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Clean Drinking Water for Thousands

Republished from News & Notes

May 23, 2012

Writer: Jessica McIntyre, Senior, Communications

There are 4,064 miles between Rexburg and Cusco, Peru. Health Science Instructor Larry Shaw has made this journey twice already and will make his third trip in March to instruct Peruvians on how to efficiently clean their drinking water.

Shaw's first trip was in March 2011 where he presented at a Reach Out and Learn conference teaching Peruvian public health leaders about water pasteurization indicators (WAPI), which had been created by BYU-Idaho students. WAPIs are inexpensive devices that help people know when water is safe to drink, and Shaw and fellow faculty member Tyler Watson distributed hundreds of them during the trip.

"The reason we go on these trips is to help students realize that even though they are over 4,000 miles away they can have a huge impact on individual lives," said Shaw. "It helps students see how much people need help and that even though they are in Idaho they can improve the quality of life for people on the other side of the world."

During his upcoming trip, Shaw will once again present at the Reach Out and Learn conference and will teach about WAPIs as well as introduce a Fit for Fall program, which helps senior citizens adjust their home and work environments to be more friendly.

"There is so much work that can be done there. We have done multiple humanitarian projects in the past, each of them helping Peruvians gain more control of their lives," said Shaw. "This time we are really focusing on teaching them how to be more self-sufficient."

Along with Shaw, Erika Hathaway, a junior studying health science who accompanied Shaw last March, will be presenting at the conference on upper respiratory infections in children. She has been doing research for the past year on the subject.

"I have struggled with a respiratory illness most of my life, so my knowledge about the subject made me interested in learning how it affects children in remote areas of the world," said Hathaway. "I want to leave public health officials at the conference with tangible knowledge they can implement. This really has been the best learning experience I could receive."

Along with being invited to Peru, Shaw was asked to speak with Colombian government officials last fall, helping them find ways to clean their water. Plans are still being formulated, but he anticipates going back to Colombia this summer to be updated on the status of the plan.