by Divya Wodon, Naina Wodon, and Quentin Wodon
“I was moved when I saw the first two or three people carry the water units on the back of their bikes to the rest of their families and installing them, they were all very happy.” Water-borne diseases, such as Cholera and Typhoid, kill hundreds of villagers every year in the area of West Bengal, India, where Paul Mahata from the Mt. Airy Rotary Club started to work on an international Rotary project three years ago. The goal of this small project was to provide through water purifiers a source of clean drinking water to a village of 170 families who never had before a source of clean of water unless they went and purchased a bottle of water from a vendor, which was very expensive for them.
Paul was both the initiator and the director of the project, making sure that it was implemented well and achieved its goals. Paul actually grew up in the village, and when between the ages of eleven and thirteen he got typhoid twice and was very lucky to have survived. “I decided that because I grew up in this village, I wanted to make sure that every person there would get access to clean drinking water.”
Throughout the implementation of the project Paul learned that beyond the initial idea, there needs to be a lot of effort put in to actually make sure that the project succeeds. As he convincingly puts it, “if you do something, you need to make sure that it is sustainable at least for a few years.” For example the villagers need to independently be able to maintain the cleanliness of the water purifiers so that they last longer. To ensure sustainability he engaged the local Rotary Club of Purulia and a local non-profit Trust to act as partners on this project. Although the project was very gratifying, there were challenges. The initial idea for the project was much bigger, but due to higher costs than anticipated, the project had to be narrowed down. But as Paul said, you simply need to “keep pushing for a better idea; even if my first idea was a little different, I liked the fact that the second idea actually became reality.”
Note: This story is reproduced with minor changes from a book published by the authors entitled Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).