Clean water for all: WR employees empower families on Dominican Republic service trip

Clean water for all: WR employees empower families on Dominican Republic service trip

Two WithersRavenel employees recently returned from a service trip to the Dominican Republic where they helped families get better access to clean water.

Brandon Miller and Elisa Rehak, both Engineers in Training at WithersRavenel, were on the weeklong service trip as part of the Wine to Water volunteer program. The service trip was the first for Rehak, while Miller went to Nepal as part of a WTW excursion in 2016. Miller has been part of the Raleigh WTW chapter since its inception in 2014.

Wine to Water’s goal is to “support life and dignity for all through the power of clean water.” In the Dominican Republic, the pair had a front-row seat to the country’s water crisis.

“The infrastructure is so outdated that almost 100 % of the areas outside of resorts do not have access to clean water due to contamination in the distribution network,” Rehak said.

The WTW group distributed filters to 20 households, giving nearly 100 people access to cleaner water. The group also spent time instructing residents in filter use and cleaning as part of the WaSH program (water, sanitation, hygiene). Service group members also worked in a ceramics factory, making about 200 new filters which will be distributed to families.

While clean drinking water is often taken for granted in the United States, many people in the Dominican Republic regard the lack of clean water as a daily reality.

A program on water safety and hygiene was part of a Wine to Water service trip to the Dominican Republic.

“It almost seemed like having a constant stomachache was a normal part of life,” Rehak said.

WTW follows up on the filter distribution with continuing education and check-ups on the families, who pay a small fee for the filters.

“I felt proud to be part of an organization that worked hard to maintain the dignity of these incredible people while also providing them with the education and tools needed to give their family clean drinking water,” Rehak said.

“Working with WTW has been such an incredible experience,” Miller said. He helped spearhead the Dominican Republic trip for new WTW members, and is looking forward to continued involvement with the Raleigh chapter. He plans to go on another service trip in 2021, hopefully to the Amazon.

Rehak learned about WTW through Miller after she started at WithersRavenel in 2018. Her passion for water/sanitation, and her work as part of the Utilities group, made the service trip feel like a natural fit. She hopes to volunteer abroad again with WTW in the future, and said the Dominican Republic trip left a huge impression.

“Although these people are lacking something as important and vital to life as clean drinking water, they are incredibly friendly and caring people,” Rehak said. “Their sense of community rubbed off on the entire volunteer group and we felt welcomed and made lifelong friends.”

Miller, Rehak and others on the WTW trip each raised funds to cover their expenses.

From right, Brandon Miller and Elisa Rehak participate in a filter check-up as part of a Wine to Water service trip to the Dominican Republic.