How is it possible that nearly 2 billion people do not have access to safe water and hygiene?

Hello, my name is Kevin Sofen from Chicago.  I work for a water treatment company called W.S Darley & Company that brings safe water solutions to the disaster response and humanitarian markets.  After working in the water industry for 6 years, I have seen the wide range of opportunities and inequalities that exist in the water industry.  I noticed that in the developing world, the people who need the technology the most cannot afford it.  Therefore, they spend up to ½ their income on bottled water or are forced to drink contaminated water that makes them perpetually ill.

The questions in my head started to unfold: How is it possible that nearly 2 billion people do not have access to safe water and hygiene? Why does the majority of the developing world spend up to half their income on bottled water?  Does it have to be this way?

In the past six years, Darley has partnered with innovative technologies that bring unique water solutions to the market.  All of Darley’s technology is economically efficient and environmentally responsible that use various forms of renewable energy such as solar and wind power. The core of the technology approach is simple: high technology and low maintenance.  Our marquee product is the a SunSpring, a decentralized water treatment system that produces 5,000 gallons of safe water per day for over ten years. The system costs $23,000 and the only operating cost is the chlorine needed to clean the ultrafiltration membrane and 2-3 hours per month of labor to maintain the system. When evaluating the cost effectiveness and water output, nothing comes close to the SunSpring.

 As good as the technology is, it does no good if the people who need it can’t benefit from it.  After struggling to find ways to implement water systems due to the lack of funding, I took measures into my own hands to raise the funds.  In the past two years, I organized two charity golf tournaments, pursued corporate sponsorship and started crowdfunding campaigns to raise over $50,000 for international water projects. These funds were deployed with a charity called H2OpenDoors to bring safe water solutions to Nepal, Cuba and Tanzania.  Here are video recaps from our Nepal and Tanzania trips.  I greatly enjoyed the entire experience but also found this fundraising process to be extremely taxing. I knew there must be a better way to raise awareness and capital funds for water projects.

While installing the water systems in Nepal, I met Josefina Jofre, an artisan who travels around the world and sells her goods at open markets.  I admired her artisan craft and came up with an idea. I could buy, import and sell the bands and then reinvest the profits into the water charities that implement the water projects.

I know that everyone cannot give the large sums of money required to support the projects needed to fix the world water crisis, however most can give $10 to a cause that brings safe water to those in need.  I wanted to create a water campaign similar to the Bernie Sanders campaign craze in 2016; millions of $10 donations.  Instead of for a political campaign, we are doing this grass roots campaign for water.  From this idea, I decided to start my own charity called Wristsponsible.

 People who purchase a Wristsponsible band receive a handmade artisan band and confidently know that the proceeds are implemented ethically.  This fuels a vibrant supply chain for artisans around the world, like Josefina, that simultaneously create capital funds for water projects.  Out of $10, $3 of the band goes toward employing the artisan and $7 goes to the water project.  In April Wristsponsible will launch our second line of Artisan bands from Tanzania. These bands are made from females in the Massai tribe and will resemble how Wristsponsible serves as a platform to all artisans around the world.

From each sale, the $7 proceeds are given to a network of water charities, like H2OpenDoors and Water is Life, that implement community centric water solutions.  These charities build a grass roots understanding of the specific water problems and implement a tailored solution that is culturally sensitive and designed for long term success.

Most recently we focus on social enterprise water systems.  This model allows the local communities to bottle and sell water at a price that is cheaper than the existing bottled water. Profits from the sales employ the people who sell the water and extra profits are reinvested into other social services in the community like education and health.

Wristsponsible is now formally registered as a 501c3 charity and open to new partnership ideas!  Since our inception in June, Wristsponsible has sold over 1,000 bands and raised $10,000 for water projects with H2OpenDoors and Water is Life. 

We know that we are a small piece of the puzzle within this large water crisis.  It is our hope to serve as a catalyst and collaborate with other charities to bring the most value to those in need of safe water solutions.

Written by Kevin Sofen


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