Hot water for AIDS baby orphanage and handicap kids
Hot water is a good thing! It allows more thorough cleaning, and helps prevent the spread of disease. It is especially critical when a small building is going to house 20 or more orphaned infants with AIDS in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica. The urgency comes into focus when you imagine 3 care givers--who do everything from changing an average of 120 diapers per day, to feeding, bathing, providing health care and love to these wonderful children--trying not to spread whatever illness one child might have to the other babies, who, as a result of their AIDS, have severely weakened immune systems.
My brother Jay and I took on the exciting challenge of trying to help stop the spread of disease, starting with one facility with hopes of taking it to a global scale. We were alerted to the problems described above by a friend who runs a group called the International Medical Equipment Collaborative based in New Hampshire. This organization re-distributes outdated medical equipment from the high tech world to the third world. They told us that while it is great to be able to recycle this high tech equipment to impoverished nations, what they really need in most cases is just a clean environment in which to provide care. For example, they need to be able to wash their hands properly between changing a diaper on one baby and feeding the next one. That challenge led us to the Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) in Jamaica.
MSC is a non-profit organization that has been operating in the ghetto areas of Kingston since 1979. Their primary focus is housing and caring for the many abandoned, disabled children in Kingston. They currently run six facilities across the island, the newest one being specifically for AIDS babies. Jamaica, like most impoverished nations, has almost no government programs to help severely disabled children.
Our mission was not a simple one. It involved developing a water heating system that:
1. Could be deployed globally, 2. Would not consume limited local resources, 3. Would not require maintenance, 4. Would not be made of materials that would have "street value" and therefore be prone to theft, 5. Would be compact, lightweight and easy to ship en masse, and 6. Would be easy to install by locals without a lot of technical knowledge.
There were many designs that we explored, but after going on a fact-finding trip to assess MSC's particular facilities, we decided on two. The first was a modern European solar panel system that we installed in the new AIDS baby facility that had the most critical and immediate needs. This proven system, while outside our original parameters, would give us a benchmark to compare our second one to. The second unit was a simple gravity siphon solar-powered system using high-pressure, braided black tubing.
We used another of the MSC facilities called "Sophie's Place" up in the Blue Mountains as our primary test site. This site was chosen because it is colder and they have more rain than other areas, making it a good "worst case scenario" for a solar system. We installed two systems at this location that varied in size and installation technique so we could better assess capacity and the system resiliency in a hurricane. Sophie's Place houses the most severely physically handicapped children. These children have been bathed in cold water, the only available, and this causes more orthopedic harm to their constricted muscles. We were all very excited when the first hot water started flowing into the little huts where the children live!!
The design of our second systems fit all of our criteria, but the materials we used were not designed specifically for this use. Therefore, we are continuing to do some long term testing both at our production office in Culver City, CA and with the facilitators in Jamaica to monitor the system's effectiveness, assess reliability and watch for other potential problems.
Everyone is very happy so far, and we are working on increasing capacity and efficiency. On a typical 80° day, we can purge the system and have a full recovery, with water at 112° in 18 min. We plan to return to MSC for more testing and installations before we mass-produce and ship the hot water system to other areas of Jamaica, Haiti, Africa, and wherever else they need it.
For more information on Mustard Seed Communities, please visit their website at www.mustardseed.com