A group of UMass Amherst students in the Sustainability Projects Abroad club recently went to Puerto Rico to deliver 100 water purification filters to people and villages affected by Hurricane Maria. The students — Bryan Chua, Ricardo Valdes, Natalia Dilan, and Nicolas Dueans — were interviewed on the local public television program, Connecting Point.
Students in the organization partnered with local aid workers and community leaders, both to check water quality and to train local people in using the purification filters. The lack of purified water in the aftermath of the hurricane continues to pose a serious health risk, and many people are at risk of waterborne illnesses. Some of the clean water kits were given to family members of the students, and one student, Natalia Dilan, said that after the hurricane, her grandmother and mother did not have running or clean water for three months.
The group is hoping to fund long-term projects involving sustainability, and they want to go back to Puerto Rico over the summer with a bigger team.
One of the students, Bryan Chua, a chemical engineering student in Commonwealth Honors College, has previous experience with water filters. With Rachel Walker, a professor in the UMass Amherst College of Nursing, Bryan helped design a prototype backpack device that filters water into IV bags. The unfilled IV bags, later to be filled with water in Puerto Rico, take less space when they are shipped. This allows a greater number IV bags to be sent to aid relief efforts.
In addition to his work with Professor Walker, Bryan has helped form the Sustainability Projects Abroad club. The club's goal is to encourage students to apply what they've learned about sustainability beyond UMass and into the world. The recent visit to Puerto Rico is only the beginning.