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'We fell in love with the people'

Grayslake woman helps bring safe drinking water to Africa

Published: Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo provided)
Grayslake resident Helen Bond, co-founder of the Benkadai Project, is with children in Guinea, a West African nation. She first visited Guinea in 2001.

GRAYSLAKE – A group of friends came together in Illinois to launch the Guinea Water Project, an all-volunteer fundraising campaign to make and distribute sustainable biosand water filters in Guinea, which is in West Africa. It hopes to raise $20,000 in the fall.

The heart of the campaign will be an Indigogo online crowdfunding campaign, which will be from Sept. 5 to Oct. 6. Contributions made on project's website before Sept. 5 will count toward the Indigogo campaign. It will also include WaterDance, a performance event on Sept. 6 in Evanston and Rhythm and Schmooze, a five-star dinner and art auction in Chicago's West Loop, on Oct. 5.

Helen Bond of Grayslake first visited Guinea in 2001, and Amy Lusk came a year later because they loved the Djembe, a traditional West African drum whose origins can be traced back to Guinea.

“We fell in love with the people and the country,” Bond said in a news release. “We saw how the rhythms of the drums, the dancing and the music built and nurtured community. But we also saw the poverty, the lack of educational and economic opportunity, and the disease. We wanted to help.”

Bond and Lusk used the Motherland Rhythm Community, a small nonprofit, to launch the Benkadi Project, a collaboration between Guineans and Americans for sustainable development. Their accomplishments include installing a solar device and distributing self-contained solar lights; building and maintaining a new school house while improving an old one and providing benches, tables and supplies; taking a village from one well to four; repairing a neighboring village well; building a youth center; and providing food, agricultural and emergency medical assistance.

In 2013, they began making biosand water filters, a modern adaption of the traditional slow sand filter, which has been used for community drinking water treatment for 200 years. The filters were an immediate hit in a country where water-borne diseases such as bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever are commonplace. Each filter can provide safe drinking water for 10 people for 10 years, yet only costs $300 to make. That means that it costs less than a penny a day to give a person safe drinking water.

“I've been concerned about the world's water crisis for a long time,” Jonathan Silverstein of Chicago said in the release. “I can drink water without fear any time I want, but a billion people don't have a reliable source of safe drinking water. I was so inspired when I met Helen and learned about her work. I immediately asked, 'How can I help?' So, I decided to start a fundraising campaign. I worried I might be doing it all by myself, but this project really touches a chord with people. I've been amazed by all the talented people who've given so much of themselves to make this happen.”

Visit www.guineawaterproject.org for information.

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