Using the sun’s rays to purify contaminated water, the Water School is having an astonishing impact on developing nations.
The Water School is a global non-profit organization based in Canada and the US with a mission of providing simple, safe, strategic and sustainable clean water solutions to the developing world. By teaching locals how to implement and manage a SODIS (solar disinfection using BPA-free, PET water bottles) system in their villages, the Water School is saving lives and giving struggling populations both the knowledge and tools necessary to provide themselves with clean water for life!
This week, we had the privilege of asking water scientist and Water School co-founder Bob Dell a few questions about his organization. We think you'll find the answers interesting and inspiring!
CG: Why is it important for developing nations to have access to clean water?
BD: Clean water is a fundamental staple of health and prosperity in every country of the world. In developing countries where full access to clean water does not exist, water borne diseases take a huge toll on the economy. The impact is most seriously demonstrated in the children. Most of the deaths from water borne disease are in children under the age of 5 where immune systems have not fully developed. Four billion cases of diarrhea and dysentery every year prevent children from attending school. Education suffers. Mothers spend large amounts of their meager incomes in clinic visits and medicines for their children. In most cases, they cannot afford to take them to the clinic at all. Clean water changes everything.
CG: What prompted you to found The Water School?
BD: We had initiated several clean water programs over a 5 year period within the structure of a global child sponsorship organization. We saw a dramatic improvement in the lives of the children within these projects but watched as the children outside the projects continued to suffer. It was our decision that the gift of clean water belonged to all the children of the world and we founded Water School to implement this vision.
BD: One of our early frustrations was witnessing several imposed "hardware" solutions to clean water needs in developing countries. Many organizations were drilling wells or shipping in filters or supplying chlorine disinfectants to the communities in need. These communities could neither afford the hardware or the fixes to the hardware when broken.
After seeing 18 abandoned wells in an area where children were dying for lack of clean water and learning that over 50 percent of wells drilled in Africa are abandoned, we realized that there was a huge missing component in these interventions and that was education. Water School programs focus on "software" solutions. Education, teaching, training and empowering communities to work with local resources to create sustainable solutions.
The very simple and inexpensive solar-powered disinfection process fits very well with this type of intervention. The community has all the resources to produce their own clean drinking water and with proper education can integrate this into an understanding of proper hygiene (e.g. hand washing) and sanitation (containment of fecal matter). Programs are mainly introduced through schools with local teachers, trainers and community leaders being used to implement the programs. We enter every new community with an exit strategy.
CG: What's the best way for people to support The Water School's efforts?
BD: Our programs are funded 100 percent through donation. For the current year, our administration costs are covered by one donor so all other donations go to our field programs. Our program costs are invested approximately 80 percent to education or the "software" component and 20 percent to initial "hardware" supply (bottles, tables) mainly at schools. Our largest donations have come from individuals that have visited our program sites and have witnessed the need, our solution and the impact on the lives of children and adults we serve.
Visit www.theWaterSchool.org to learn more about what you can do to help!