I am convinced that LIFEWATER INTERNATIONAL (http://www.lifewater.org) is a most Foolish charity. THE PROBLEMOver 30,000 people die each DAY due to diseases related to bad water. Roughly 80% of sickness and death among children globally is caused by unsafe water. Many persons who die of “starvation” actually have some food resources, but they cannot benefit from food due to diarrhea and other water-caused illnesses, which result in dehydration and a failure to absorb food nutrients. More than one fifth of the people on earth are without safe water. Lifewater works to break this chain. It is a Christian affiliated organization providing services to all peoples--regardless of creed--around the world. Indeed, the vast majority of those who have benefited from Lifewater services have been people of faiths other than Christianity. Whereas Lifewater International does not hide its faith affiliation, neither does Lifewater impose faith views on those it serves. Rather, it seeks to demonstrate Christian values through service, without any religious obligation, to those in need around the world. A SOLUTIONEstablished over 20 years ago, Lifewater's mission is to provide water resource development information, training, equipment and technical support to the rural poor, to enable them to help themselves. Lifewater teaches the development and maintenance of safe drinking water supplies and sanitation facilities. Those trained become themselves a resource to others as they help their neighbors obtain safe water. Lifewater's beneficiaries quickly become the main participants in their own safe water provision. Lifewater is a very Foolish investment! By maintaining expenses at a minimum, this organization has been able to provide lifetime safe clean water at the cost of $4 per person. Few resources are as inexpensive, as critical for human existence, or as permanent (for a lifetime)! For example, whereas a wonderful organization like Habitat for Humanity puts a great deal of money, time, and effort into homes that help improve the quality of life for one family at a time, Lifewater invests their resources into clean water that provides the gift of life vs. death (due to water-related illnesses) to entire communities, all for the one-time cost of $4 per person. Thus, whereas I believe that organizations like Habitat for Humanity are excellent investments (analogous perhaps to rule makers?), I believe that Lifewater represents a more powerfully cost-effective investment with a more far reaching scope and more potential for growth in constructive global change (analogous, perhaps to a rule breaker early on?). As with small cap stock investments, Lifewater investments can more dramatically increase (i.e., quality of life), because Lifewater focuses on the “extreme low end” of the quality of life “growth curve.” Unlike small cap stocks, however, Lifewater's 20 years of existence makes the likelihood of an investment “loss” virtually impossible! In short, if charitable organizations were compared to for-profit companies, I would urge a “Strong Buy” of Lifewater “stock” for the Rulebreaker portfolio! Unlike most Rulebreaker companies, I would also encourage Lifewater as a strong buy for DRIP investors to consider too, because even $4 can be a significant investment, with lifetime returns!Lifewater also has a Foolish vision for aggressive growth, and they are currently in the midst of dramatic expansion. Whereas this expansion will include providing salaries for key positions, the vast majority of those who serve also raise their own support.How does Lifewater measure up to the Foolanthropic criteria?------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Foolanthropy seeks to fulfill the same mission as The Motley Fool: to educate, to amuse, and to enrich.Lifewater's primary activity is EDUCATING local residents in impoverished (typically third world) areas, training them how to run, maintain, and sustain their own well-drilling shops. Lifewater educates its beneficiaries to become self-sufficient providers of their own safe water. By providing the gift of safe clean fresh water (as a permanent ongoing gift), Lifewater ENRICHES by enabling a dramatic improvement in quality of life for entire communities. Regarding AMUSEMENT, there is nothing like the sound of laughter among adults enjoying the first water fight of their lives, using fresh water from a local pump instead of carrying polluted water over miles from the nearest drainage ditch. Foolanthropy expects. Lifewater does not give “hand-outs.” Rather, this organization provides the training and resources for those in need to operate their own well-drilling and pump maintaining shops, so the recipients are empowered (and expected) to be self-sufficient.Foolanthropy makes its finances transparent. Lifewater publishes its financial statements regularly in its newsletter, and is currently in the process of publishing its financial statements on its website. It maintains a completely transparent stance on financial operations. When considering finances, the concept of EARNINGS can also be metaphorically considered. Last year at this time, Lifewater slated 40 new projects for the year. In reality, Lifewater crushed “earnings” estimates, by completing over 50 projects during this time! In line with continued growth expectations, Lifewater already has 62 projects slated for the coming year.Foolanthropy creates sustainable solutions. Lifewater provides the gift of water, which literally is a gift of life vs. disease and death, and this gift (of a safe water well) is designed to last beyond the lifetime of the initial recipients. In addition, Lifewater provides water resources designed to be self-sustaining by those who receive the resources.Foolanthropy involves the public at large. Whereas Lifewater identifies itself as a Christian organization, it works to meet the needs for clean safe water of all people, and services are in no way contingent upon the beliefs of those receiving Lifewater's services. Their outreach is truly global. Although they are by no means a huge organization, Lifewater volunteers have equipped Nationals, in over 52 countries (seven NEW countries since this time last year) on 5 continents, to run and maintain their own self-sufficient pump shops and well maintenance facilities. Lifewater also does a great deal of well-repair, in countries where governments have not maintained pumps, etc. To date, Lifewater has completed over 1000 wells around the world. With each well giving life-time water to an average of 500 people, this means that Lifewater has given the gift of clean, safe water to 500,000 people. Moreover, Lifewater has maintained expenses at a minimal level, with village wells still costing only an average of $4 per person. The actual field work is done by a staff of roughly 60 field volunteers, most of whom are experienced professionals in water-related fields. These volunteers act as instructors, teaching the local residents how to run their own well-drilling and maintaining operations. Thus, Lifewater also involves the “public” at every site where a well is installed.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------In addition to the above mentioned assets, Lifewater also operates a web site (http://www.lifewater.org) that provides technical and informational resources to anyone interested in helping to provide safe water to those in need around the world. Although this Foolish Charity is not huge in size, it is enormous in its contributions and vision for expansion. It also continues to grow, and expansion has included Lifewater Canada (http://lifewater.ca/). Regarding cost-effective “return on the dollar of investment,” I challenge anyone to find a better value! As a closing comment, I should note that I know the president of Lifewater personally and can attest to his character, which is also supported by Lifewater financial statements. In short, this man (Bill Ashe) has never taken any salary for his service, for more than the past twenty years. Can anyone find a charitable organization whose president has worked for a lower salary? Please consider choosing Lifewater for this year's charity drive! Thank you.Sincerely submitted,Jeff Bjorck
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