Since the founding of the Rio Beni Health Project more than a decade ago, the organization has been working to deliver primary healthcare, educational lectures, training seminars to more than 60 villages over a 2,000-mile span.
Joselo Balderrama Hurtado, the Director of the Rio Beni Health Foundation in Bolivia, spent two days educating students at The Episcopal School of Dallas about the life-saving water filters he constructs and delivers to remote Amazonian communities.
“Our foundation builds these water filters because otherwise the people would be drinking brown, yellow, or orange water,” Balderrama explained. “Our filter systems make sure families can drink clean water that does not have any dirt in it.”
Balderrama explained to the Middle and Upper School students that working alongside volunteers from Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder (SStS) for the past three years has been invaluable to the organization’s success. The partnership not only allows the foundation to deliver nearly four times the number of filters in a shorter amount of time, but also provides resources to provide more filters for the indigenous people.
“When we have 15 American volunteers, we can deliver about 12 filters in three days,” Balderrama explained. “Normally it takes three people more than two weeks to deliver that many filters.”
Each filter weighs about 190 pounds and costs $27 to produce. However, once installed, the filters last for at least 25 years and can produce about 200 liters for a family every other week.
“Families find our organization and ask us to bring them filters,” Balderrama said. “The farthest I’ve traveled to deliver a filter was 10 hours. We have to carry the filter, load it on a boat, and then walk through the jungle to reach these communities. There are usually no paths or bridges to make it easier.”
Last year, Chloe Roberson ’16, spent two weeks in Bolivia working alongside Balderrama and other SStS volunteers to deliver and install the water filters.
“Attending Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder in Bolivia was an amazing, life-changing experience,” Roberson said. “Living with the people in the Gurdal community for three days was a challenge, but truly made me realize how grateful I am for the things I have – including something as simple as clean water. Joselo was a great leader, guide, and friend while living there. He and the rest of his staff gave us great advice and really helped us to adjust to the different environment to make our trip successful.”
During his visit with students at the Lower School, Balderrama talked about life in Bolivia, including the kind of food his family eats, as well as what resources the Amazon provides his community.
The third-grade students, who are in the middle of studying the different continents, had the opportunity to ask Balderrama about his family, where he went to school, and if he attended church on Sunday. Primer students asked him what kind of animals he saw living in the Amazon, as well as what the weather is usually like in South America.
“Joselo’s visit was exciting for the students and faculty who had a chance to meet with him,” Eleanor Arnold, ESD’s Director of Global Education, said. “His vision, his enthusiasm, and his commitment to his work were inspiring. We are proud that ESD, through our membership in the Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder Global Schools Coalition, has the privilege of working with people like Joselo.”