Buy Pumps, Save Lives

Written by:

Charli K. Matthews

I know this isn't specific to energy but it is close to my heart!  I am excited that Sam is ready to make the journey to Senegal in May.  They aren't quite to their goal yet, but he can make the journey and get everything lined up for the installation of these pumps. I am curious... 

What are you passionate about that drives you to #bethechange?

For most of us, it is impossible to imagine a world where an overabundance of water is not accessible.

We turn on the faucet and let the water run freely to brush our teeth or wash dishes. We don’t consider the effort required to get that same amount of water for people in rural communities throughout the globe.

In remote parts of the world, women spend several hours a day carrying heavy buckets many miles to gather water for their families. The work is backbreaking, and the water is filthy. Because of the effort and time required to collect the water, the children are unable to attend school or play.

More than 750 million people in the world do not have access to clean water. However, the non-profit engineering company, Design Outreach, has developed a deep-water hand pump called LifePumpTM that helps alleviate this crisis, especially in isolated communities.

Sam Lowry, a long-time friend, retired, and Rotary Club volunteer recently contacted me about supporting a Rotary Club campaign that would introduce this unique pump into Senegal under a pilot program to highlight the benefits of this new technology as a robust source of plentiful clean water for arid rural communities. The pilot project will start with five communities in Senegal, selected based on their critical water needs and the unique benefit of LifePumpTM for their location, climate, and hydrology.

According to Dwight Leeper, a fellow Rotarian volunteer working on the project, there are an estimated 80 million refugees globally. “They have fled violence, persecution, war, natural disaster, and climate change,” Leeper explains.

“This crisis is causing increased social and political instability globally and locally. We in Rotary have a responsibility to make a difference however we can.”

Dwight Leeper

Through the West Chester Rotary Club in Pennsylvania and the Dakar Soleil Rotary Club in Senegal, the project will provide deep water pumps to five communities in Senegal that would otherwise not have access to clean water. This project will build on the benefits and success of the ultra-deepwater hand pump LifePumpTM in Africa & Haiti.

About 15 years ago, Design Outreach founders Greg Bixler and Abe Wright had an idea of using their engineering expertise to help provide clean water to people in developing countries who had little or no access to it. Bixler visited Central Asia in 2007 and after seeing the extreme poverty up close, he realized he could help to alleviate some suffering in the world by using his engineering talents.

In 2010, Bixler and Wright co-founded Design Outreach, whose flagship product, the LifePump, is helping to solve the global water crisis by bringing the many benefits of reliable water to people across Africa and Haiti. Bixler’s endeavors have led him to more than 18 countries—all while serving as CEO of Design Outreach, resident director for the Ohio State University (OSU) service-learning program, and as an advisor for the OSU student chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

“There is a well-documented statistic that 90% of the world’s products are designed for only 10% of the world’s people,” Bixler said in a 2016 interview. “Engineers like myself spend all of our time designing things for just a sliver of the world’s population. That’s where humanitarian engineering comes in—to help fill that gap to design for people who are being overlooked.”

Design Outreach has now installed more than 50 LifePumps in nine countries—impacting more than 20,000 lives.

The first LifePump was installed in Zolomondo, Malawi, in November 2013 and has been operating continuously with no downtime ever since.

With a reliable pump that is easily installed, easily operated, easily maintained, and can pump into extremely deep wells, the LifePump is certainly doing its part to help solve the world’s water crisis. Design Outreach is mostly volunteer based with many engineers, marketers, accountants, lawyers, and church groups who want to use their skills to contribute to a greater cause.

“We have so much abundance in America,” said Bixler. “It’s not that we should feel guilty of that abundance, but we can certainly use our wealth and abundance to help a lot of people in the world. It’s good for me to experience that. I’ve learned that draining my bank account is not going to solve the world’s problems, but inspiring other people to join me will make a huge difference. If we all do a little bit, we can get rid of a lot of these problems in the world.”

Bixler has seen first-hand how difficult it is to get water in some of these remote locations.

“These are real people, not just statistics,” Bixler said. “When we show up to install a LifePump, the people of the village are singing and dancing because they are so appreciative. Because they now have water, there is less disease, more food, schools are being built, and gardens are planted. Their lives are completely changed.”

Learn more about this project and continue reading Charli's post on the Empowering Pumps website here.

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