Click below for an informative brief on the Fernandina Beach Rotary Club's role in international water projects.

Fernandina’s Role in Current

Potable Water Projects

John McCarthy, Dana Amouil & Jennifer Klich

The Fernandina Beach Rotary Club has been/is involved in multiple water projects. All of these are in partnership with a group of other Rotary clubs. The key Rotarian for this focus in our District is John McCarthy. He came to speak to us today. He brought with him two young officers of the Jacksonville chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). Rotary and EWB seldom operate today without each other; it is another good partnership, working toward the same goal. Dana Amouil is the past president and Jennifer Klich the president-elect. They also sponsor a UNF Student Chapter of EWB that has their own Guatemala project. More about EWB later.

John has only been a Rotarian 5-6 years. Within a year of joining he was on his way to Honduras. So far Honduras and Guatemala are his repertoire. In so short a time span he has had a key role in bringing potable water to over 30,000 people. Clearly he finds this work extremely gratifying.

In our world today 900 million people are without safe water. 2 billion do not have sanitation. 8,000 are dying every hour. Over half of the hospital beds in the world are filled with people suffering from sanitation and unsafe water issues.

We are all aware how Bill and Linda Gates have supported “End Polio Now.” They choose where they can do the most. Earlier they were heavy into fighting AIDS but then realized the work with AIDS is and will be compromised until the issue with water is dealt with first. Now the Gates’ have been moving heavy into water projects.

The success of our water projects speaks for itself, but one should also appreciate the milestone in secondary objectives. A case in point was in Honduras where two neighboring communities which had never spoken to each other in their history became fully partnered in getting water. Now, on their own, they are partnering on their own in getting electricity.


Last year our area Rotary Clubs assisted by John worked on ten projects. He spoke in more detail of two of them, including the one we are now a part of starting in Ghana, partnered with the Mandarin and Bartram Clubs. Altogether it’s a $14,000 project with a commitment (like all of them are) to five years to assure its sustainability with a strong NGO (on the territory). An NGO is like an EC. Also, needless to say, EWB is involved in all of these as well. The second project he spoke of is between El Salvador and Honduras, specifically El Granadilto Nahanteriqua, La Paz.

Dana and Jennifer were then invited to speak about their work with EWB. EWB has chapters around the world and has 12,000 members. The Jacksonville chapter just organized in 2009 and has 35-40 professionals. Both speakers emphasized first the intrinsic goal of sustainability by the locals with the project. They featured a Guatemala project with photos as they spoke. Second, and repeating it a couple of times, they told how important five years is with each of the project commitments. There is no slam-bang in and out. If everything goes that smoothly they spend the time monitoring how things are going and how the project can be expanded.

They held up for example three projects. First was Xepium School Water and Sanitation, completed in May/June 2010. These people spoke a Mayan dialect, Spanish was taught in their school and the EWB people spoke English. Communication was constantly three steps in each direction. Second was the Xevitz School Sanitation Improvement, completed also in May/June 2010. Each project involved gravity fed potable water systems, flush toilets and sanitary hand-washing stations. Here the locals had a tax system where they could pay money or give hours of labor. It made it easy to get the manual labor; everyone had more time than money. It’s a great match, because this far away we cannot donate labor. Third was the Visibakvitz Water Distribution System that replaced women carrying water jars on their heads up a mountain. Here they pumped the water to a 10,000 liter tank and provided gravity distribution. They installed meters and formed a Water Board that charged households. People used what they could afford and made do. Grey water from retained rain water was used where potable was not critical.

Quickly, at the end of a great program running a bit late, Shannon presented John McCarthy with a check for $2,000.00 for our part in the current water project.