Niagara native helping to bring clean water to Nicaragua (June 12, 2013)

Written by Tony Ricciuto

Published by Welland Tribune on Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NIAGARA FALLS - Not having access to clean water is a matter of life and death for many people living in developing countries, but volunteers like Jonathan Leyenhorst are out to make a difference.

The Niagara native is one of 16 young Canadians who will be going overseas to spend seven months working in a number of countries around the world.

The 30-year-old, who studied mechanical engineering at Mohawk College, will be going to Nicaragua at the end of June. He will be helping to construct and install BioSand Water Filters, a Canadian invention, that removes contaminants from water.

Leyenhorst is taking part in an internship program through Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity best known for Operation Christmas Child gift-filled shoe boxes.

He found out about the program while attending Southridge Community Church in St. Catharines.

“The idea is to bring clean water and healthy hygiene practice to rural areas of the country,” said Leyenhorst. “We will be working alongside with another organization there and they are putting up on average about 10 units a week.”

Since 1998, Samaritan’s Purse Canada has sent more than 120 young Canadians to serve as interns in more than 20 developing countries. The program is offered in partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency.

Jason Martens, internship program manager, who is originally from Vineland and has lived overseas for the past 12 years, said the internship program is for Canadian post-secondary students who are looking to gain further experience, skills and knowledge. It also helps them bridge their university and college studies into longer term careers and it also gives them exposure to what Canadian organizations like Samaritan’s Purse are doing in the field of international development.

“The 16 interns this year will be going to five different countries,” said Martens.

“Clean water is so important and there are so many ripple effects. If you are sick you can’t work, incomes go down, and kids can’t go to school and learn.”

In communities where they have installed these filters, they have seen a 44% reduction of diarrhoea rates, said water-program manager Ron Orcajada.

“This type of technology has proven to be effective in different projects around the world,” said Orcajada.

It’s expected that 600 to 800 households will be equipped with the filters.

tony.ricciuto@sunmedia.ca

By the numbers:

20: Every 20 seconds a child dies from water-related illness

99: Contaminant removal percentage of BioSand Filters

30: Countries with Samaritan’s Purse water projects

1.2: Million people provided with clean water

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