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This post will illustrate how Lifewater measures up to the Foolanthropic criteria. Thereafter, an update on Lifewater's growth over the past four years is provided.

Foolanthropy seeks to fulfill the same mission as The Motley Fool: to educate, to amuse, and to enrich.

EDUCATING remains Lifewater's primary activity! Lifewater works with partners overseas, training them to become trainers of local residents in developing areas. In this way, local residents learn how to run, maintain, and sustain their own well-drilling crews. These residents also learn how to teach their children (and adults!) good hygiene practices. By providing the gift of safe, clean, fresh water (as an ongoing gift) and hygiene training, Lifewater ENRICHES by enabling a dramatic improvement in quality of life for entire communities. Regarding AMUSEMENT, I remain convinced that there is nothing like the sound of laughter among children and adults enjoying the first water fight of their lives, using safe water from a local pump instead of polluted water carried in 30- 40 lb. buckets by women and children 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 crews, so the recipients are empowered (and expected) to become self-sufficient. Lifewater also expects its volunteers to raise their own support, resulting in large “gifts in kind” but dramatically lower “dollar costs” as an organization.

Foolanthropy makes its finances transparent.

Lifewater publishes its financial statements regularly in its annual reports and also publishes its financial information on its website ( ). Even a quick glance at this data shows that the vast majority of Lifewater dollars go directly to program expenses versus overhead costs. Lifewater maintains a completely transparent stance on financial operations. It has also been accountable to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability since 1988. Lifewater's transparency includes informing the public regarding nomenclature changes. For example, four years ago a “project” was defined as any trip by a Lifewater Affiliated individual(s) in connection with safe water access. This nomenclature has been updated and refined to better track results. Specifically, a “project” is now defined as a formal working relationship between Lifewater and an overseas partner. A “trip” is an excursion by Lifewater staff or volunteers to support Lifewater projects. As an example, this year thus far, 88 volunteers have participated on 32 trips on 26 projects in 24 countries.

Foolanthropy creates sustainable solutions.

Lifewater provides the gift of water, which literally is a gift of life vs. disease and death. Moreover, this gift (of a safe water well) is designed to last with regular maintenance beyond the lifetime of the initial recipients. On a trip to Haiti in 2002 (see “Read a True Lifewater Story” at, I had the privilege of drinking safe water from a Lifewater pump that had been serving its community for 20 years. Furthermore, Lifewater provides water resources designed to be self-sustaining by those who receive the resources. Low-technology approaches are always favored over high-technology ones. For example, whereas an electric pump can provide much more water than a hand pump, it is useless without electricity (the typical rural scenario, globally). In contrast, hand pumps designed from local materials can also be readily repaired with local materials and have fewer components that can break.
In addition to safe water, sustainable hygiene solutions are also a Lifewater goal. Entire communities can be educated and empowered to identify their hygiene problems and implement solutions with lasting results. As Lifewater moves forward, increased attention to sanitation will enable it to make even more sustainable impacts.

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 to recipients are in no way contingent upon their beliefs. Their outreach is truly global. Lifewater remains a small organization, and in doing so, has avoided the cost of large infrastructures, etc. Still, Lifewater-trained crews have provided safe water access in over 53 countries on 5 continents. In addition, Lifewater has increasingly been able to expand beyond well-drilling to other economical means of providing safe water, resulting in a dramatic increase in the provision of safe water systems in the past four years. The current number of water systems (primarily new wells and repaired pumps, but also protected springs, rain catchment systems, and biosand filters) stands at an estimated 2,500. Due to the rapid multiplication effect of Lifewater's training programs, it is impossible to estimate the numbers of people indirectly served by this organization. However, a conservative estimate of those served directly is 1 million people. Moreover, Lifewater also involves the public at large by drawing from its current cadre of 250 North American volunteers for its overseas efforts.

UPDATE: Four years ago, I reported that Lifewater had a Foolish vision for aggressive growth and was in the midst of dramatic expansion. Thanks to the generosity of many, including many Fools, this growth has included significant developments.

1. A full-time paid Executive Director and additional support staff were hired in 2001 to meet the rising demands.

2. Lifewater's growth forced a headquarters move to a larger, leased facility with enough workspace for each staff person.

3. Efforts at addressing hygiene have become formalized in a hygiene curriculum program, with growing numbers of hygiene training volunteers.

4. The overall number of Lifewater volunteers has increased dramatically, with a total of 250 North Americans who are serving, have served, and/or will serve again on overseas projects.

5. Lifewater has recently become a founding partner of the Millennium Water Alliance (, a coalition of non-governmental organizations committed to combining resources in the fight to bring safe water, hygiene, and sanitation to the world. Each group within this alliance will maintain its unique identity, but the coalition provides the potential for raising awareness and administering projects on a much larger scope.

6. With the growing travel dangers of terror since September 11, Lifewater has placed increased emphasis on continued support of existing projects. Whereas an initial project commitment is three years, some Lifewater partners have continued to multiply their efforts faithfully for 15 years or more. While such ongoing efforts do not constitute “new projects,” these “existing projects” continue to produce new safe water resources for more and more people. Indeed, the existing partners who have already received equipment and training demonstrate the greatest capacity to serve the most people for the lowest cost. They are the workhorses of the Lifewater program.

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