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Darrell Nelson: Giving back locally, globally

Darrell Nelson fell in love with the people of the Philippines and now is committed to projects like biosand filter project that helps rural villagers get safe, clean drinking water.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Darrell Nelson fell in love with the people of the Philippines and now is committed to projects like biosand filter project that helps rural villagers get safe, clean drinking water.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Chilliwack is a great place to call home. It’s close enough to the big city and yet its natural, rural surroundings allow you to feel as if life here is just a little less complicated. This is where Darrell Nelson grew up and lived for most of his life and later, as a local businessman, he gave back to his community. “In 1995, a partner and I brought on-line service to the Fraser Valley. We started NT Online and a couple of years later, we sold it to Dowco. I continued to work in the industry, as a professional web developer, until a couple of years ago,” he said.

Darrel’s sense of giving back started early in his childhood. His parents were his first teachers. His father worked for the highway department in Weyburn, Sask. In the late 60s, the family moved to Chilliwack.

“Dad worked part-time for highways here but then went to work for School District 33,” he said.

In 1975, his parents made the decision to attend Bible School in the U.S. and in 1976 they returned and became pastors in Abbotsford. By 1982, the year that Darrell married his wife Shannon, his parents left for the Philippines to work as missionaries. Fast forward to 2005 and Darrell, his father and son travelled to this tropical country of fascinating landscapes and Darrell fell in love with the people. A year later, he took his wife over and two years after that the couple sold their condo in Chilliwack, put their possessions in storage and moved over there. “The Filipino people are wonderful. They are so resilient no matter how poor they may be. They can be walking through a flood holding a pig over their head and they are still perfectly happy and are not asking why the government isn’t helping them. It’s a different mentality altogether and if people went to a third world country, it would change the way they see things,” he said passionately.

Back in Chilliwack for a family visit, Darrell misses his home in the Philippines and is concerned for the people in the wake of the typhoon that battered the country in early December, claiming lives and displacing millions of people but he will soon return to help however he can. “We had our trip already booked before the typhoon hit but fortunately we have terrific staff over there and they are continuing their great work,” he said.

The typhoon devastated whole villages swamped with sudden floods, triggering deadly landslides and wiping out crops. Aid in the form of food, water and emergency shelter is required in the worst-hit areas. Darrell’s organization, BSF Philippines, will be integral in specifically dealing with the water issue.

Millions of Filipinos have little choice but to drink water that is contaminated and inevitably, it makes them sick. BSF Philippines is a not-for-profit organization that is committed and dedicated to bringing safe drinking water to rural communities throughout the country.  “The goal is to bring clean water to every Filipino household. Each biosand water filter, which is what is used to clean the water, costs only $100 CDN. It is used in 72 countries and is recognized by the World Health Organization. Brown water that goes through this system comes out clean and any foul smell is removed from the water as well. For now, we’ll need to deal with getting enough clean water to the communities at large as a result of the typhoon but once the crisis subsides, we can continue our efforts to specifically deal with individual households,” he explained.

The biosand filter (BSF) is a simple technology that was developed in the 1990s at the University of Calgary by Dr. David Manz. The filter is an adaptation of the traditional slow-sand filter which has been used in community drinking water treatment for 200 years. The concrete device is filled with layers of specially selected and prepared sand and gravel and the end result is that it removes up to 97 per cent of the bacteria and 100 per cent of the parasites found in contaminated water.

BSF Philippines employs seven Filipino staff and they go out into the mountains to speak to the villagers about how they can help themselves by having the filters installed in their homes. “There isn’t a hand-out mentality. We allow people to solve their own problems. They need to be part of the process,” he said.

Living in a modest townhouse in Davao City, the third largest city in the Philippines, Darrell, Shannon and their staff work diligently and effectively in seeking support for the vital work that they do. “My time is spent speaking to government; corporations, foundations, Rotary and other organizations to garner their support. We are also forging relations with other organizations.”

One of the projects that Darrell will be working on shortly is to update his organization’s website www.bsfphilippines.com so that whenever a donation is made, donors can log-on to see how the filter that they have purchased has benefitted the community at large. “It’s important to see how your donation is making a difference,” he ended.

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