Mar 18, 2014

The Natural Way, Part 3

Welcome to the third installment of The Natural Way, a series in which we are showcasing individuals and companies that are making a difference in their community by doing things "the natural way."

Take a look at the first part in the series - we talked with Lauren Nitschke of Nitschke Natural Beef about ranching and the importance of knowing your farmers.

In the second installment, we talked with Catalina, director of Art of Peace Montessori about "non-traditional" early childhood education and the importance of teaching children about sustainability and the environment.

Now for the third installment of this series.

Today we are talking with Mike Randall, Founder and Director of Operations for AWAT - All Who Are Thirsty, an organization focused on bringing "fresh water filtration systems and sanitation education to rural communities without access to clean water throughout the world."  A noble task, indeed!

Q:  Hi, Mike!  Can you introduce yourself?  Tell us a little about who you are.
Well, I grew up in Dallas, TX.  I've been married for almost 7 years to my wife Lindsay and we have an 18 month old son Noah.  I'm a worship leader at Gateway Church, and I run a non-profit called All Who Are Thirsty (AWAT).

Q:  What is AWAT and how was this organization conceived?
AWAT is a humanitarian aid organization dedicated to delivering clean water filters to developing countries as well as providing basic sanitation education to the people who live in the rural parts of Central and South America, and eventually the entire planet. How were we conceived?  Honestly, from a vision from God.  I spent some time in Guatemala in the summer of 2013, and what I saw there stuck with me much deeper than I realized at the time.   I was sitting in my backyard one day praying and God gave me a very clear vision of what he wanted AWAT to look like.

Q:  You haven't always been involved in humanitarian aid, what did you do before you dove into this lifestyle? 
I have known for years that I would love to play some sort of role in humanitarian aid at some point in my life.  I am a musician by trade, so my artistic focus and passions have really been on music for the past decade.   

Q:  Can you tell us a little about WHY you decided to make this leap? 
Honestly, the reason why I decided to take the plunge is because in spite of the millions of dollars going into the clean water effort around the globe, it is really only making a dent.  The more boots on the ground the better, and this is something that has to be addressed.  In our current global culture, this is a problem that can be solved but it takes a lot of people and a lot of awareness.  There wasn't and isn't enough noise bringing enough attention to the clean water and sanitation (or lack thereof) issue on our planet.  I decided to try and make a little more noise and make a little bigger dent.

Q:  Who is this organization benefiting? 
Our organization is really benefiting a lot of people.  Obviously the recipients of our filters and  the people who attend our seminars are the immediate beneficiaries.  Their lives are immediately changed and their families lives are immediately changed.  It also benefits individuals and organizations here in the States to be able to participate in a real effort and be able to see immediate results from their giving and participation.  

Q:  Why is this important? 
Almost 900 million people don't have access to clean water on our earth today.  A child dies roughly every 9 seconds from complications related to bad water.  It is such an huge issue with such a simple solution.  It's important because knowledge is power, and unless these people are taught basic things about sanitation and cleanliness, the entire world who is in the know is responsible for sharing that knowledge.  

Q:  What is the hardest part about what you do?
The hardest part about what we do is probably two things. First, I would say that dealing with greedy/shady people keeps us on our toes. There are a lot of people looking to take advantage of the ones trying to help developing countries. Secondly, the hardest thing we face is effectively communicating the real issue to the people who need the education the most, and the real solution about clean water and sanitation.

Q:  What is the best part about what you do? 
The best part about what we do is the peace of mind that after every project, approximately 300-600 people now have clean water and don't have to worry about getting sick with parasites or bacteria, and they can now achieve the goals that they have for their family.  When we get to see a community start to thrive because of something simple we were able to provide, it makes everything worth it. 

Q:  Can you explain a little about how your organization is involved in sustainability? 
We are very concerned about sustainability in our programs and the solutions we offer people.  When we were researching water filters and technologies, we wanted the best bang for our buck, but also we wanted it to be sustainable and green.  No chemicals, no replacement parts, no cartridges, nothing but the filter.  And we have been able to come up with a solution that meets a lot of our needs in the Lifestraw Family filters.  In a nutshell, each filter has a lifespan of 3 years for a family of 6 using it every single day for multiple gallons of water.  The beautiful part about it, is that most families average around 4 people, so it gives the filter a lifespan of close to 5 years of every day use with a simple and easy way to clean it without ever having to replace anything.  It's amazing.  After 5 years, we intend on running a repeat program to replace the filters once they have expired.

Q:  Do you have any advice for our readers - people who care about making a difference in the world but don't know where to start?
If someone really wants to get involved in making a difference in this world, I would say jump in.  Find out what you are passionate about and do something about it.  I didn’t know how to do any of this, but I'm learning because it has to be done.  It needs to be done.  Someone once told me to be and live out the change I wanted to see.  So, I'd say that's a great place to start.  You want to end childhood obesity? Go after it.  You want to end GMO produce, fight it.  If you want to start a little smaller, research non-profits and organizations who are already making a difference and volunteer, give financially, call them and ask how you can help.  Our world is much smaller than you would think, and we are capable of a whole lot more than what we think.  We just have to start doing.  Dreaming is great, don't get me wrong.  But we have to make our dreams come into reality.  How do you do that?  You make it happen.

Thank you, Mike, for this valuable information!  If you would like more information on All Who Are Thirsty, check out their website or their facebook page.  

No comments :