On episode # 368, Danielle Riberio from Great.com interviewed Water For Life Charity as part of their ‘Great.com Talks With…’ podcast. This series is an antidote to negative news stories that aims to shed light on organizations and experts whose work is making a positive impact on the world.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), A child dies from a waterborne disease every two minutes. In addition to lacking water, most developing countries rely on water filled with bacteria. So, the need to supply clean water to these parts of the World is a mission for many non-profit organizations. In this episode, Danielle talked with James Brown, Founder and President of Water For Life Charity and Carlos Iglesias, Water for Life Charity’s V.P. of Field Operations.
About Water for Life Charity
We are a non-profit organization that hopes to minimize a portion of the world’s water crisis. Water For Life Charity drills wells and supplies water solutions to developing countries lacking safe, clean drinking water.
To solve the critical issue of drinking unclean water, we’ve developed a solution in the form of a water filter system (two buckets, a pre-filter and filter). The system is our most important water project that hopes to save lives. We send the system to developing countries in desperate need of safe water. The system costs only $50, says James. For that amount, we bring 5-7 gallons of bacteria-free, clean water every hour.
Great.com is an organization that wants to mitigate the global climate crisis by donating all of its profits to climate research initiatives. To generate the most money possible, they are getting creative and thinking outside the box. The organization works in a traditionally harmful and greedy industry — online casinos in New Jersey. They’re taking money that would otherwise go in the pockets of millionaires and moving it to high-impact organizations aimed at solving climate change.
Podcast # 368
Danielle Ribairo: Hello, everyone and welcome to our podcast. I’m Dani and today, great.com talks with James Brown, who is the founder and president of Water for Life Charity. We will also be talking with Carlos Iglesias, who is the secretary and the VP of Field Operations, for the same organization. If you haven’t heard of them yet, they are a nonprofit organization that drills wells and supplies water filters to developing countries lacking safe, clean drinking water.
And just before we begin, if you’re new here, remember to press subscribe on YouTube or in your podcast app, because today we learned about how important and how difficult it is to provide potable water. Hello James. Hello, Carlos. Welcome to a podcast.
James Brown: Thank you for having us. We really appreciate it.
Carlos Iglesias: Thank you. It’s an honor to be on.
Danielle Ribairo: Oh, our pleasure. Honestly, I was doing my research and I feel like I always say that, but it’s true. I was really amazed by the work that you’re doing. And, I think I like to begin by learning about the story of how this organization began. Maybe you James, the one that founded it, could give us an idea of how it all happened.
James Brown: Absolutely. So I’ve been doing charity work with water for 10 years now, probably creeping up on 11 years. And in 2011, I met a guy named Rudy Shaffer. He was going to do some business work for me. He was gonna do some sales. He’d actually reached out to me and said, hey, I’m close to retiring. I’d love to do some sales for you. I’d like to earn a little extra money. I’ve sold my businesses. And then he is like, I wanna retire.
And I’m like, hey, sounds great, Rudy! Let’s get together. Well, two or three months passed by and I didn’t hear from him. I call him back and I’m like, Hey Rudy, what’s going on? You know, I thought we were gonna do some sales together and, and do some business engagement.
And he said, Look, I read a statistic that every 20 seconds a child dies from a waterborne disease. And he said, I can’t handle that anymore. And he is like, I’m going to retire now, and I’m going to go out and help save lives. And I said, man, that’s fantastic. Cuz ironically growing up in the faith that I grew up in, I had been always thinking about like – where much is given much is required. Right? And I always felt like I needed to be giving back more. And it was such perfect timing for me, cuz I was really contemplating and looking for some inspiration and, and praying for some insight and wisdom on what I could do more in my life to help people. Perfect crossing.
And I, and I felt like water was the perfect opportunity for me to engage in helping others. Because if you look at the needs of life, water is such a basic principle. I mean, you can go a month without food, but you can only go three days without water. And water affects so many aspects of people’s lives, that it was a perfect fit for me, and I became fascinated with water, and studied and researched filters and everything else. So all along the way, I’d helped Rudy with his organization, which was called Water 4 Life Ministry. And then in 2017, I started Water for Life Charity, to serve a little bit different demographic of people that we felt like we were missing out on.
And so I run that organization. And then Carlos, he and I met through a mutual friend and Carlos came on board because I supplied him with water filters that he took to Mali, Africa and Guatemala. And Carlos, you can explain your story and background and, I don’t even know how many filters we’ve shipped through your service.
So he came on our board, became one of our directors and man, we’ve loved having him on board. So go ahead, Carlos.
Carlos Iglesias: Ah Yeah, so as James said, it was through a mutual friend. James and I are here in Utah. We have a mutual friend that lives in Idaho and they connected us together.
I had already been going to Mali, Africa, doing humanitarian work and providing, you know, just good hygiene, days for girls kits. And then we would bring doctors for eye surgeries, and teeth extractions. And then James, when we finally met, he connected me with, as he said, you know, we provide these filters.
Could you use that? I’m like, heck yeah, we could use clean water! Right? Cause we’re dealing with villages, and these families are just traveling, you know, an hour or two to a well to go get water and then bring it back. And then who knows if they wash it, or boil it, or purify the water.
So, and if they can’t make it to the well, they just go find a pond or a river and go try to find some water. But I’ve been doing that kind of work for years and it’s just been great. And this water filter that through Water For Life Charity has been basically a miracle sent, because it’s so, so small.
It’s very affordable for us to get it out there. So, it’s been great, and we’re excited.
Danielle Ribairo: Oh I love to hear that, it’s so inspirational! And, I think this is what makes most things work in life, right? Some mutual friends, like a coincidence. Sometimes it really gets things emotional.
And when you spoke Carlos, about your experience with communities that face this insecurity about water resources, I feel like whenever we think about (at least today) about the water crisis, it’s usually a thing from the past or a thing for the future. Like we’re gonna get without water if we don’t preserve, but we forget that it’s still a very present situation.
Right? Can you tell us exactly what you’re seeing concerning this crisis?
Carlos Iglesias: You speaking to me?
Danielle Ribairo: Yes, Yes.
Carlos Iglesias: Okay. Yeah. So when I’m in Mali, Africa, or Guatemala, or even Mexico, if you’re not in the center or the capital, or even if you are, you go out a mile or two and the rest of the country’s pretty much remote villages.
And so people are using and getting water from a well. Or from a river or a pond or a lake. And so it is…other than the United States… well, even within the United States, there’s areas where you need to be careful with water, but outside the United States. It’s a problem today and it’s gonna be a problem for years to come until all these communities get some type of infrastructure put in, but, that’s almost impossible. You hate to say that. So it is present. I see it every single day, and the lives that are being saved by just filtering this water is, is pretty incredible.James Brown: And Carlos brings up a really good point that, we hope that there’s a solution.
And that if enough people band together and help some of the countries develop their infrastructure, that we can get there. But we really serve as a small organization as a bridge. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the last mile principle in telecommunications, but the last mile principle is that the service at the end of the last mile of these branches at the telecommunications always the weakest.
It’s the weakest signal. And here we’re serving the people in the areas with the weakest infrastructure and the least amount of resources. And until we can get large drilling rigs, which cost a lot of money, into a lot of these places and get the infrastructure built up, we have to serve these people.
We have to be able to help them. And right now, if we can’t keep a mom in her home working or educating her kids or getting kids in school… and a lot of times it’s women and children that are the most affected here. So if we can’t keep them working and healthy, they spend their money on medical bills, or they lose a husband to a waterborne disease, or they’re back and forth, getting poorer and poorer with kids on the streets, getting hit by a car, getting lung diseases from the dust. I mean, water, it just is an exponential problem, and it can be reduced exponentially. If we can get these people safe, clean drinking water in their villages, in their home.
And one of the things, we’ve even seen corruption inside of villages where a mayor is like, yes, come drill this well right here on this piece of land. Well, that’s his piece of land. And then he starts charging the villagers for it. However, the filters that we supply allow the people in these families to have access to their own independence. So they can go get their water, bring it to their home, filter it, and provide it for their own family.
And, that’s where we feel like we’re a bridge until that infrastructure gets there. We hope it comes soon, but at least we can bridge that gap for a while.
Danielle Ribairo: Yeah, absolutely. You’re a wonderful bridge, I would say. And I feel like this perspective that both of you are bringing now, they are crucial for us to understand the importance of this subject that we’re talking about here today, and the activities that you’re developing.
And considering that, a question for you, James, is… I tried to summerize in our intro introduction here today, your activities. But let’s expand on that a little bit right now. And, what exactly have you been doing, especially,.. I’m super interested, I will not deny…about the water filter. I’m really anxious to talk about that.
James Brown: Absolutely. Absolutely. So there’s five core things that we do. We fundraise, we source filters, we qualify recipients, we distribute the filters, and then we do training on the setup and follow up of the filters themselves. So the maintenance, so that they’ll last long. And that’s the main thing that we do.
And Rudy is a really great guy to help us with qualifying, and then Rudy and Carlos head out into the field. I have young kids still at home, so I’m now, as they’re getting older and being teenagers, I’m able to head out on humanitarian trips. But Carlos and Rudy and multiple teams that we’ve sent out in the field really go out and do a good job. So one of the key things that we find is, you know, fundraising’s a hustle and getting the filters, that takes a little bit of logistics. But qualifying the people to make sure that they’re going to be good recipients, and they’re going to take care of the filters, and they’re going to use them, and that they’re properly trained has probably been the hardest thing that we’ve come across. And Carlos has done a really good job of going into villages in Guatemala, speaking with the local leaders and saying – Hey, we are gonna sign a document that said we delivered a filter to you. We don’t wanna make this feel like, you know, you’ve gotta have an earning situation and there’s always this interesting dilemma of – we’ve heard organizations say, well, we wanna give a filter as a reward.
And I’ve just, we’ve always felt like clean water is a basic human right. Like, we’ve gotta get the filter there first, so that they can have the chance to do other things such as farming or running a business or taking care of the kids, educating the kids, like I said before. So those are the five key things that we really work on.
It’s qualifying them, making sure the filters are gonna be used so that when donors donate money, they know that they’re dealing with a hundred percent volunteer organizations. And that the filters are going direct to the people who need it. And that we have a system in place to get the filters to, and they don’t land in some warehouse somewhere where somebody steals it and then they go sell the filter, whatever it might be.
There’s all kinds of things that can happen along the way. And so our obligation is to make sure that our donors’ money gets to the people and the people we serve are properly trained on how to use this product that… and we’ll get to the point about the filter, but it will last for years and it’ll filter thousands of gallons of water.
Danielle Ribairo: Well, thank you so much for expanding on that. It’s actually, one of my concerns today about the challenges you might face for this, because it does seem complicated to just deliver a piece of equipment, and just leave it there and both in terms of the safety of it, but also the point where the communities will take it in and understand that it’s theirs.
Right? And how exactly does this Water For Life filter work? I think it would be nice to have our listeners understand a bit better how it works.
James Brown: Absolutely. So it’s really just a single filter that is the size of your fist. It weighs about three ounces, and we can fit 50 of these filter kits inside a duffle bag.
And Carlos has probably taken five or ten of these duffle bags to multiple countries. And the filter is gravity fed. So you have a two bucket system basically, and we just have standard five gallon buckets. The larger the bucket the better, cuz you have better flow rate. Right? And it just hooks on the front of a bucket and it’s gravity fed. You have a little clip on the front that stops the flow or you can hook it up to the top of the bucket like this and it’ll stop the flow. But we’ll get 5-7 gallons of water per hour, which you can have over a 10 hour period, you know, 50 to 60 gallons of clean water, which will take care of a family of 10.And it’ll remove 99.9% of all the bacteria. And I have kind of a little list of like… Within bacteria, you’re talking about salmonella, cholera and E-coli, protozoas, giardia, cysts, malaria, and other diarrhea causing diseases. Right, so as long as we can, pre-filter it a little bit and get the rocks and the sediment out, which actually our organization has just developed a pre-filter that’s made out of a five micron nylon mesh that we filed a patent for, and we’re gonna be building prototypes now, and then we’re gonna be sending these out with our filter kits.
We filter out the sediment first – because some of the places that the people are getting their water from, and Carlos could attest to this, that they’re full of moss, dirt, feces, leaves, rocks, whatever. I mean, they’re getting their water from whatever places they can find it. And on our website, you can see all kinds of situations where the kids are just getting water out of a borehole that’s next to camp and they’re drinking the water right out of it. We’ve got to eliminate that, right? So we’ve designed this pre-filter to get rid of the rocks and sediment, and then we’ve got this amazing filter that will get rid of 99.9% of all the bacteria.
Danielle Ribairo: This is just truly amazing. I love to see all of this, and to everyone listening, you didn’t get to see because James just showed us the filter, but you can go to their website.
As he said, links are provided here on the description of this episode. The link is www.waterforlifecharity.org and you can go there and you can check this. It’s really simple. It’s, actually beautiful to see and you can see for some of their YouTube videos to show how it works truly.
And ah Carlos: A question for you now, because, I was wondering here as we spoke, because you brought to us some of your experiences, but I feel like you have a broad understanding also of all the projects that you have delivered those filters or actually sent some supply to.
Carlos Iglesias: Yeah, so let me go back a little bit to what James was saying real quick.
Danielle Ribairo: Sure. Carlos Iglesias: You know people wonder why are you filtering Wells? Well, not all wells are built the same, you know, it’s funny cuz when you imagine as a person in the United States a well, okay. There’s a hole and there’s a nice, you know, cover and, and it gets pumped and well, in most of Mali, the wells that we encounter are just a big hole.
Maybe they have a block wall around them, but there’s really nothing that seals it on the top. So there’s, you know, anything can go in there, you know, flies, bugs, but more than anything that we’ve encountered, there’s been dead animals that are in the bottom of these wells.
And so, that water has to be filtered. Even if it looks crystal clearing to your eye, it’s not clean. And that’s where we get a lot of communities where people think, these communities think: hey man, we gotta, well, and it’s clean water. You can look at. And yet all the kids are getting really sick, mothers are getting really sick, because it’s full of bacteria. They just don’t know it.
And the sad thing is, for example, one of our connections in Mali, Africa. He lost his son, a two and a half year old son that fell in a well because they’re just open. And they were just out in a garden, you know, watering the garden and the well was in the garden, and mom, didn’t pay attention for one moment and…and there it went. So, the need for clean water is huge. A couple other things James said, and if that’s okay, Danielle, let me just share a couple other thoughts.
Danielle Ribairo: Go for it. Yeah.
Carlos Iglesias: When James says that it’s 100% volunteer, It is. A s you can see on the video, I’m at work, I’m working full time.
James is at his home office, works full time and this is truly a labor of love. So we’re excited to do this. So the qualifying process is a little, you know, we take our time to make sure that we know that these, these filters are getting to the right people. And they’re being used to save lives, not to be resold, or, you know, to sit on a shelf or something like that.
Okay. Cool thing. Going to some of these villages you’ll have a four room school or a, or a ten room school, or maybe just a one room school with an office for the administrator. What’s really cool is when we’ll put these filter kits in one of the classrooms, and the filter that James showed has threads on the bottom, and those threads, you could just take a bottle, a bottle of water, and thread it on there and the kids can come get water.
So, they all store plastic bottles. Cuz if they find one, it’s like gold, cuz then they can carry water. So they’ll have them with them in class. And they’ll just run up to the filter, screw it onto the bottom of the filter and let that water, and they get to see their own clean water come out.
So that’s really, really, really cool. Obviously when we’re there, we try to bring in other things like educational kits, you know, gifts for the kids, we’ll have games, we’ll do all kinds of other things. But our main focus is clean water to save lives. And it’s amazing to watch.
Danielle, if you could ever see, and I don’t know if we have a video, but if you can ever see these, these people, when they take this water and they look at this dirty water, and it’s coming out crystal clear, It’s amazing because they’re like, no, that’s magic. That’s not real. And then I’m getting ready to drink it. And then they’re like, no, no, no, no!
And I drink it and it’s amazing, you know, it’s like, well, I’ve been drinking it for years, I’m still alive, pretty healthy. I’m not glowing, so I think we’re good. The filters are great. So that’s a little bit of the experiences we share, that we experience out there.
Danielle Ribairo: Wow. It must be something that you’ve gotta be there to see.
Carlos Iglesias: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Danielle Ribairo: It is something that we, we cannot just, you know, imagine. That’s wonderful.
James Brown: Yeah. That’s a really interesting point. And you, Rudy tells a story that in Kenya, when we first brought the filters to the kids in Kenya, they were afraid of the clean water. They had never seen anything that wasn’t yellowish brown.
So their whole lives, they had been drinking dirty water, and there’s some statistics out there that kids in those foreign countries and developing countries will have, you know, a thousand parasites, just living. And they constantly will have diarrhea and other problems that, you know, result in, early death and other things.
So, it’s amazing to see the videos come back where there’s kids who are drinking clean water and they know it’s gonna keep them healthy.
Danielle Ribairo: It’s amazing. I gotta say that it’s heartwarming just to hear it. I’ve got to say that. And guys, my last question for you today is, how can people help you keep going?
James Brown: This is a wonderful project.
Well, look, honestly, I’ve got a quote here that inspired me when I first started working on this and it was from Martin Luther King. I was standing in my friend’s kitchen, when I saw this, when it all started everything. It said, “Every person must decide at some point, whether they walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness, this is the judgment. Life’s most pressing and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”
And then he also said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” And so the first thing for us is to find that light within you, I’ve listened to a lot of you guys’ podcasts and, whether you’re cleaning out rivers or addressing domestic violence you know, whatever it might be.
It’s key to find that feeling that goes along with service and, there’s just a great altruistic feeling that comes along with helping others. And, that is the first step we believe. Then the second step, you know, if you could get involved with donations are always awesome at waterforlifecharity.org.
We’re currently running a huge campaign for Ukraine and whenever this posts, we know that over 12 million refugees have come into place and that over 6 million of those refugees don’t have access to clean water.
And it’s just getting worse. 90% of the infrastructure, according to the Wall Street Journal has been destroyed in multiple eastern cities within Ukraine. So, now we have this global problem, this crisis where there’s 700 million people, and even the statistic of a kid dying every 20 seconds has moved to a kid dying every two minutes, there is a slight improvement.
But now we’ve added six million more refugees. And anytime people can donate funds, that is amazing. Anytime people can donate volunteer work, we also help qualified missions or organizations that are going to these countries. And we’re happy to supply our filters or they happy to have them purchase the filters from us.
It’s a non-profit obviously as registered 501(c)(3) but we try to create a sustainability model, All right? So, if people can purchase them from us, that’s great. If they can’t afford, we’ll help donate. So with that, I would say any type of donations of volunteerism will help. Or if you’ve got resources in those countries, we’re happy to make those connections and happy to develop.
Anytime we can find a great team in another country that becomes a great partner. We love that as well. Carlos, anything else?
Carlos Iglesias: No, you know, I heard something years ago and it’s just so true. It’s, “There’s nothing greater than the heart of a volunteer.” You know? And volunteering, whether you’re going on one of these trips to help us, or you’re volunteering by donating your services or funds to help us. That would be fantastic.
And I promise you, and I would’ve never gotten with James if I knew that this was an organization where there was pay. We gotta get these funds 100% to the people, you know, that are in need. And, we’ve been able to do that and we think we can sustain that.
There will be some overall cost, you know, like bags, purchase bags to get ’em over to these countries. But yes, please open up your heart and donate.
Danielle Ribairo: Thank you so much for joining us today, guys, this was a wonderful talk. I loved it.
James Brown: You’re amazing. Thank you.
Danielle Ribairo: Oh, thank you!
James Brown: Cause we know you have a full time job too, right? Volunteering time to help the podcast and bring, bringing the light of what everybody else is doing to the world. So thank you so much. You’re amazing.
Danielle Ribairo: Thank you. We are very proud to be doing this work.
Carlos Iglesias: Thanks you Danielle
Danielle Ribairo: Thank you so much, Carlos. It’s actually something that we are truly proud of doing.
And well this was wonderful talk and for everyone else listening, thank you so much as well. And if you enjoyed this episode, remember to press subscribe on YouTube or on your podcast app, because that shows the algorithm that this is an important conversation and more people can learn about importance of the water for life charity organization.