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Improving drinking water to make a lifesaving difference

Greenspring volunteers combat global dehydration

Created date

April 24th, 2012

Each year, a startling 1.5 million children die globally as a result of dehydration from diarrhea. Yet each and every one of these precious lives could be saved with the help of a few items from the pantry. It s unacceptable, says Elke Martin, volunteer programs coordinator at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va. Three years ago, our community decided to do our part to save these children.

Community-wide effort

Armed with boxes of salt, baking soda, sugar, salt substitute, and directions from the World Health Organization, more than 100 members of the community came together to create thousands of oral rehydration kits for those in need. When added to water, each kit helps fight dehydration and prevent a child from dying. In support of these efforts, members of the community s woodshop created wooden measuring spoons for the volunteers to place the correct amount of ingredients in each kit. The project is a way of helping those in dire need, says Kenneth Gay, who lives at Greenspring. I never knew that curing dehydration takes more than drinking water. Adding simple items to water makes a lifesaving difference.

The nitty gritty

Each oral rehydration kit prepared at Greenspring contains premeasured amounts of salt, baking soda, sugar, and salt substitute, as well as directions on adding the mixture to water. Working in assembly line fashion, the volunteers add their designated item to bags which are then sealed. Once the kits are complete, the Universal Aide Society, headquartered in British Columbia, Canada, picks them up at Greenspring and sends them to countries where dehydration prevails. The tragic flooding in the Philippines occurred right before our first project, says Martin. That really left an impression on our volunteers. We knew, without a doubt, where our rehydration kits would go. In January 2009, two weeks prior to the second project day, the earthquake in Haiti devastated the struggling country. The response from our community was amazing, says Martin. Nearly 180 volunteers worked from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. filling over 10,000 bags. We saved a lot of lives that day. Since that time Greenspring has sponsored three more project days, most recently this past January. The kits created that day will likely be distributed to Sierra Leone, the Philippines, Liberia, Honduras, or Cameroon.

Little effort, big results

What s neat is that this is a lifesaving project that you can do either standing or sitting at a table, with friends and with very little physical effort, says Kenneth. He has participated in all but one of Greenspring s oral rehydration project days. As a self-professed jack-of-all-trades, he makes sure the entire process runs smoothly, refilling ingredients, lifting heavy boxes, and doing anything he can to make the day as productive as possible. The days are great fun, he says. I enjoy meeting other people from around the community. Camaraderie based on a shared project is a very different and worthwhile experience. Kenneth s neighbor Ruth Bury is also strongly committed to the project. It s important to help others, especially those who cannot help themselves, she says. Ruth is a wonderful asset to our rehydration team, says Martin. As the day goes on, she is instrumental in keeping everyone motivated with her can-do attitude. This can-do attitude has inspired many of Ruth s friends to participate in the project. As long as Greenspring supports the project, I will be there to help, she says. And so will her neighbor Dot Brown, who has participated in all five rehydration project days. I m glad to do it, she says. It is very, very important to help others who don t have good, clean water. Anytime you have the opportunity to help someone less fortunate than you, I think you should.

Long-term promise

We will continue this project as long as there is a need, says Martin. People die of dehydration all over the world, all the time. Unfortunately, unless there is a newsworthy disaster, we don t hear about it. But there is always a need, and our community knows that. On more than one occasion I ve been asked when the next project day will be. It has become a Greenspring tradition. Saving a life is so easy, says Kenneth. It is truly mindboggling. I think our project days say a lot about the people here at Greenspring. We are helping people we will never meet, who live thousands of miles away, but who desperately need our help. Pitching in is the easiest decision to make!

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