Interact Club’s efforts help clean water in India

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The Woodland Interact Club raised $1,073.60 for the South Asia Pure Water Initiative last spring and presented the check in December. Pictured, from left, Seth Stevens, former president of the Interact Club, Cathy Forsberg, treasurer of the South Asia Pure Water Initiative, and Paul Geary, co-advisor of the Interact Club. –CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — Nearly three dozen homes in an Indian village will have clean water thanks to Woodland Regional High School.

The fundraising effort is one of many service campaigns organized by Woodland’s Interact Club, a Rotary-associated group now in its third year at the school. The Interact Club focuses on getting students to participate in community service projects either sponsored by the Rotary Club or independently run.

The group’s major project last year was to benefit the South Asia Pure Water Initiative, an organization started by Mike Lipman and Cathy Forsberg to help bring pure water to rural villages in south India.

As a member of the Peace Corps from 1969 to 1971, Lipman lived in the area and drilled irrigation wells. Years later he and his wife returned to see the condition of the area, which saw its water table drop and its water become unsafe.

Lipman and Forsberg returned and secured a grant to start their foundation, with the help of some Rotary Clubs in India. The initiative centers on providing water filters to villagers to purify the scarce water they do have.

“They’re very simply made with natural materials available in India — concrete, gravel, rock and some wire tubing,” said Forsberg, SAPWII’s treasurer. “Workers over there can easily build them once they’re taught. It didn’t do anything to help with the supply of the water, but it helped to get their water clean. There’s an incredible problem with death due to disease in the water.”

The filters don’t require electricity and cost $32 to make and install. The relatively inexpensive way to help appealed to Seth Stevens, last year’s president of the Woodland Interact Club.

“We don’t really acknowledge the fact that we have clean water and can turn on the faucet to take a 20-minute shower in the morning,” Stevens said. “We wanted to help. Water quality was a main goal for us last year. We cleaned up the banks of the Naugatuck River, and for our worldwide goal we challenged the school to help benefit a great cause.”

Last spring through the school’s advisory program, the club raised $1,073.60 — enough to buy 33 water filters. Teacher Meghan Hatch’s advisory earned a pizza party for raising enough money for four of those filters. The club presented a check to Forsberg in December.

“People were eager to donate because it was an achievable goal,” said teacher Paul Geary, one of the Woodland Interact Club’s advisors. “People saw that $32 went to a water filter. They knew how it worked and where it was going, and I think that’s important for people donating their money in this day and age.”

Geary’s co-advisor, Dawn Stevens, said the local impact of recent storms that knocked out power and water for those on well systems brought a sense of reality to the campaign.

“We really saw what it’s like to not be able to turn on the faucet and have water,” Stevens said.

The Woodland Interact Club is continuing to collect donations for additional water filters with the eventual goal of sponsoring an entire village in India. It’s just one of many service efforts the club has run since its inception.

Past (and some continuing) initiatives include delivering blankets for babies to the Ronald McDonald House, participating in the United Way Festival of Trees, helping the Boy Scouts collect food, organizing clothing and toy drives for local charities, collecting hygiene products to help with Hurricane Sandy cleanup, delivering entertainment and flowers to local elderly homes, cleaning up school grounds, volunteering at the Beacon Falls Haunted Hay Ride and helping a local surgeon collect medical supplies for delivery to Africa.