front lines of the tight circle that wound around a volunteer demonstrating the process. She watched closely as he explained the ratio of packets to gallons of water-two packets to five gallons. She quickly learned the stirring technique, making sure the powder was well distributed in the plastic bucket.

After waiting for the water to still, she carefully strained it through a cloth and was amazed at the ugly sediment left behind. A wide grin flashed across her face when she was offered a taste. She was happy to share cups with the others. 

Quick and easy

Purification is quick, simple to do and requires only a clean bucket, Aggarwal said. The United Methodist Church has an emphasis on global health, so these types of projects are a good match, he said.

 UMCOR works with organizations like GlobalMedic to bring quick response after a disaster. "GlobalMedic will be here for a short time; we will be here for years," Aggarwal said.

The power of watching dirty brown river water turn into good tasting water was not lost on Jean. After the team provided most of the community with a drink of water and handed out boxes of the packets, she led the group up the rocky hill to a smaller group of family and friends.

Smiling proudly, she demonstrated how one small package of powder was the answer to their prayers. 

About UMCOR in Haiti

United Methodists have had a long-standing relationship with Haiti through the Methodist Church of Haiti. The strong ties between the Methodist Church of Haiti and UMCOR helped in facilitating the opening of an UMCOR Haiti field office in 2005.

Visit UMCOR’s Haiti Emergency page for the latest news and information on UMCOR’s relief efforts in Haiti. Resources include a church bulletin; a PowerPoint slide show; a poster; and a link to offering envelopes, which churches can use to collect a special offering for Haiti survivors.

Gifts to Haiti can be made online by visiting For gifts by mail, please make checks payable to UMCOR and mail to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Please indicate Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325 on the memo line of your check. One hundred percent of gifts made to this advance will go to help the people of Haiti.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer on assignment in Haiti.