Help to Others

Project H2O is part of the Relief Operations of the Mu Sigma Phi. Acting upon the essential importance of water as a basic need in times of disaster, Mu has been instrumental in providing safe drinking water using portable water filtration systems for communities hit by catastrophes.

On October 15, 2013, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit Bohol. Around two thousand lives were lost and 73,000 structures were damaged. It was one of the worst earthquake disasters in Philippine history. The Mu Sigma Phi sought to provide relief to this area. An initial response included a truckload of bottled to the ravished communities. However, within minutes these were all but consumed and with the plastic bottles scattered on the ground. This led Dr. Kazan Baluyot ΜΣΦ 2001, a native of Bohol, to consult with Dr. Rafael Bundoc ΜΣΦ 1986 if there could be a better way to respond with aid especially providing potable water to calamity victims. Discussions led to the conclusion that water filters is the key to providing safe water to victims efficiently and on longer terms when necessary. Thus, Project H2O: Help to Others was born. Under the guidance of Dr. Bundoc, also an orthopedic surgeon, it found a home in the Prosthetics and Orthotics laboratory of PGH where buckets were modified and filters were stored. Forty filter units were immediately sent to the devastated regions of Bohol where Dr. Baluyot oversaw the demo and turn-over to local communities. The reception was incredible as these filter units now provided victims with clean water and the Fraternity knew it needed to expand this project to help more people.

In the wake of the disastrous earthquake in the Bohol area and the immediate aftermath of typhoon Haiyan, Project H2O heeded the calling. Right after a disaster, water contamination risks reaches peaks. Overpopulated evacuation centers contribute largely to this, with diarrhea, dengue fever and other diseases sometimes claiming more lives than the disaster itself. Moreover, lack of access to a drinking water source is often the most debilitating of the needs of communities.

The primary relief response is to provide bottled water to the affected areas. As highly appreciated and specific to the need it already is, provision is often expensive, or otherwise insufficient, difficult to transport and in the end, accumulate as waste products. Addressing the gravity of the situation, our answer is to provide portable filtration systems: making water from rain, flood, deep wells and lakes safe to drink.

In contrast to bottled water, these filtration devices are more sustainable, easy to ship, assemble and use, are eco-friendly, and can reach out to a much larger population for a longer period of time. It can produce up to more than 500 liters of potable water per day and can last for 5-7 years. This translates to supporting up to 11 families at maximum every day with a single unit. With locally-produced 20-liter buckets and the use of Sawyer PointONE Filter technology,  filtering various microorganisms to prevent the outbreak of illnesses including Cholera, Botulism (Clostridium botulinum), Typhoid (Salmonella typhi), Amoebic dysentery, Escherichia coli, Coliform bacteria and Streptococcus, and protozoans such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora, the prevailing causes of water-borne diseases.

Students from all year levels in the UP College of Medicine spend their free time in making these units. Various organizations have pledged their support by providing funds and manpower to deliver the systems to the affected areas. Among these are the Philippine Army, Jesse Robredo Foundation, and World Outreach Foundation. Mu partners in the levels of the local government and within the communities themselves, especially the Doctors to the Barrios, often oversee the proper usage and maintenance to ensure sustainability, thus maximizing their use. Yet when the skies are calm, Project H2O does not rest. Providing our perspective on disaster relief operations, active partnerships and activities include The Dream Expo in Negros Occidental, the No Impact Week of the Asian Development Bank and the Dream Expo MNL and Roxas. Inspiring future leaders of our generation, inside and outside the field of medicine, we have been invited to share our story live on radio on the Voice of the Youth Network, and The Dream Expo for the TOSP finalists of 2014.

The task is still at hand, as calamities and disasters will always exist, but as long as the need arises, Project H2O will heal the nation, a bucket at a time.