If Ron Sturm and his fellow Chilliwack Fraser Rotarians have their way, the entire island of Siquijor will be drinking safe, clean drinking water by the time they're finished.
In December 2011, Sturm traveled to the island-the smallest province in the Phillip-pines-to head up a $25,000 Rotary-funded project to rebuild part of its crumbling water system.
"Its infrastructure was built by the Australian army with surplus World War Two materials," Sturm said, "so those materials were somewhat aging."
Eventually, he'd like to see three more such projects so the whole island can enjoy clean water.
That's not something Siquijor will be able to fund on its own, Sturm said, and that's why Chilliwack Fraser is teaming up with the Rotary club of Siquijor to make it happen.
Working together with Siquijor Rotarians and the tiny province's water management authority, Sturm, Chilliwack engineer Leland Rogers and John Romaine (a deputy warden with Corrections Canada) developed a plan and arranged to ship piping, valves, electrical components and a mechanical filtration plant to the Philippines.
They expected the supplies to be there when they arrived two months later but found it had been held up in customs. That necessitated a harrowing set of ferry rides to the southern capital of Cebu for Sturm, who suffers from motion sickness.
"When the seas are rough, man I tell you, I ain't no sailor," he said. "I was green. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and just die."
The team lost three days of work to the delay but completed the project just in time with help from local Rotary volunteers and the Siquijor water management authority. "We hit it as hard as we could for the two weeks we were up there," Sturm said. "We were flying home on Wednesday, and we got everything working on the Tuesday afternoon before we left."
Thanks to the team's efforts, 20,000 islanders are now enjoying clean, safe drinking water, and Sturm and company are already working towards phase two of the project.
"The way I look at it and the way I've taught my own children is that, in many, we've won the lottery," he said. "We've been blessed by living in a country that has got everything that we could ever imagine. We've got stable government, we've got opportunity, we live well and we've been blessed. And as a 'have' country, it behooves us to work with others to improve their lot."
He's happy to be part of an organization that shares his ideals.
"We've got a good bunch," he said of his fellow Chilliwack Fraser Rotarians. "They're a good bunch of people that are not only civically minded but also have an international vision that they want to see."