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Freshman works to bring clean water to Haiti

Growing up in the small Haitian village Nan Misye, College of Idaho freshman Margarette Pierre-Louis would join most of the village’s women and children in walking two hours each day to carry water needed for drinking and irrigating crops.

While the physical hardship is difficult enough, conflict over the limited water supply also too often grows deadly.

For Pierre-Louis, that reality became stark last November, when she received word that her 16-year-old cousin was trying to gather water when a fight broke out between other local villagers collecting water. Her cousin sustained internal injuries during the fight and died a month later.

“A lot of small villages in Haiti lack access to water, and that leads to a lot of conflict between people,” Pierre-Louis said. “We need to solve that problem and give people a way to improve their lives, because everyone knows that water is life.”

Pierre-Louis wants to be part of that solution, and the environmental studies major is now raising funds for her project “Water for Peace.”

The $13,500 “Water for Peace” project will purchase and install 40 tanks that can each catch 125 gallons of rainwater, which is naturally clean and abundant in Haiti’s mountainous regions. After she completes fundraising, Pierre-Louis plans to return to Haiti this summer to supervise the project in person, working with the people of Nan Misye to transport the rainwater tanks and other equipment to the village, and then installing gutters that will transport water from people’s roofs into the barrels.

“This project will have a really immediate impact on people’s lives,” Pierre-Louis said. “Women and children will have more time for cultivation and education. It will bring reconciliation between people by creating the need to use and maintain a common water source.”

Easing the tension that has built up between people over water is one of Pierre-Louis’ ultimate goals.

“A lot of young people leave for the city [Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital] because of the conflict, but there’s so much unemployment and overcrowding there,” she said. “I believe that this project will not only provide clean water, it also will bring hope and empower Haitians to make a difference in their own situation by working together.”

After the project is completed this summer, Pierre-Louis plans to hold a community celebration and encourage people to continue discussing solutions to other difficulties the region is facing. 

Pierre-Louis has received support for “Water for Peace” from the members of First Baptist Church in Caldwell, raising $7,000 so far. Those interested in supporting “Water for Peace” can contact Pierre-Louis at Margarette.PierreLouis@yotes.collegeofidaho.edu or 208-649-4751.

“Water for Peace” is a first step toward Pierre-Louis’ desire to help the people of Haiti. Through her studies at The College of Idaho and beyond, Pierre-Louis hopes she can help more of her fellow Haitians gain access to clean water.

“I want to work in the purification of water and recycling because the environment of my country is facing a really hard situation,” she said. “I want to give my contribution to the development of my country and try to improve the environment.”

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 11 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.