Essential to health, well-being, and improved performance, access to affordable purified water at school allows students to quench their thirst for education.Social Entrepreneur Corps and our sister organization Community Enterprise Solutions (CE Solutions) work with schools in the Dominican Republic to break down barriers to clean water while saving schools money. Growing out of project support from Social Entrepreneur Corps interns in 2014, our team in the Dominican Republic is excited to introduce the latest technology in water purification: hollow-fiber membranes that efficiently and effectively filter and purify water to schools in communities we serve.

Field Consultant Kaylynn Palaio and School Director Mario Guevara speak to the students of La Escuela Básica Las Filipinas about the benefits of water filters. Photo by Darbin Novas.

Collaborations with schools can focus on the students, faculty, or parents. Faculty and parents often play an important role in creating awareness about the opportunities offered by CE Solutions. Teachers and directors have served as community liaisons to spread the word about upcoming CE Solutions events in their community, many times held at their schools. Through these relationships and conversations, it became clear that schools’ needs are numerous. With experience in water purification technology, CE Solutions and Social Entrepreneur Corps have developed an approach to resolve schools’ needs for purified water and strengthen our relationships with schools to potentially treat additional needs. Why do schools view water purification as a priority need?

Last year, the Dominican Republic extended the length of school days for public education, from half days to full days of instruction. Schools now have to provide more for the needs of their student body, including daily water consumption. A common recommendation is to drink at least 42 ounces a day. When Social Entrepreneur Corps interns presented the health and economic benefits of the filter to schools in 2014, key points that school administrators related with focused on the link between proper hydration and student achievement. Studies show that drinking recommended amounts of water is vital to being able to pay attention and perform well academically.

With just one filter a high population of students, faculty, and support staff can have access to potable water at an affordable price resulting in improved health, well-being and academic performance and generating savings through eliminating the need to purchase purified water.

School Director, Mario Guevara, and Field Consultant, Kaylynn Palaio, prepare the water filter outside of the school in Las Filipinas. Photo by Darbin Novas.

For example, analysis of a rural school in Los Botados serving 150 students and staff showed that they spend $3,780 pesos (about $88USD) a month in water. Using the filter instead of purchasing large five-gallon bottles, they save $23,436 pesos in a year (about $545 USD). In just three months, the school recuperates their initial investment for the filter and in the months that follow, all of the money that would have been budgeted for water can be directed towards another cause. Access to clean water not only has a positive impact on the health and well being of school communities, they actually save money and can allocate savings to spend on food, books, supplies, special events, and school repairs and maintenance.

The technology is 99.9999% effective and until recently high cost made it inaccessible for most. Fortunately for all, distributors that replicate this technology at a lower cost work with organizations like CE Solutions and Social Entrepreneur Corps to get the technology where it is needed most. A valuable feature of the technology is its scalability. Simply by adding more membrane units, the surface area for filtration increases and the flow rate of the filter can be adjusted. This means that in addition to offering point of use water purification buckets to families, larger groups, and communities like communal offices and schools have access to purified water.

School Director, Mario Guevara, and Field Consultant, Kaylynn Palaio, make final adjustments to the water filter outside of the school in Las Filipinas. Photo by Darbin Novas.

In addition to providing a useful technology to schools, CE Solutions also offers a service. With support from Social Entrepreneur Corps interns, supplementary student health and hygiene workshops were developed and are delivered by CE Solutions as a follow-up service after schools purchase the filter.

Since Social Entrepreneur Corps interns first approached schools starting in May 2014, at least 20 additional schools have engaged with CE Solutions and started relationships focused on their water purification needs. One school, Escuela Basica las Filipinas, nestled in the isolated mounts on the southern coast of the country has purchased the filter to serve their 40 students. Demonstrating the value of the filter, we continue to reach out to schools and are excited to continue relationships we’ve established. Working together we believe a targeted approach to resolving schools water purification needs can increase in scale, spread this cost-saving technology and healthy alternative to even more schools across the country.