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Temple City High School



Feature

September 5, 2017

In lieu of drought, Liu finds water

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While dodging trains and climbing mountains was a part of Senior Cindy Liu’s volunteering, her work also included creating cheaper water filters in Ningxia, China.
During the summer, Liu decided to join the Global Philanthropy Leadership Internship and Sustainable Environmental Engineering Programs in their journey to alleviate rural poverty. Over a course of two weeks, Liu and her team worked towards finding an efficient and affordable way to access clean water in drought ridden villages.
“The project was pretty successful. We actually created two prototypes which were functional,” Liu said. “But right now it is just a prototype, and efficiency is not that good as it heavily relies on the sun and weather, due to our using of evaporation. Maybe in the future we can add solar panels to heat the water so that the distillation process would work better.”
Previously, the government provided the Da Guo Yan village water filters at 380 yuan, or $57 in equivalent and replacement parts at 100 yuan, or $15. The filters were faulty, forcing the villagers to buy new parts often. However, farmers in rural China cannot afford to spend 100 yuan every time a piece breaks, so the team created a water filter costing significantly less, roughly 90 yuan.
“It’s a great feeling,” Liu said. “Although far from the final filter, being able to help these people who are unable to afford the government issued water filter would help them focus their time and money on other issues such as their children’s education or medicine for a family.”
Although the living conditions were not ideal, Liu constantly reminded herself that the trip was not a vacation but a volunteering opportunity. On a daily basis, Liu would have to travel from her host’s house to the village, amounting to 30-45 minutes. One day after a series of rainy days, a ditch flooded, and the bus could not return back to the house. Liu and her group had to walk an hour and a half across muddy terrains and hike mountains.
“We visited some villager homes. A family lived in a single, tiny room consisting of a huge bed meant for all of the family members to sleep in,” Liu said. “The conditions were overall livable, and restrooms were just holes dug in the ground outside.”
However, Liu’s trip to China was not her first time volunteering in another country; she had previously worked in Tijuana, Mexico with similar engineering backgrounds.
“It really opened my eyes to see the horrible conditions these people lived and yet they still remain so happy and hopeful,” Liu said. “I wanted to do more to help. I chose to be a part of SEE because my current interests are in engineering, and this ties in with my interests of doing volunteer work abroad.”
Currently, there is a program called Nanoseed working towards raising cattle in order to sell them to coastal cities. All profits would be distributed among the targeted villages. The non-profit program includes all past and present members from SEE and other volunteer groups and accepts donations at their website when it is set up.
“On our way back from visiting the more impoverished families, we somehow got separated into groups. I was with a group of six or seven and we got lost,” Liu said. “We managed to get on a rail track, trying to find where the bus that would take us home. Out of nowhere, we heard a train and jumped off as it went by. I could literally put my arm out and touch the moving train. It was dangerous, but an experience I won’t forget.”
Despite the a few minor mishaps, Liu wishes to return and further improve the water filter since it is a prototype. She describes her experience in China as unforgettable due to the bonds she has created with her team members and how two weeks out of her summer can affect an entire handful of villages for future seasons to come. With the opportunity to return, Liu would jump at the chance to help more rural villages.



About the Author

Emilie Phuong





 
 

 
 

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