a smart shower? worth the investment.

You know I love water and nearly everything to do with it. And so, today, I introduce a new idea – taking a minute to seriously think about how long you spend in the shower.

How long are your showers? How many gallons of water flow down the drain while you simply enjoy the warmth? How much does it cost you? I bet if you had any idea how much water, and how much money, you were spending, you might change your habits. There is a new little device being made that would tell you exactly that information with an instant feedback loop. It would snap on to your shower, and turn orange and then red when you were in the shower for too long. Paying attention to that little red light would save gallons of water and lots of dollars every month. Take a minute and check out the details HERE

These guys are still in college, but they have a great team and a great idea. My geeky, water conserving brothers are confident they can pull this together (and know the professors supporting this team). I want to believe that innovations like these really do make a difference, and that is why I am telling you about this.

I rarely plug products here, but this one is worth checking out. They have 10 more days to fund this project, and I think it is awesome. I live in a region that is constantly short on water, and my water bill is my most expensive utility bill every month. I am supporting this project. I hope this project is wildly successful and that one day these smart showers will be commonplace. Will you join me and help make that a reality? Let’s conserve a little water together.

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ps – The kickstarted page shows some of the quotes of others who think it is cool…. like Fast Company!

families of water tanks

This blog post was written for Blood:Water Mission. The original post is found here.

On Friday I had the joy of visitings a water tank in Northern Rwanda that was just finished. It is now collecting water for 10 families to use during the dry season that is just about a month away. After talking with a few of the people this tank will serve, we began to walk down the path to our car (our little 4WD could not make it up the final bits of the mountain road/path). As we walked, there was happy talk that was eventually translated for me.

“That tank over there is the grandmother tank.”

“And that one is the mother tank.”

In this community, the tanks have been given family trees. When the first tanks were built, many families shared one tank, carefully rationing the water and hoping to make it through a dry season. As more tanks were built, fewer families shared a tank. And the community, in which children are prized, calls this process one tank giving birth to another. So, on Friday, I saw the grandmother, the mother, and the baby tank. Along with it, a lot of smiling women and children who no longer walk down a mountain to get water from a lake.

The goal for this project is to have each tank serve 10 families, and the last tanks are being built right now to make that possible –  a process that has taken several years. The community provides all the local materials – the stones and wood and labor – to make the project possible. But, they need a lot of cement for each tank – about 54 bags. Would you think about partnering with communities like these? Match their resources with yours to make water projects possible. In doing so, you will change lives this Christmas season. To take part in this campaign, go here.


lwala: water at schools

October seems like so long ago, and yet it was less than two months ago that it was October and I was in Western Kenya exploring options for Blood:Water to come alongside an old partner in a new way. I talked about this ever so briefly in this post about water in schools. Things worked out well, and this partnership is going to happen. Or, I should say, is happening. Last week I wrote about this on Blood:Water’s blog -which you can read here. (Please take a minute to read the post as it will provide great context for future stories I tell about Lwala. Besides – it is an inspiring story, so perfect for this Christmas season.) I am so excited about this partnership, so keep your eyes and ears open in the coming year for more trips to Western Kenya. I am so looking forward to sharing stories from there with you.

This is a health journal from the school office of one of the schools participating in the water program.

women and water

The water crisis is often told through the eyes of women – women who walk many hours and long miles to gather water, often dirty, for their families. The HIV/AIDS crisis is often told through the eyes of women – grandmothers carrying for their orphaned grandchildren and mothers unable to care for children. No, these are not crises that exclusively impact one gender, but the burden of both is high for women and their stories, faces, and images are compelling.

This short, three day trip that brought me to both the eastern and western side of Kenya and on the road with four local organizations and one international business, brought these women and their stories front and center. Normally my trips are filled with organizations and strategies and plans, but this time I was along to just see, experience, and learn. As I sit back and flip through my memories of this trip, it is the women that come to my mind. Their smiles, laughter, strength, and depth of story. Everywhere we went the women filled the space with life.

There were young girls walking home from school hand in hand whispering stories. Teens who recited poems and performed dramas to teach others how to treat their water to make it safe for drinking. A young woman who joined the men’s acrobatic and tae-kwon-do team. Women standing with vibrant colored skirts as they talked. Young mothers and old grandmothers holding children they loved. Women of all ages washing clothes, carrying dishes, and gathering water. Pregnant mothers and grandmothers who had HIV and were fighting to live fully for their families. Weaved through all of these women was strength and character and smiles. Yes, there are hardships in each of these stories. To deny that would be to deny a significant part of each woman. But to glorify those hardships denies their strength – a much larger part of who they are.

I cannot blame anyone for using the stories and images of women to talk about the water and HIV/AIDS crises. That is what I do here today. I just hope that the telling of the story brings out the strength of the women. I hope that is what you see through these photos today.

pond water for drinking

Pond water. River water. Surface water. This was a gorgeous scene that we happened upon. A river that is no longer flowing in the dry season but still holds water for the many people who need it because there is no other source. Would you drink this water?

schoolgirls singing

These schoolgirls recited a poem and performed a song about water for us yesterday. Although our time with them was brief, it was a joy to be with them as their bright uniforms and vibrant voices lit up the field

a PUR demo

It is 5:30am, and we hit the road in an hour – a few stops in Mombasa to see some projects and then flying to Kisumu this afternoon via Nairobi. I still need to pack, dress, and eat breakfast, but I wanted to share at least something with you from yesterday.

These are two photos of Christine – she was kind enough to take us to her water source (a pond) and then do a demonstration of how she uses PUR packets to purify her drinking water. It was awesome to see the PUR change dirty, cloudy, contaminated water into clear, safe water. I will explain more of how it works at a later point in time, but check out the clear water in the second photo – the particles are now clumped together to be large enough that a cloth can filter them out.

My favorite part of this demo was when Christine said, “Before using PUR I could not finish one week without a child having diarrhea.” Safe water transforms lives.

online again & water at schools

This past week my computer was in the shop, and the week before that I was happily living without electricity. I like it when I can unplug and disconnect from the world… but when I am supposed to be plugged and connecting, it is amazing how hard it can be to only have partial access to things through a loaned computer. But I should not complain – my computer now is fixed for the moment and a new one on its way to the office. My work is piled up a bit, but I am fully plugged in… just in time to get on the plane tonight.

When I was in Western Kenya, I was exploring a possible school water project. Kids need water at school. They need to drink, wash their hands, have water too cook food, and wash the classrooms. Watering plants and gardens is an added benefit. While this seems like such a need should be assumed to be filled, it is, unfortunately, a poor assumption. Some schools have some water, others have none. The reasons for the situation are variations on not maintaining or simply not having. Regardless, something needs to be done. I will let you know more details if this project comes to fruition.

water – schools – children – transformation

Today I join more than 4,200 bloggers around the world talking about water. Why is this important? Because water, safe water, is the foundation of health in so many ways. It is needed for human health and for environmental health – so intertwined they are inseparable. Today there will be enough facts and statistics tossed around to make numerical salad to feed a small army. I love it all – all the numbers and ideas and the health that we hope for and work towards. But here I want to step away from that numerical salad and tell you about the Community Primary School in Mackenzie, Zambia.

Every time I have been to Ndola,I have visited the Mackenzie Community Primary School. Ok… let me rephrase that… every time I have been to Ndola, I have visited the well at this school. Each time, children have been gathered around pumping and collecting water in buckets and jeri cans. There is talking and laughter fills the air. A scene not that different than many I see  across Africa.

I see similar things all the time. And when things become common, we forget (excuse me… I forget) that they are important and transformative. This week while we talked around the well, the people I was with reminded me that it is often the young girls’ work to collect and carry water. Does that prevent them from going to school? No – but it used to  prevent them from going to school when they had to walk a long way to find water.

In addition to the well, their community has nearly full coverage of biosand filters – meaning that nearly each home has a filter providing them with safe water. Again, I have been into a lot of homes with biosand filters, and so it is easy to forget that they are transformative because I see them often. But then I hear again how a family – children and parents – no longer suffer from diarrhea and illness regularly because of safe water provided from the biosand filter. A simple, affordable technology that transforms lives.

The story of the Mackenzie Community Primary School is one of a peri-urban community that does not have a government school, but pooled their resources to create a community school. It is a story where the young girls can now attend primary school because they do not have to carry water. And a story where biosand filters in the children’s home keep them well enough to attend school. This is a simplistic look at a community’s transformation, but these are key elements to that transformation.

Safe water saves lives and gives children a chance at health and education. Sometimes I forget how things have changed, how they have improved, as I stretch for the next step of development. Because this level of transformation somehow becomes normal. But there are so many places that are not like this. So many places where children die from diarrhea and skip school to carry water. And so today, as bloggers around the world talk about water, I want to celebrate the progress that has been made as we rally together to do more.

If you want to be part of the solution, go to Blood:Water Mission’s website and donate – right now there is a dollar for dollar match that will go to support our work in Northern Uganda and Rwanda. And, like our work here in Zambia, this water work will transform lives. It’s why I do my job.

article on care2 & water as a human right

Today my blog titled, Fighting alongside Africans for safe water was posted at Care2.com under their Causes: Human Rights section. I could not be more excited – my writing is being shared with new readers and it is in the human rights section. I write about water, people, and my journey through life. When I first hearing about this opportunity, I was told, “I am sorry – your post is going to be in the human rights section – not a perfect fit, but there is no section on water.” I have to admit, I am glad there is no section on water.

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family.” ~Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

1.5 million children die every year due to diarrheal diseases caused by lack of access to safe water and sanitation. Women spend hours every day walking to collect water – often water that is contaminated. Children stay out of school to collect water and because of illness. Although it is easy to forget when safe water flows freely from our taps, access to safe water is a necessary part of health and well-being of a family.

Although treaties focused on other issues have identified water as a human right, it was not until this summer that the UN General Assembly declared “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life.” Safe water is no longer a privilege or attached to other rights; it is now a human right. There are a host of implications to water being a human right. Water is no longer something to be hoped for – it makes water a legal right, or something to be expected. It empowers people to ask for and work towards their own rights. It puts the focus on community and their right to water rather than the organization helping to provide the water. These are critical differences and beautiful reminders for all of us. And that is why I am glad my article on water was included in a human rights category.

“Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people. It is an affront to human dignity.” ~Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary General

If you would like to read more on water being a human right, here are a few resources:

we won: let’s celebrate together

It feels like this has been a long time in coming, but today is it – the official announcement that I won the Give Health Blogivation through Changents. My blog post won, but it is really something we won together. Thanks for voting! The behind the scenes conversation since the competition ended in late August has been about my “come from behind win” or “sprint to the finish.” For most of the competition I remained in 2nd place, but in the final days, you rallied your family, friends, and coworkers so that, together, we could win. There were 35 bloggers, and the competition reached more than 3 million people in more than 80 countries. Your efforts raised my blog to the top.

We won, but what does that mean? Your votes are having this incredible impact:

  • The collective votes during the Give Health Blogivation account for 21,099 days of clean drinking water that will be given to people in need through P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) program – our votes account for 8,893 (42%) of those days.
  • P&G will give $15,000 to Blood:Water Mission to support our work in safe water. $1 equals 1 year of safe water for an African, so this is safe water for 1 year for 15,000 people (or 5 years of safe water for 3,000 people).
  • I will travel to Africa in November with the CSDW program to see the impact it is making through its on-the-ground partners. I will be blogging during this trip to bring you along as much as possible so that we can share this story together.
  • I have become a Change Agent – this is an incredible opportunity to share my story, share Blood:Water’s story, and rally people together to support safe water development in Africa.

We won, but what now? Your voices came together – let’s keep doing that today:

  • Spread the excitement  – share this news through the easy “share” button at the bottom of the post.
  • Go to my Changents page and become a “backer” – it is one way to support safe water and be alertedto things going on in the future. And while you are there, check out all of the other things that people are doing – they are people just like you and me, and they are doing amazing work!
  • Spread the word by twitter, facebook, email, and word of mouth. Our goal today is to have every person tell 2 other people – either about this or another story I have shared. It is a simple, tangible way for each of us to make a difference today. Do it!

Thank you for being a part of this story and helping it continue.

fighting alongside africans for safe water

I have signed up to participate in the Clean Water Blogivation campaign. If my blog receives the most votes, I will win an opportunity to join Dr. Greg Allgood on a clean water expedition to Africa and a $15,000 donation to my favorite charity (Blood:Water Mission) tackling water issues.

Please vote  – it just takes 10 seconds, but it is a 2 STEP PROCESS:

  1. Enter your email address and click on the ‘vote for this blogger’ button in the box below.
  2. Confirm your vote through the link in the email you receive.


Thank you for voting! Your voice was heard and my blog won! Official announcement and more coming on September 30. Stay tuned…

When I ten years old, I lost 10 pounds in 10 days because I was incapable of keeping fluids in, compliments of giardia, a diarrheal disease. When I learned to camp on the Sinai, my family planned and packed every drop of water we would use.

I have long chosen to fight for water. I choose to do so because as a child it was a reality and I believed a place where I could make a difference. My passion first took me through three degrees and field academic research in Haiti and West Africa, all focused on water. I began to work alongside Africans serving as a consultant and a friend rather than a leader or boss something I continue to strive to do.

Now I fight for water through my work with Blood:Water Mission where I am the Africa Field Manager. We have amazing partners in Sub-Saharan Africa who address the water crisis through sustainable community development. I help them build out their programs, challenging them towards excellence in community development through many long conversations and field visits. I capture their stories through words, photos, and video for our fundraisers and advocates who give generously of their time, effort, and money to make it all possible.

If someone told you that nearly a billion people lack access to safe water, would you understand that number? I would not. The most recent number from the World Health Organization is actually 900 million people. I could try to help you understand what 900 million is, but it is too big and abstract. What is not too big and abstract is one person’s story. One story through words or photo or video and the number is real. This is what I do; the number becomes real and suddenly both you and I have a reason to fight.

This website is where I share my journey through life. It is the meeting place of where I fight for water, fight to make the numbers become people, and where I simply live. It is a journey that I hope you find enough value in to follow from time to time. I have not filled this post with stats and stories and photos. I do not need to because this whole blog is filled with them in the context of people’s stories.

Between now and November I will be spending 8 weeks in Africa blogging all along the way. I invite you to join that journey. You will learn more along the way and, I hope, the numbers will become real through story.

Please vote for me so that I can give $15,000 to Blood:Water Mission’s water work in Africa. Why them you ask? Because they choose to walk alongside African partners and to dignify individuals through sharing stories of hope rather than despair. Because, through their African partners, people’s water situation is being changed every day – one person, one story at a time.

biking water home

Although his jerry can was full and it was loaded onto his bike, he stood by the well watching as I talked with people. A  quiet observer, he was willing to share a smile with me and the camera before I left.