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December 2006 Newsletter
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Letter from Linda

Season's Greetings to Friends of Filters for Families,

Please celebrate with us as we install our 2000th filter this month. Your contributions have helped provide almost 20,000 villagers with safe drinking water through the only sustainable filter program in Nepal.

The "Winds of Change" stormed through Nepal this year. On April 24th 2006, Nepal, once called the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal shed it's old title to become the Republic of Nepal. Nepal is a new country in the process of writing a constitution and setting up a new government through the election process. Another remarkable event took place on November 21st with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, along with millions of Nepalis we look with hope for a new era of Peace in Nepal.

Although this past year was dominated by curfews, strikes, road blocks, and perpetual protests, our team continued to work with villagers, providing arsenic and nutrition workshops, filter maintenance, and filter distribution. At times we were discouraged, as many villagers waited weeks for roads to open before our team could give workshops and install filters. Even with these delays our filter field team, 1) delivered 250 filters to Kapilvastu, our new district, 2) distributed another 50 filters in Rautahat District, and 3) installed another 423 filters in Nawalparasi. Now that the country is open, we will finally be able to install 100 filters in Kanchanpur, a far western district.

In February, Filters for Families was approved as an International NGO (INGO) in Nepal. This designation allows us to train, mentor, and partner with multiple NGOs and community groups in all our districts. By training and mentoring more partners we can guarantee quality workshops and filters installations as well as our maintenance programs to a larger number of villages. Our focus will be to work with more women's clubs, Dhalit groups, schools and the poorest communities in all our districts. We've already started by training a women's club in Parasi to conduct arsenic workshops. In June, we started workshop and filter training with a local NGO in Sunwal, our first female filter entrepreneur has made over 80 filters for us this year. We continue to work with schools adding another 12 schools in Nawalparasi and 2 schools in Kapilvastu.

Our volunteer program continues to grow, this year we hosted Karen Rigeway (Canada) and Ben Summers (UK) who continued the nutrition workshops with villages and schools in Nawalparasi. Our refugee volunteers assisted in filter installations, (Roman, Paul, Chinsom, & Kami) in Nawalparasi and Kapilvastu and Sam Wilkes (UK) helped us improve the filter design. Hot evenings in Parasi often found us cooling on the roof, under a bright Milky Way, singing John Denver songs with our refugee volunteers from Burma.

Dr. Smith received two awards this year, 1) Distinguished Golden Award from the Civil Forum of Nepal for Filters for Families work providing safe water to poor communities in the Terai, and 2) the Best Talk at the SOPHEN International conference for the UNDP GEF SGP research on the ecology of arsenic in Nepal. This research project revealed groundwater from two of our districts is contaminated by both lead and arsenic. Unfortunately, this increases the risk of cancer for these communities to 40% of the population. The full report will be available on our website in Feb. 2007.

In June our team moved to Kapilvastu to give arsenic awareness workshops and filter installations. Personally, I was struck by the extreme poverty in the southwest area. Often houses were built straw, without clay or any material to strengthen the walls. For the first time I saw more children with severe neuromuscular disorders, 5 in one village, and several men suffering from severe respiratory problems. One major ray of light in Kapilvasut was the discovery of two very dedicated and bright teachers in one primary school, their well water was 100ppb.

One of our major challenges this coming year will be to redesign the filter to remove both lead and arsenic. Although, the number of villages with lead and arsenic is small (so far), the villagers are extremely sick. Another challenge will be developing a high quality and sustainable filter program for all our partner organizations. This is an exciting opportunity that allows us to implement our successful program in more communities and schools. By the end of next year we should have at least six local groups working simultaneously in 4 districts. Our villagers who are feeling healthy now that they have been using filters for a year, are asking for sanitation programs. We hope to start hand-washing, toilet building, and buffalo dung clean-up programs in 4 of our villages this year.

A big thank you is extended to all of you for supporting the poor and forgotten villagers of Nepal, by providing everyone's basic need: SAFE WATER.

My deepest wishes for a Joyful New Year to you and your family,
Dr. Linda Smith

Filter Work Depends Entirely on Your Contributions
Filters for Families
P.O. Box 942022
Plano, Texas 75094-2022

Aerial view of Mt. Everest by Kerem Barut / Download Wallpaper