Already, the new water filtration system built by Minnesota volunteers for the people of Cuba is a hit.
“They keep running out of water,” said Hector Bruce of Burnsville, who supervised the project in tiny Palma Soriano. “There’s a long queue of people waiting. The demand is huge.”
Bruce, 58, just returned from Cuba, where he was part of a team from the Episcopal Church of Minnesota’s Commission on Cuba Ministry. They installed two water purification systems designed by Bruce to help quench the country’s thirst for clean water.
Tap water in Cuba is often unsafe to drink because of the decaying water system. Those who can’t afford to buy bottled water have to boil their water, Bruce explained. That water often sits for a while, attracting bacteria that can make people sick. “With this, the clean water comes right out of the faucet — straight,” he said.
Giving people better access to clean drinking water is a passion for Bruce.
“It’s something I’ve been doing for a while,” he said. “I’m very much interested in addressing social issues. It’s just part of my upbringing.”
A native of Ghana, he came to the United States as a college student studying architecture and has lived in Minnesota for 20 years. He’s especially keen on helping Cuba. Over the years, Cuba sent a lot of doctors to help the people of Ghana — especially those living in rural areas, where few doctors wanted to go, he said.
“To me, it’s a way of giving back to a group of people who have helped us in the past,” he said. “Knowing what they have done for others with so little themselves, it’s time to do something for them.”
In preparation for his trip, Bruce made several visits to the hardware store to round up the necessary tools and parts. Donations from 3M and local Rotary clubs paid for the supplies. His employer, Minneapolis-based Thor Construction Co., paid him for the week he worked in Cuba.
This was the second trip for Bruce, who last year installed a water filtration system at an Episcopal church in the city of Santiago de Cuba. The system serves thousands of residents.
Last year’s experience helped him prepare for this project, Bruce said. One of the biggest challenges is having the right tools and parts with them because supplies are hard to come by in Cuba.
“The first condition is that we don’t expect to buy anything there,” he said. “We get everything here and make sure everything fits. And make sure we have every single part — including nails and screws — before we go there.”