Clean Water through Collaboration

Clean Water through Collaboration

The need for clean water is widespread around the world. Karen, a Nicaraguan from Tipitapa, knows firsthand the importance and need for clean water, as well as the difference it makes. Throughout Nicaragua, there is a large problem with the water because of contamination from latrines. Some communities have wells and others have city water, which is sometimes treated with chlorine. Many know that their water is not good and that it is the cause of their stomach problems and diarrhea. In order to protect newborns, mothers will try to kill the bacteria with chlorine, but this is not done for everyone’s water.

Karen is able to give back to her community by working with an organization called Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners, a not-for-profit organization working to enhance quality of life in both Wisconsin and Nicaragua, by people-to-people programs promoting cultural awareness and sustainable community development. With her mother, Lilliam, working at Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners for 20 years, she practically grew up in the organization and knows it well. 

She began volunteering in 2006 and was awarded the “Spirit of Service to Volunteerism” award for her workshops in Tipitapa promoting education and reading habits for children. Karen and her brother, Jonathan, also traveled multiple times to work with an English as a Second Language program in Wisconsin. This pushed her towards pursuing a degree in International Relations. Now, Karen manages the Dulce Porvenir Learning Center which provides classes in sewing, carpentry, beekeeping and other marketable skills. The organization also has an organic farm where they raise chickens and grow other vegetables to sell. This helps the organization be sustainable for the future.

Aware of the need for clean water, Karen worked with Amy, the director of Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners, to come up with a solution. Wisconsin Association for Home and Community Education (WAHCE) members Lylene and Marcelline, who traveled with Wisoconsin/Nicaragua Partners, were also key as they collaborated with the National Volunteer Outreach Network to support the project. Amy recommended the VF100 water filter from Business Connect.. They also received donations of five gallon buckets from Portesi’s Italian Foods, a business out of Stevens Point, WI. Through their shipments of humanitarian assistance, Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners brought the items to the capital in Nicaragua where a group of volunteers assembled the filters. 

Karen and Jonathan then worked to identify 12 different communities in the Tipitapa area based on their extreme needs. In these communities, some of the most impoverished families actually have three or four families living in one house. In order to ensure they were connecting with the families most in need, they collaborated with community leaders to compile a list. Going door to door, Karen and Jonathan distributed the filters. They explained how to use the filter and how to maintain it for many years. They also explained the health benefits of clean water so that the families were motivated to use the filter.

Those who received the water filters were so happy. One family shared that they had felt sick for a very long time. They used to go to the doctor often, but still did not understand the reason for their sickness. When they started drinking clean water, their health improved. They were finally able to save money instead of spending it on visits to the doctor. 
This all came together because of collaboration, where people working with people helped improve the quality of life for all involved. Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners continues to provide clean water in Nicaragua with the VF100 water filters. In the past, there have been many challenges getting water filters to the Nicaraguan communities, so the project has been a huge help to those that have been in need of clean water for a long time. The organization is actively distributing filters throughout Nicaragua’s most underserved communities. If you would like to learn more about Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners and their work or to make a donation to their water filter project, visit their website at

Empowering the Local Entrepreneur

Empowering the Local Entrepreneur

Business Connect was created as a way to help those in developing countries start businesses and sell a product that is life enhancing. This thread has continued to be a part of our work throughout the years. Our model is to establish a country distributor and then have them work with additional distributors in those countries. Inversiones Wolfe Honduras (IWH), our Honduras country distributor, does just that. They have established relationships that allow them to encourage and help entrepreneurs grow. Here is a story from one of those entrepreneurs.

It all began with a simple call. One of IWH’s partners in the United States, Jim, who often traveled to Honduras to do development work, was looking for a way to support the local Hondurans he worked with. The locals would have work when volunteers visited, but were not able to have sustainable income for the long run. Jim was looking at employing the local workers by having them distribute the water filters, yet the Business Connect distributor reminded him of the importance of distributing the filters for a price. By selling the filters, there is ownership of the filters as well as increased adoption. An additional benefit of having a local distributor is that there is someone available for any needed services. The partner agreed and connected IWH with a Honduran he worked with named Ricky. 

Ricky has a great heart and entrepreneurial spirit. He immediately soaked up all of the information that IWH shared about building a water filter business, like partnering with local non-governmental organizations, setting up a storefront and doing his own clean water projects. Mike at Inversiones Wolfe Honduras was a wealth of information for the new entrepreneur, Ricky. He was also able to share about the legal aspects of starting a business, how to present the filters, and how to market his business. The support he received helped Ricky start his own water filter business that is impacting his local community. Additional communities are gaining access to clean water and Ricky is generating income to support himself.

Ricky is also now an important part of the Business Connect distribution network as a distributor in partnership with Inversiones Wolfe Honduras. Their heart to mentor new entrepreneurs is our hope for our entire network. We desire to continue to develop partnerships and small businesses that will continue to improve the quality of life in communities around the world.

An Island Without Clean Water

An Island Without Clean Water

Through our work at Business Connect, we get the privilege to collaborate with many great organizations. Whether it is a local business, a non-profit, or a clean water champion, we are thankful for every connection. One of those organizations is 28Bold and here is their story.

Back in 2013, Christan had a dream to go on a short term mission trip to South Africa, because she was always interested in the African continent, its people, and their long and short term needs. During the trip, she got to learn about South African culture, but she also saw poverty firsthand. This wrecked her and her one and done mission trip turned into something else. She had to do something. For her 30th birthday party, she decided to have donations collected to build a garden in one of the villages in lieu of gifts. The funds were needed for the initial seeds and gardening tools.

The following fall, she visited the village to see how everything was going. As she approached the plot of land, she found that it was all dried up. The villagers explained that they did not have the water needed to keep the garden alive. This shed light on a very big problem that many people around the world face. She also realized that there are so many parallels of Jesus being the living water, so she took this opportunity to share about living water and provide clean drinking water. 

Even though Christan was working a fulltime job and had three kids, she decided to start 28Bold, a non-profit that provides clean water to communities across Africa. The name originally came from Proverbs 28 which says “the righteous are bold as a lion.” Her organization was going to be bold and dive into these clean water projects. They began drilling boreholes in different villages so that they could have easier access to clean water.

For one of their projects, they decided to work in Madagascar. The island is unique in that it is surrounded by water, but remote villages still don’t have access to water. The villages were so remote that one could only visit them by foot or helicopter. There was no way to get the borehole drilling equipment there. A connection in Madagascar recommended Business Connect as a supplier of VF100 water filters which were purchased and provided to those people. 

The impact of the filter distribution was incredible. The communities living there suffered from severe water borne illnesses. One woman had large visible cancers on her body that were life-limiting. They also saw one child’s stomach wiggling because of worms from the water. The families were so grateful for the filters. Some had even walked for days through the rainforest to receive a filter for their family. 
This was one of the many projects that 28Bold completed. They are on a continued mission to be sustainable, building relationships with local pastors and partners as well as employing local well drillers. Even though the pandemic has slowed their progress, they still have upcoming clean water projects. For one of those projects, they will be providing VF100 water filters to the Maasai people on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. We are excited to share their updates in the future. You can learn more about their work by visiting 28Bold’s website. If you need VF100s for your upcoming clean water project, visit the Business Connect website.

Empowering Amazon River Communities

Empowering Amazon River Communities

The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is famed for its biodiversity. Through the rainforest, the Amazon river flows, the largest river in the world in terms of volume and area of its basin. The Amazon river basin not only is home to a variety of wildlife, but also to many groups of people who have developed lifestyles that are well integrated with the rainforest. 

Our partners at RMDLT are working with one of these groups, the Ribeirinho peoples of Portel, Pará, Brazil. They first saw the need for water filters when they were doing a project to preserve the forest from deforestation. Their goal is to protect the forest and the local customs of the people as well as give them a better way of life. As part of this work, they interviewed the local people to understand their most pressing needs. In addition to social needs like school and health centers, clean water is a big need. There is a lot of pollution in the Amazon river that is a result of logging, ore extraction, cattle ranching and other activities on the river. The water actually causes many health issues in the communities.

Once the RMDLT team knew of the need for clean water the VERRA REDD+ program funds were used to purchase VF100s and VF200s. REDD+ projects play an important role by implementing site-based activities that directly engage local communities to stop deforestation and forest degradation effectively. While government strategies and programs provide the legal and policy frameworks for addressing deforestation and degradation, projects are able to work deeply in a particular place with local communities to address site-specific drivers of deforestation and degradation, driving finance to these critical high-threat areas and the communities that depend on them. As part of their regular work along the river, like providing high efficiency cookstoves, sharing techniques for protecting the forest, and working towards social development goals (SDGs), they distributed the filters. 

The response was very positive when the communities first received the filters. The team did training on how to backflush the filters, the recommended maintenance for the filters, so that the community would be able to make the filters last for many years. When the team followed up a few months later, the locals shared that their health improved when they stopped drinking directly from the river. They were very grateful and pleased that the group provided the means to deliver clean water to their communities.

RMDLT’s long term goal is to provide even more filters through the next year and expand to even more communities. This is to improve the overall quality of life for the Ribeirinho peoples.

This story highlights the importance of ownership in filter projects. When communities realize the benefits of clean water, they are more likely to drink the water consistently and maintain the filters properly. This leads to an even bigger health transformation.

Distribution Highlight: VF600s in Eswatini

Distribution Highlight: VF600s in Eswatini

Despite its small population size, Eswatini (Swaziland) has the highest HIV prevalence in the world and has been greatly affected by the epidemic (UNAIDS, 2019). With this in mind, Daran and Teresa Rehmeyer began an outreach called CHIPS in Maphiveni. It was an intervention in the local communities in eastern Swaziland for impoverished and isolated HIV affected children and their caregivers to access health care. The goal was to develop a local clinic, employing and training local Swazi’s to provide services to their communities. Today, CHIPS stands for Community Health Intervention Programme in eSwatini. 

One of the needs Daran and Teresa noticed was that of clean water. The community tap supplies water from a borehole and storage tanks, and they needed to make sure the water was clean. There was also a rainwater collection system installed at the clinic, which also invites contamination. We had many clinic staff sharing they were experiencing gastrointestinal problems due to the contaminated water. The clinic also sees many community members with water borne illnesses.

Both of these systems give the option for clean water instead of collecting it from the Mbuluzi River or irrigation canals. This river suffers from animal and human fecal contamination as well as contamination from the sugar cane fields and mills upstream. In addition, there are crocodiles that one also needs to avoid when collecting water as people have been taken before. Simple purification methods are also financially out of the reach of most residents: bleach or extra firewood for boiling water are commodities beyond the financial reach of most. 

With this in mind, they decided to ensure clean water for the clinic and community with two VF600 Facility Filters. The overall project was funded through a generous gift from Rotary.  Daran and Teresa also collaborated with community leaders to set up and regulate the system. As of two weeks ago, they finally had everything set and are excited to see the impact of these facility filters in the communities where they work. These filters will allow the clinic to have more time to focus on those affected by HIV and others with health needs.

If you know a community that would benefit from a facility filter like the one Daran and Teresa installed, connect with us! We are happy to discuss options and assist in bringing clean water to those in need. If you would also like to learn more about Daran and Teresa’s work in Eswatini, check out their website.

Branching Out: Could Trees be a Solution to the Water Crisis?

Branching Out: Could Trees be a Solution to the Water Crisis?

In the East African nation of Burundi, the rainy season begins in October. After many dry months, rain once again starts falling onto farms and crops, pouring into the currents of the Nile River, and slapping the surface of Lake Tanganyika. 

Yet despite the long-awaited precipitation, as well as the country’s abundant natural resources, this nation remains in the grip of a water crisis. 

Of the over 11 million inhabitants of Burundi, almost 40% do not have access to safe drinking water in less than a 30 minute trip from where they live. In 2017, according to UNICEF, more than half of the population did not have access to basic sanitation facilities. Even in many health centers and schools, clean water is not nearby. This bears witness to the problematic reality here as in so many areas throughout the world, that water is not being distributed equitably to all communities. This shortage in coverage for water services in Burundi is due in part to destruction from the civil war, as well as the multiple changes in government within the past several decades. However, it may also have another cause: deforestation.

Deforestation has slashed the amount of trees in Burundi down to a staggering 6% of what it once was. Why? With the majority of citizens working in agriculture, many forests needed to be cut down to clear the land for farms. Far from happening overnight, this took place over many generations and under multiple foreign occupations and changes in leadership. Major crops such as coffee and tea account for a significant amount of the nation’s exports, and they are vital to a strong economy. Yet an even larger aspect of agriculture in Burundi is subsistence farming. This is the type of farming in which individual families grow their own food. These farmers are resilient, hardworking, and dedicated to providing food for their families and neighbors. However, in this process of subsistence farming, the soil can easily become stripped of nutrients if not given enough time to replenish itself through rest or carefully selected crop rotation. Unfortunately, the very trees that were cut down to clear land for more farms are proving to be quite critical components in the overall sustainability of healthy soil, air, economic systems, and even clean water. 

Effects of Deforestation

  • Loss of Biodiversity: One of the most irreversible consequences of deforestation is the loss of entire species of animals and plants that rely upon the trees in order to survive. In Burundi, the eucalyptus trees, acacia trees, fig trees, and oil palms all interact with multiple other species. For some, these trees are their home. When their habitats are removed, these creatures can perish. For others, these trees provide food, shade, water, or concealment from predators. Without them, many animals face starvation, exposure, and thirst. 
  • Climate Change: Trees naturally expel oxygen into the atmosphere, and take in carbon dioxide. As the number of trees dwindles, carbon dioxide levels increase, thus contributing to a higher level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. These gasses re-radiate heat in the form of infrared radiation back to earth, causing rising temperatures that can be harmful and even deadly to many different forms of life. 
  • Soil Erosion: When extensive amounts of trees are taken from the land, soil becomes much more vulnerable to erosion. Tree roots are no longer anchoring into the ground and stabilizing it. When rain or winds come, healthy soil is displaced or washed away, leaving behind ground that is less able to grow healthy crops and sustain agriculture.
  • Loss in Freshwater: As soil erodes, silt often deposit into rivers and streams. These feed into lakes and eventually can lower the quality of the local water. The presence of forests also helps to regulate the flow of rivers in both rainy and dry seasons, which reduces water scarcity. Without these forests, the dry seasons become drier and more dangerous. The Institute for World Economics predicted that droughts would increase in severity as the climate continues to change, and warns that the deforestation of trees drastically impacts the hydrologic cycle. Evapo-transpiration accounts for nearly half of all rain generation around the world. With less trees transpiring water into the atmosphere, even the rainy seasons produce less and less rain. 

Resilience and Hope in the Youth of Burundi

In the face of these challenges, the citizens of Burundi have not been silent. In 1980, the government of Burundi founded national parks, in order to conserve and protect wildlife. This also has helped boost the economy through the promotion of tourism, so that visitors could travel into the country to admire the beauty within it. 

As a nation of many young people, with the country’s median age being between 17 and 18 years old, we are seeing the youth rising up in their creativity, advocacy, and determination. 

UNICEF recently partnered with Cartendo and 14 other youth organizations to challenge Burundian youth to create innovative solutions to problems surrounding COVID-19. The winning ideas were given financial awards so that they could be turned into real actions within the local communities of the winners. 670 solutions were submitted and 5 were endorsed as prizewinners, including a rainwater filter design by 16 year old Johanna Bizindavyi, and a new online platform for distance learning by 16 year old Chanelle Iteriteka. 

Also during this time of COVID-19, a major hygiene manufacturing company, Savonor, partnered with humanitarian groups to offer discounted rates on their soap so that it was more easily accessible to all who needed it. The company also chooses to only use palm oil in their products that has been extracted sustainably under strict environmental standards while also paying fair prices to farmers. It is admirable to see a company like this, who could easily have inflated prices for soap and hygiene prices as the need for them surged, decide instead to lower their prices while still sourcing their ingredients ethically. Even in the uncertainty of a pandemic, hope is still being found. 

While some are addressing the current needs of a world battling the coronavirus, others are continuing to do all that they can to create a better world for future generations by tackling climate change.

One of the most inspiring accounts of hope and sustainability in Burundi is the Greening Burundi Project. This environmental non-profit organization was started in 2018 by 25 year old Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze, and its mission is to plant 50 million trees in Burundi. They have already planted over 256, 738 trees, and are preparing to plant even more in mid-October. 

“I initiated this project alone,” explained Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze, “And the hardest part was having a lack of financial resources. But I tried to inspire young people and now we have around 150 young volunteers helping me to plant the trees. We plant native trees, agroforestry trees, forestry trees, as well as fruit trees.” 

When asked about the importance of trees, Niyoyabikoze answered, “A tree is a natural climate solution. Here in Burundi, we suffered from deforestation. The reports show that in 1990, the forest cover was 57% but in 2018, it was 5.6%. If nothing is done, we will fall into desertification. The main activity in Burundi is agriculture, and this desertification caused soil erosion, soil infertility and the agricultural production became insufficient. Poverty occurred and malnutrition and diseases increased. That is why I started Greening Burundi to reforest my country.” 

With a passion for positive change, Emmanuel Niyoyabikoze is motivated by the fact that trees are absolutely crucial to the well-being of the planet and future generations. They combat climate change, increase the quality of the soil, provide habitats and food for many creatures, and even improve the amount and quality of freshwater available to local communities. 

To invest in and support the inspiring youth of Burundi like Niyoyabikoze is to water a seed. And make no mistake: from these seeds, hope is growing.

At Business Connect, we love to hear these stories of sustainable work to alleviate the water crisis. If you would like to be involved in projects like this one, you can partner with our friends at Connect for Water or Greening Burundi.


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