The Jakarta Post
Take a couple of clear plastic buckets, some tubing and a few ceramic cones loaded with silver and activated carbon and you've got a clean water supply for the next year or so.
This is what students from PGRI 2 Payangan senior high school's Green Club discovered when they teamed up with social change foundation Yayasan Kopernik.
'This project started with Kopernik when we, the Green Club, were concerned with how we could reduce plastic waste at our school,' says 16 year old club member Bayu. 'We were concerned about the dangers of plastic to the environment, so we joined Kopernik to set up the project. We had a problem with plastic, and Kopernik saw a solution ' that was to filter our own water so we no longer needed plastic packaged water.'
The school used to spend around US$4.50 a day on drinking water, excluding the money spent by students on water and soft drinks. Now the water is free.
'With the water filtration system, we can harvest around two to three liters of pure water every hour, which is enough for a school of 700 students. Not all the kids are drinking this water yet. Some are still buying soft drinks,' says another 16-year-old club member, Dekwin, who adds that the Green Club has been charged with maintaining the system so that the school community has access to clean and free drinking water for students and teachers.
Kopernik outreach officer Monica Christy says the foundation's filtration system has been expanded to include 18 primary schools in the Payangan region by the Green Club students.
The students also bring a message of environmental responsibility to their younger peers, while helping the schools to reduce the amount spent on water and the amount of plastic waste from water bottles and cups.
'The schools have said that this is good, because the little kids can save their pocket money that was spent in the past on water and there is less plastic,' says 17-year-old Dek Novi of the Green Club. 'I feel this is a good system, because normally little kids at primary school play a lot and get thirsty. Now they don't need to buy water.'
Novi's classmate Tuwin, 16, says the clean water project has reduced plastic waste, calling the solution simple, yet highly effective.
Simplicity is the key to Kopernik's mission, says Ewa Wojkowska, who with her husband, Toshi Nakamura, founded Kopernik Global in 2009 and then Yayasan Kopernik.
'Kopernik is the Polish name of Copernicus, who changed the way people saw the world around them. We want to change the way people try to solve development issues,' says Ewa who with Toshi worked for the United Nations for a decade. She is no stranger to Indonesia, and has worked in the country with the United Nations Development Program and in Timor Leste.
Ewa says that over time, she and her husband were frustrated with 'the same old projects' replicated from place to place, with no certainty that they were having an impact, let alone a positive impact. 'So we started learning about having a positive and tangible impact on people's lives,' says Ewa of the appropriate technologies Kopernik has introduced to predominantly, remote communities.
The technologies are practical and effective, such as the water filtration system that the Green Club is using.
'Our three most popular technologies are the water filters, because that replaces the need to boil water using kerosene or other expensive fuels; solar lights, because if you are somewhere off the grid you depend on dirty, expensive and dangerous kerosene for lighting; [and] fuel-efficient cooking stove that can save 80 percent in fuel use, again saving time and money,' says Ewa.
She said that the need for appropriate development technology in Indonesia was immense. 'I think there is a lot of focus on economic growth in Indonesia, and insufficient focus on areas that are being left behind. The gap between the rich and the poor just keeps getting bigger,' says the daughter of a Polish activist who struggled alongside Lech Walensa in the 1980s.
Delivering and introducing life changing technologies to traditional communities across an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands is no easy feat. Kopernik's solutions have been practical and simple. The foundation works with local warungs and women's groups, providing the technologies such as solar lighting and stoves on consignment, which women can then sell by installment.
These women can thus establish their own small businesses in their communities, so as Kopernik brings valuable technologies to remote communities, women are also empowered and able to increase their family income. The system follows the 'party plan' method perfected in the 1950s by companies such as Tupperware and Avon.
'Yes, exactly. The Tupperware plan: It works and it's still going,' says Ewa of a product delivery model that functions brilliantly at the grassroots.
For Payangan's Green Club students, however, isolation is not a pressing issue. Environment and access to clean water is. Kopernik has placed in their hands the tools needed to address these problems, while also proving there are simple solutions that communities can implement ' and own ' into the future.
' Photos by J.B.Djwan