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We take clean water for granted; Central America doesn't. Brooklynites do something about it

COURTESY OF MIKE OCONNOR - In this photo, the Agua Nicaragua volunteers are shown having arrived at the school in Nicaragua  in February. From left: Scott Walsh, Holly Schoenbeck, Daniel Rue, Bob Schnyder, Neil Rue, Carl Demrow, Clair Schnyder, Julia (Teacher), Bob Krueger, Brian Marsh, Trevor Marsh, Megan Walsh, and Don Schoenbeck. (Not pictured: Mike OConnor.) For the second year, a group of Inner Southeast Portland volunteers calling themselves "Agua Nicaragua" has journeyed to El Transito, Nicaragua, to repair community water wells in that drought-stricken village. Brooklynite Mike O'Connor tells THE BEE that the group is sponsored, in part, by Moreland Presbyterian Church, as well as financed through a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AguaNicaragua.org), and a GoFundMe page (www.gofundme.com/agua-nicaragua).

"We've also donated new backpacks and school supplies to the village children, who often cannot afford them," says O'Connor. "The water well at the school needed a new hand-crank pump, which we installed, along with a new pump at another nearby school's community water well."

He continues, "We also painted the school with the help of the students' parents, taught a class on good hygiene, and brought 'pen pal' letters from children affiliated with Moreland Presbyterian Church." Members of the team covered their own expenses for travel and lodging, for the latest week-long trip.

Bob Krueger, one of the project organizers, remarked, "It's amazing how little money it takes to make a huge difference in the health, comfort, and security of the village. For the price of one of our phone bills, or an evening's entertainment in Portland, you can make a life-changing difference in a community where people might otherwise have to walk for up to three hours a day just to secure cooking and drinking water."

The technology that makes it inexpensive to repair broken water wells uses a system with locally-sourced PVC pipes, nylon rope, and a modified bicycle wheel, from which is made a hand-operated pump that even a child can use. This system costs nothing to operate, and is virtually maintenance-free. Experience shows that this bicycle-based pumping system is the most reliable way to get clean water as quickly, cheaply, and simply as possible to as many people as need it.

Members of the Agua Nicaragua team reached their funding goal through local donations and their two Internet pages. New donations to those pages will go toward planning future trips. Their long-term goal is to make this an on-going effort, with a revolving group of micro-funders, volunteers, and other sponsors.

The team hopes to expand their effort to other communities that need these crucial resources. They're also working with a Nicaraguan-based charity, "Nica Angels", to prioritize the villages and districts where this need is the greatest.

For more information, contact Mike O'Connor at 971/344-5953, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or call Bob Krueger, 503/709-2416, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To see pictures and videos from the latest trip, visit www.facebook.com/AguaNicaragua.org

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