WEST CHESTER — Most people in Chester County don’t think twice to turn on the faucet to brush teeth or to fill up an ice cube tray and have clean, pure drinking water come out of the tap.
A group of students and their teachers, and an art gallery owner want to see that everyone worldwide has access to potable drinking water.
Charlot Barker, managing partner of Ginkgo Arts, at 21 S. High St., started the nonprofit Wood for Water charity which designs wood products. The proceeds from sales are donated to help clean up drinking water.
Students lovingly work wood to clean up drinking water. (KELSEY KEBBEL – SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Barker started Wood for Water when she retired from the Chester County Intermediate Unit and after her daughter Mary suggested the idea.
The group partners with EOS International, which works with communities in Central America where 85 percent of the drinking water is contaminated. Last year, $5,000 was donated.
In 2020 and 2021, the Technical College High School Pickering Carpentry Program, with teacher Mike Bland made cutting boards.
Woodworkers for clean drinking water. Dave Purdy, left, Spike Carr, Vamouyen Kamara, Benjamin Mace and Charlot Barker. (KELSEY KEBBEL – SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Since then, teacher Spike Carr, at TCHS Brandywine, and his students designed and donated more expertly crafted cutting and charcuterie boards and trivets.
“The skills all the students learn in their programs are evident in their products,” Barker said.
Barker, former director of technology support, following a 24-year career at the intermediate unit, said that woodworking is one of the things that gives her purpose through her retirement.
“I’m incredibly grateful to know that we’ve helped people who we may never meet and know and that we’ve made their lives better,” she said. “Lack of access to clean water is particularly harmful to women and children because the women spend hours every day hauling water and their children can’t go to school.”
Barker and Jack Perme have developed a wonderful working relationship. The two met on a service trip to Haiti. Perme suggests ideas while serving as woodworking designer.
Perme uses a wheelchair and was diagnosed with a rare progressive condition cerebellar ataxia. Still, he keeps busy with a laser engraver affixing the Wood for Water tear drop logo on the wood products that are designed for sale.
“I don’t have many hobbies, and this gives me a purpose,” he said. “It’s something I used to enjoy doing and I’ve now found another way to still do it.”
Dave Purdy of the technical college high school said the work makes him feel proud of the students’ skill sets.
“They realize their skilled trade also has value,” Purdy said.
The woodworkers use materials donated by industry partners.
Student Vamouyen Kamara is pleased to work with several different tools.
“I look at it when it’s finished and how good it looks,” he said.
Fellow student Ben Mace enjoys helping others by building with wood.
For more information or to donate, go to www.woodforwater.org and visit the gallery at Ginkgo Arts.