Recently I was blessed to join fellow travel writers on the inaugural sailing of Carnival Cruise’s new brand called Fathom Travel which offers cruises to the Dominican Republic and Cuba focused on social impact travel. This is an in-depth look at my participation in the “Water Filtration Production” impact activity with Wine To Water. For my full Fathom Travel experience check out my blog Fathom Travel: Making an Impact on the Dominican Republic & Beyond.
Water Filtration Production
Today over 663 million people around the world lack access to clean drinking water. In the Dominican Republic, over 3 million residents have no access to piped water at all.
Recognizing that access to clean, drinkable water is a crisis around the world, Fathom Travel and Entrena have partnered with the non-profit organization Wine To Water to create clay water filtration systems in the DR . Arriving on site, we met Dominican native and ceramic artist Rhada. He shared his story about being plagued by stomach problems and illness due to unclean water throughout his life. In 2006 a missionary introduced Rhada to the concept of ceramic water filters which dramatically improved his health and completely changed his life. Today, his backyard is home to the Wine To Water operation in the Dominican Republic that we worked with through four steps to create water filters.
Step 1 – Raw Material Preparation
In this station we ground and mixed clay and sifted sawdust to prepare the mixture for the clay products. The filtration membranes are a combination of clay, sawdust and silver.
Step 2 – Molding & Pressing
Here we formed the filter membranes by placing clay onto the mold and using a hydraulic press.
Step 3 – Quality Control & Kiln
In this station we helped load clay pots into the kiln and conducted quality control tests on the filters which included inspecting membranes, bacteriological tests and checking flow rates.
Step 4 – The Artisan Wheel
Here local artisans showed us how to use the potter’s wheel to create pottery that could later be sold.
After rotating through the various stations, two conversations truly touched my heart. In speaking to one of the Wine To Water volunteers I asked, “What is the impact Fathom Travel will make through working with Wine To Water?” From a numbers perspective, I was told Fathom Travel itself will produce nearly 1,000 water filters that will be used by over 5,000 residents in just one year. Those residents will see dramatic health improvements that will drastically reduce school and work absence because “filters don’t just clean water, they change lives.”
In our visit, my small group of Fathom Travelers made 21 water filters. Knowing that we had a physical and tangible impact on helping over 100 Dominicans obtain drinkable water was humbling. Learning more about the water crisis in the world and in the Dominican Republic made me realize how much I take for granted being able to easily access clean, drinkable water. It helped me put into perspective that a basic necessity for life is actually a luxury all across the world, but hopefully – even if just one water filter at a time – we can make a change.
The other conversation that impacted me was one I had with 6th grader Mica from Idaho who was traveling with her mother Christine. We spent nearly four hours side-by-side making water filters. At one point I asked Mica if she had ever done anything like this before and she told me it was one of the first times she had participated in a wide variety of service activities and she loved it. Mica told me that she had already gained so much seeing impoverished communities in the DR, meeting the Dominican people and learning first-hand about issues they don’t cover in school. Beyond that, she told me she was having a blast with her mom and all the new friends she made on the ship.
Talking to Mica opened my eyes – what an incredible, eye-opening experience Fathom Travel was for both kids and families. It’s such a rare opportunity for a family to take a trip that provides an opportunity for social impact, while at the same time incorporating elements of a traditional “vacation.” Fathom Travel epitomizes this hybrid. It’s one thing to process my experiences as a 31-year-old man who has traveled around the world, but even more powerful analyzing it through the eyes of a child – the possibilities for positive impact and change are endless.