As we work around the world, we have the privilege of working with a variety of different organizations. One of those organizations is Water4Life Global in Guatemala, which partners with local businesses, health centers, and schools to provide clean water technology to communities in need. Additionally, they believe in empowering local women to take lead on the filter distributions and continue to share the importance of clean water for health and the environment, within their communities.
The organization is led by Jenna MacEwen and Nikki Appleton who live part of the year in Guatemala working hands-on and the other part in California to plan and organize sponsors and funding. By living in Guatemala, they build more trust with the locals as well as increase their understanding of the immediate and long term impacts of the filters in each community.
Because of poor infrastructure, pollution, and unregulated water, 95% of the water in Guatemala is not safe to drink. Diseases caused by water contamination are widespread and have led to Guatemala having the highest child mortality rate of the Central American countries. With most of the bodies of water being completely contaminated and the lack of government funding to help aid this problem, it is up to the local communities to drive change.
In addition to disease, lack of clean water causes other health issues. Common to local Guatemalans, families consume drinks containing much sugar as they feel water can be more harmful than beverages such as Coca-Cola, due to water’s high levels of contamination or unaffordable pricing. By providing clean water, Water4Life Global helps to provide long term health solutions for a country that is facing high rates of diabetes and other compromising health issues.
Each VF100 filter can provide 500,000 gallons of clean potable water and hundreds of families will gain access to clean drinking water for years to come, avoiding disease, malnutrition and economic damage to many communities.
Water4Life Global has distributed over a thousand water filter units in over two dozen villages, continuously returning to the villages to provide more to the community and check up on the filters that are already in use.
Recently when they visited the communities, specific families were excited to share that their once severely ill children are now miraculously healed, after filtering their contaminated water source. Additionally, another community expressed how effective these household filters were for them when the government water source remained off for days, which is a common occurrence. The community came together in support of each other, to share a contaminated well water source and began filtering the water for safe use for members of the community. The strong influence that these Village Water Filters can have in such impoverished areas, creates an opportunity for substantial change.
As COVID-19 has affected people around the world, Guatemala has also been affected. In response, Water4Life Global has launched a campaign to provide care packages to those who have been severely impacted by health and economic hardship. If you would like to support them in this work, connect with them here.
Their future goals include the expansion and collection of more water-related data, specific to each individual community that they work with. They strive to go beyond a “one-size fits all” ideology and truly provide the best solution based on the contaminants from each local water source. By creating community involvement and leadership, their goal is to truly give the power back into the hands of the people. At Business Connect, we agree that by empowering local communities we can make the biggest impact and are looking forward to this continued partnership with Water4Life Global. If you are interested in partnering with us, send us an email at email@example.com. Together, we can make a bigger difference around the world.
Our Global Director, Darin Fey, visited Lao PDR in February to meet with several NGO partners, as well as to connect with our new distributor in Vientiane called Soap4Life. A husband and wife team, Mac and La, started Soap4Life which is dedicated to changing the lives of impoverished Laotian families by training women to make soap that is locally sold. In addition to providing economic opportunities for families, Soap4Life promotes proper health and hygiene through giving school children access to handwashing stations and proper hand washing training, which is then passed on to the families. Each child also receives a bar of soap, which has been made by a local family-owned small business, completing the circle of empowerment.
Through this new partnership with Business Connect, Soap4Life has started distributing water filters to address the health issues faced by many people from remote villages in Lao PDR. Soap4Life saw that by providing clean water through the distribution of VF100 bucket filters, they would be able to lower the rates of intestinal diseases that lead to many missed days of school and work.
Darin was privileged to accompany La and 2 others on the first local filter distribution which took place on February 8 and 9. A day’s journey to the village of Natuey in Phongsaly Province included an hour long flight from Vientiane, a 2.5 hour bus ride to the end of the tar road, a 3 hour ride on gravel roads in the back of a pickup, and a 30 minute ride up the mountain. This community is where La’s father, stepmother and several other family members currently live.
The 30 families in Natuey village get all of their water via a solar pump that brings water from a river in the valley to their mountain top community. The village had received ceramic water filters 7 years ago and at least half of the households were still using them when the group arrived. It was great to see that the community understood the importance of having clean and safe water to drink. After seeing the fast flow rate and learning about the high level of bacteria that the VF100 filter removes, the families were eager to make the switch and utilize the new filters.
This filter distribution was made possible through fundraising done through Soap4Life’s network of supporters, specifically a Canadian non-profit organization called the Love Loas Project. In addition to receiving a water filter, each family also received a month’s worth of soap.
We are excited to see the expansion of Village Water Filters into other areas of Laos. Since this trip, Soap4Life has already implemented 8 of the VF500 Facility filter systems in rural communities along with ADRA, the global humanitarian arm of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Several other groups are ready to implement VF100 filters after their offices open up again after the initial lock down due to covid-19.
My bank, insurance company, home inspector, and furnace man have sent me notices of their unwavering concern for my health and welfare during this pandemic. Not to be out done, it is our turn… to challenge you to express that same concern to the vulnerable, the sick, and the remote communities around the world.
Seriously, our work continues. Clean and safe water are even more crucial during this time. We are fortunate that over the last six months we have been able to consolidate our warehouse, living quarters, and office into one location. Although our state governor has shut down the state, we are not shut out and we consider ourselves essential. Water filter kits are being put together and sent out.
What has changed is that all the mission trips, with volunteers hoping to travel this winter and early spring, have been cancelled. The opportunity to suitcase water filters to remote and difficult places has been closed. The good news is that we have inventory located in many countries ready for distribution. Would you consider taking the money you were going to spend for a trip and donating it so in the face of this pandemic, you will be the face of hope?
I expect there will be some kind of government check sent to each of us in the face of this corona virus. I expect many of you do not need that check. I do not I will be donating that check to those that do and a portion will be going to Connect for Water. I hope and pray that instead of hoarding and self-care our spirit of generosity and compassion will multiply.
To all of you living abroad that we have worked with over the years; our prayers and work continue alongside of you as well. If you see a neighbor, a friend, or a community that you know needs clean water send them our way so they can locally purchase their water filters and water treatment products.
Please remember every donation to Connect for Water and every purchase from Business Connect is supporting local business men and women in the country and regions around the world. We believe in supporting the local entrepreneur!
Lou Haveman Founder of Business Connect and Connect for Water
Connect For Water is a social impact not-for-profit founded on the belief that there is a clear path to help people throughout the world address their safe water needs. This path, based on our years of experience, focuses on improving local access to water treatment solutions, so local people can easily get what they need to improve their lives through clean water.
One of our long term partners in our work has been Rotary International. This organization is a global network of clubs that work to unite people and take action to create lasting change in communities. We have attended many of their events to develop our network and learn what others are doing to make a positive impact in the world. We have had a presence at Rotary events in Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Germany and many more.
A recent trip took our Latin America Director, Dannie Santiago, to the Guatemalan Rotary Project Fair. This event allowed organizations to display their current projects and share about the positive impact they were having. Attendees strolled through the different booths, interacting with the different organizations. They asked questions and were encouraged through the variety of projects that they discovered.
Dannie had created a booth that featured a village water filter in action and various other Business Connect products. He shared about the technology created by Bob Ashley, who received the Service Above Self Award from Rotary International, as well as networked with others at the event. He commented about the event saying,
“This was my first year at Rotary and it was such a good experience. It was inspiring to listen as others shared about their WASH projects and how they have had a positive impact in their communities. I am bringing this inspiration to our work at Business Connect as we continue to build our network and provide clean water to those in need.”
While there, Dannie was able to connect with Rotarians from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. He even was able to establish a new country distributor at the event. This was just one of the many successful Rotary events that Business Connect has attended. As we look at the relationship with Rotary that we have had through the years, we are thankful for the opportunity to network with an organization that has had such a positive impact around the world. If you are a Rotarian or anyone involved in a WASH project, contact us about water filter and water treatment products for the communities where you serve.
It seems like new distributors are joining our network every day as we reach new people groups with our water filters. A recent addition to the Business Connect team is an organization called HandClasp located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The HandClasp Foundation is a non-government Thai organization that assists local Thai citizens with community development and disaster relief projects. The organization works mostly with people living in the hill tribes of remote areas as well as refugees that have fled from other countries to Thailand. In addition, they have an extensive agricultural training program with multiple levels where farmers can start small and then expand their businesses to include more aspects of farming, with the support of HandClasp. For example, a farmer might begin with growing corn, then add another crop, then chickens or pigs, and so on. The organization is led by Dr. Thomas Bohnert. He and his family have lived in Thailand for 13 years and his fluency in the Thai language is a great asset!
As HandClasp built relationships in the local communities, they found that there is a big need for safe and clean water within the hill tribes. Many of these areas get their water from mountain streams which often become contaminated, especially during the rainy seasons. Realizing this need as well as believing that they had the capacity to expand their entrepreneurial development programs, HandClasp decided to partner with Business Connect. They had already been using the VF100 filters themselves, so they knew this would be a valuable aspect to add. They plan to come alongside independent agents who will be starting their own businesses selling water filters in the rural communities.
In addition to adding the water filters to their entrepreneurial program, they will be distributing them to international NGOs that Business Connect already supplies in other countries. HandClasp also plans to include custom branded Water-to-Go filter bottles into their volunteer program, with more than 200 international visitors coming to help them each year.
We believe that this dedication and creativity will make HandClasp a very successful distributor. We are looking forward to seeing the impact they have as they bring clean water to local communities and empower entrepreneurs to create new businesses. This sustainable approach gives hope to those in need and increases the impact of HandClasp’s work. These are the values that Business Connect focuses on, to be Purposeful with People through Products and Profits; Creating Hope through Business.
As we mentioned in our story about Aimable, distributors are key to providing those in need with access to clean water. This is the reason we wanted to highlight another distributor. Meet Fitah.
Fitah is a young man from Madagascar who created a business to provide clean water to his community. As we began to work with him, his creativity and passion was evident. He wanted to create a campaign based on the idea of clean water enabling education. According to a report by UNICEF, 272 million school days a year are missed due to diarrhea and an estimated one in three school-aged children in the developing world are infected with intestinal worms. These illnesses keep children from attending school and performing to the best of their abilities.
With this in mind, Fitah decided to distribute filters to local schools. La Printaniere, which is a kindergarten and primary school, received Kohler Clarity water filters. The filters were quite well received as he explained how they worked and pointed out the quality of the filtered water. Those at the school were amazed by how clear and pure the water was.
A few months later, Fitah returned to the school to hear about their experience with the filters. The filters were appreciated because the area has a poor water distribution system which feeds unclean and often brown water into the school. The teachers were grateful for the filters as they helped the kids and the staff stay healthy. The kids enjoyed filling up their water bottles with the pure water from the filters.
As he saw the impact of the water filters at the school, he decided to expand on his project. He partnered with a local bookstore to create a campaign for “supporting access to clean water and education.” This campaign encouraged customers to purchase school supplies in order to be entered into a drawing for a Kohler Clarity water filter.
As he looks to the future, he sees opportunity to provide clean water to those in need with a focus on schools and hospitals. He desires to help those who are most vulnerable to water-borne illnesses. People like Fitah make our work possible and inspire us every day to distribute more water filters. These are our distributors.