Tag Archive for 'Water'

The Rise of the Middle Man in Fundraising

On January 20th, Henry Green was born to John & Sarah Green. Henry’s parents, the generous spirits that they are, asked their friends, family, and well-wishers to forgo the standard deluge of baby presents. Instead, they asked people to make a donation to help fight malaria through Malaria No More.

Malaria No More is one of the world’s leading charities fighting malaria in Africa. For exactly $10, they can protect an entire sleeping site from malaria for up to five years. As of the writing of this post, donations on behalf of Henry Green are now enough to protect over 250 sleeping sites (or an estimated 1,000 people).

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, of the 250 sleeping sites that Malaria No More could be helping with this donation, only 231 sleeping sites will be served. That’s an estimated 75 people (most likely much more) that won’t be (but should be) sleeping under a mosquito net.

Find out more after the jump…

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A Walk Through a Slum

Slum Lady Washes Clothes by the Pond

Slum Lady Washes Clothes by the Pond

When it comes to my work in Bangladesh, I tend to focus a lot on rural villages. This probably seems strange since there is so much poverty just outside of my door here in Dhaka City. A few days back, along with a more adventurous friend, I decided to take a closer look at one of these slums…

I’ve seen people in slums wash their hands, do their dishes, and use the bathroom in ponds adjacent to slums. Until this walk, I always assumed that this was their primary (and only) water source.

In reality, many slum residents (dwellers?) dig make-shift wells by digging large holes into the ground. They can than use this water from everything to washing clothes, taking bucket-showers, and drinking. It’s not great – but it’s far better than drinking from the filthy ponds.

Slum Dwellers Dig Make-Shift Wells for Clean Water

Slum Lady Uses Make-Shift Well

Many charitable organizations and communities in the city (like this Buddhist monastery in an older part of Dhaka) have water stations. Local residents and slum dwellers fill their pots & pans to use back home. It’s crystal clear water – but unless you boil or purify it – you can still get sick.

Along this particular walk, I found not only make-shift wells but also mothers doing laundry with and bathing their children with well water. It may sound silly but it really made me realize that people living in slums are just like us.

No – let me say it another way. People living in slums are us.

Filling It Up With Water

In Line for Water at a Water Station at a Buddhist Monastery

People living in slums like drinking clean water as much as we do. They like having showers, staying healthy, and having clean clothes. And, as the mother who bathed her child behind some discarded straw bags made into a “shower curtain” can probably attest, they like to keep their dignity just like us.

The challenge for me is turning this sentiment into something that can benefit those living in (or trying to get out of) urban slums. Fighting poverty in slums is a lot harder than fighting poverty in rural villages. Slums are home to criminal gangs, drug dealers, and people ready and willing to steal any aid you give. Adults and children in slums also are at a higher risk of facing problems such as drug addiction, human trafficking, and violence.

As some of my more charity-centric family members can attest, trying to lend a hand in a slum can be a risky and dangerous experience. But, after my recent experience, it is definitely something I want to look into.

Cow Sh*t to Clean Water: The Reasons & Science Behind It

I didn’t drink purified cow feces to be sensationalist. I also don’t consider myself a stunt man. This quick video up on my secondary channel on YouTube shows some of the reasons why I did this particular experiment and some of the science behind why I was at virtually no risk in doing it.

Neat Idea: Solar Water Purification

In my latest YouTube video, I drank rain water mixed with cow feces after it was purified to crystal clear (and safe) drinking water thanks to a purifier called the LifeStraw Family. I recently stumbled across another way to provide clean and safe drinking water using solar power. Take a look:

There is a lot to like about this way of water purification. What this basically is doing is distilling the water. That means, not only does it get ride of all the bacteria, it also gets rid of a lot of the salts and metals that are dissolved in the water. The fact is, if I was drinking water that was purified in this method, I wouldn’t have iron poisoning/overload now.

But, at the same time, there are even more downsides. This isn’t anywhere as near as easy to use, maintain, or operate as a pond sand filter or the LifeStraw Family. Even the rather knowledgeable guy doing this experiment in the video ended up shattering two bottles just to purify about a bottle’s worth of water. The equipment he used is also very delicate, hard to find in the developing world, and (as the guy in the video warns) must be handled with extreme care.

The fact is that, whether you are dealing with a pond sand filter, a LifeStraw Family, or a solar water purifier,  none of these options is really a perfect solution. Nothing beats the convenience we have here in the developed world of being able to turn on a tap and get clean, clear, and safe drinking water. I think that’s a right everyone should have. But the first step is to make sure that people at least don’t die from the water they drink.

And, with such amazing science, technology, and options at our disposal, there shouldn’t be any reason for anyone on the face of this planet to be drinking unsafe water.

Cow Sh*t to Clean Water

Thomas Hansen and the LifeStraw Family

FACT: Over 1.1 billion people (that’s more than 1 in every 6 human beings) don’t have access to safe drinking water. So what does that mean? Do they go thirsty? More often than not, it means getting water from contaminated sources of water. That includes rivers which, in the developing world, often are contaminated because it contains waste from farm animals upstream.

That can change – and all it would take is $1.66 per person, per year. The LifeStraw Family is a product I learned about during my recent trip to Kenya. I tagged along with Vestergaard Frandsen which, in addition to helping me come to Kenya, was giving away thousands of these water filters to rural villagers in Kakamega. I have a lot of respect for Vestergaard Frandsen but even I was a bit skeptical at the claims they made about the LifeStraw Family.

First, they claim that the LifeStraw Family uses nanotechnology to filter water down to 25 nanometers. Not only does it meet US EPA guidelines as a microbiological filter but, they claim – it exceeds them. Not even their smaller LifeStraw Personal water purifier (which I use and carry with me) is that advanced. And, unlike the LifeStraw Personal, this product is supposed to last 3 years for a family of five. All for a total cost of $25.

It sounded like BS. Oddly enough, while their claims do hold up, a lot of BS was involved in the making of this latest video.


For the more academic approach to testing this product, please check out these test results from a study by the University of Arizona. As always, Vestergaard Frandsen which did pay for my trip to Kenya, did not do so with the requirement that I endorse their products. If I got sick from this test, this would have been a very different video.

Community Powered: Matt (booshoe37)

This project is less about me and more about the online community that is supporting this journey every step of the way. Here’s a new video from a friend of mine by the name of Matt. He votes for the pond sand filter part of Challenge Poverty in a really creative and passionate way. I have to admit I never thought of the issue like that until I saw Matt’s video.

Challenge Poverty (with Save the Children)

The Pond Sand Filter (Save the Children USA)

Choosing has always been the hardest part of this project. I’ve tried my best to share all the emotions I’ve had during this project like the joy of helping children in the Hill-Tracts, or the anguish and sense of powerlessness during Cyclone Sidr disaster relief, or the craziness involved in reaching some remote rural village. With this latest video, I’m sharing the toughest reality of this project: being forced to choose.

With this video, there is no wrong answer – only tough choices.

More after the jump.

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