HAITI — Over the past couple of months, a nonprofit founded by a Southern Indiana resident has distributed thousands of gallons of clean water to Haitian residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tek4Kids is a nonprofit founded by Floyds Knobs resident Gary Boice, who serves as the board’s director. The organization, which is based in Jérémie, Haiti with an office in New Albany, partners with schools in Haiti to provide educational resources and technology. After Haitian schools closed amid the pandemic, the organization set up water distribution sites for the community.
Although Tek4Kids is primarily an educational organization, clean water has always been a key component of the organization’s work since it was formed about a decade ago. The nonprofit was already operating filtration and chlorination systems at Haitian schools.
Most Haitians don’t have access to clean water, and the nonprofit aims to save lives and minimize the threat of COVID-19 by providing the Jérémie community with safe water for drinking and washing hands, according to Boice.
COVID-19 hit the country slowly, but cases are on the rise. The Pan American Health Organization has warned of a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country as the virus spreads.
“There’s such poor sanitation, and the virus is only now beginning to hit,” Boice said. “The purified water helps slow the spread, and we’re hoping that because of [Tek4Kids], kids and adults have better water to wash, drink and stay better hydrated. It should save a lot of lives.”
Six days a week, Tek4Kids staff in Haiti is dispensing five-gallon buckets of purified water for residents at its six partner school locations and also providing some education on safety by encouraging residents to wash their hands and wear masks. They have distributed more than 240,000 gallons so far, Boice said.
As people stand in line for water, they are asked to stay six feet apart, and the Tek4Kids employees are keeping their distance from recipients as they distribute water. Employees are also wearing masks and sanitizing surfaces.
Tek4Kids also offers electrical infrastructure at its partner schools, and it has provided schools with iPads, smart boards, computer classes and other educational resources. It also opened the St. Francis School of Technology to prepare students for careers in information technology.
Dustin Klink, a New Albany native who is Tek4Kids project manager, is working in Haiti to manage the water distribution.
“The word of mouth is spreading, and people hearing more about us and what we’re about — it’s not just the schools,” Klink said. “We are invested and want to make a difference, not just on an educational level. We want to do our part to save lives in community. It means a lot to us and people have been seeing that.”
Tek4Kids also is hoping to expand its reach by partnering other organizations in Haiti, including Hopestart International, which hopes to reach provide sanitation stations for 5,000 families.
It’s expensive to provide the purified water, and the water distribution isn’t in the nonprofit’s budget, according to Boice. They are seeing fewer donations amid the pandemic, and they could use help to continue the service, he said. Despite the costs, they plan to continue the service for the foreseeable future.
Klink said a teacher and student from one of the partner schools gave the nonprofit a homemade kite featuring a message thanking them for the water, and they have learned more about the people in the community while providing the service.
“It’s been cool to go around and hear the gratitude from people, and also to hear all of their stories and dig deeper into the community at a level we weren’t able to before,” he said. “It’s opened a lot of new doors for us in the community by doing this, and it allows us to make a bigger difference.”
To learn more or donate to Tek4Kids, go to http://tek4kids.org/.