Awesome, low-tech success story from Nicaragua — Condega firefighters deliver water filters to people of Ducuale Grande

bombero.jpgI thought I’d share this excellent video and news from friends in Nicaragua. Here’s the release from Rodney McDonald, Latin American director for Emergency Response Services for Latin America (ERSLA):

Water filters distributed to Nicaraguan families through local firefighters and US Organization

Ducuale Grande Nicaragua, Jan 18, 2009—More than 200 water filters purchased by individuals, U.S. church groups, and volunteer organizations were distributed to Nicaraguan families over the month of December as part of a project begun by a team of firefighters in Bend, Oregon.

“We are so grateful for the response to this important effort that can truly save lives in Nicaragua,” said Rodney McDonald, Latin American director for Emergency Response Services for Latin America (ERSLA), an organization dedicated to building and training firefighters and other emergency care teams for people in Latin America. “Once we got the word out about the program, we had donations from all over the country from people who wanted to help families in one of the most impoverished countries in the world to have clean water in their homes.”

Donations mostly came from individuals around the United States and were distributed primarily to families in Ducuale Grande, a small community of 181 families that has had bouts with many waterborne diseases including Cholera. Local firefighters and ERSLA volunteers distributed the filters during the months of December and January.

The Bend Firefighter’s Foundation has been a long-time supporter of the communities in the area where it has donated two fire trucks and several tons of lifesaving equipment to the city of Condega, which protects Ducuale Grande. After such success, Bend Firefighter Foundation decided to launch the ERSLA project to be able to expand its’ donation efforts and to provide more year round ground support. “One of the main goals of ERSLA is to go beyond donations, but to help the firefighters be seen by their own communities as the heroes they are. If the community can see the firefighters are there for their health, not just to put water on fires, then the firefighters can in turn ask for donations from within. This will provide more sustainability in their system.” Says Rodney

Clean water is something many of us take for granted every day. But in Nicaragua, according to the World Health Organization, thousands contract illness, and hundreds, mainly young children, die from the simple lack of clean water. Local firefighters in towns throughout Nicaragua have partnered with ERSLA to help identify the families most at risk and provide them with a simple water filtration system that will keep them safe and healthy.

While in the community, the firefighters were able to do home inspections to detect possible fire hazards. Without access to electricians, of course, many hazards were found. “It is without a doubt we avoided future accidents.” Says Mario Martinez, a local firefighter “Many houses are using sub-standard wires and covering the connections with plastic bags instead of electrical tape. One house had wires hanging so low their 18 month old child would have surely grabbed one at some point”.

Ducuale Grande is also a community burdened with natural disasters and was devastated during Hurricane Mitch in 1998. While in the communities ERSLA and the firefighters took the time to use a GPS system to construct a community map of each home that could be provided to any emergency response organizations in case of another natural disaster.

“This was a pilot project for ERSLA” says McDonald “ We plan to continue working with firefighters all over Nicaragua and eventually throughout Latin America to improve communities and save lives. We are currently in process of connecting the firefighters with visiting clinics to begin building smoke free stoves in homes where families show signs of chronic lung infections which is one of the largest health issues among women and children in rural communities.

To make a tax-deductible donation, visit and click the Donate Now. Or make checks payable to:

c/o: Bend Fire Department Condega Project
1212 SW Simpson
Bend, OR 97702

ERSLA is project of the Bend Oregon Firefighter’s Foundation. A 501-c-3, non-profit organization. Tax number: 20-2954279. For more information about Emergency Response Services for Latin America, visit

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