Just Add Water: Part I

A group of donors from Denver joined together last year to engage their circles of influence to raise funds for a new project in Mozambique. Four of the team members traveled to Mozambique last week to visit the communities where the project will take place.

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Dave Umphress, one of the team members, wrote a powerful blog reflecting on the experience and what he took away from the experience. We’ve broken his blog up into sections and will share it with you over the coming weeks. We hope you’ll follow along, and be as moved by his words as our staff has been.

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PART I: Just Add Water

- Dave Umphress

It sounds so simple! Open the box, add exactly the right amount of water, and bake it! Yeah, it might not be “bakery quality” but it will get the job done (and people will think I know how to bake)!

Even though I grew up with a Home Economics-teaching mom that I’ve baked with my whole life, there has long been a fine line between my ability to bake, and my willingness to bake. The “just-add-water” box gets the job done so I can move on to something else. On the other hand, my dad, who grew up on a farm in Illinois, always said to me growing up, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” My smart alec response was always, “Then I guess it’s not worth doing!”

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

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For years, the water crisis in Africa has been heavy on my heart. Something so simple, so accessible to most, is such a luxury to some. In 2013, I sought out an organization that I had admired from afar; Blood:Water out of Nashville, Tenn. I really liked that they were addressing the issue, but doing so in a more sustainable way than most; seeking to partner with local, grassroots movements, empowering them to transform communities not only through helping them access water, but also addressing the significant sanitation needs, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic that’s so closely paired with the water crisis. That was all I had learned about the organization, and it was enough to make me want to begin a partnership with my business, where every time someone bought or sold a house, a pre-determined about of people in one of their communities in sub-Saharan Africa would benefit.

A few years in, I was encouraged by my friend Jake, at Blood:Water, to team up with a few other core advocates in Denver (who I’d never met) to essentially adopt a community in Mozambique. Half of you just looked at a map. When you’re playing Scrabble, Mozambique is the most valuable country in the world (34 points), and is the only country in the world to have a modern weapon on its flag (AK47). Its accolades pretty much stop there. One of the poorest countries in the world, over 50% of citizens live below the world poverty line ($1.25/day). Even though there are over 25 million people in Mozambique, there are only 874 doctors, which is in the bottom five in the world in terms of health worker ratios. 71% of the rural population doesn’t have access to clean water, and the under-5 mortality rate is one of the highest in the world.

In order to better understand the need, see the communities, and meet some of the local heroes on the ground implementing the project, a group of four of us from Denver (and two Blood:Water staff) took a quick trip to Balama, Mozambique; returned late last night. I can’t speak for the rest of the group, but I know that I personally had a strong “just add water” mentality to the project. We raise the money, litter the place with wells, and we move on. They’re better off; we feel good. Win-win. Boy, was I wrong.

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Check back next week to read more about Dave’s experience in Mozambique.