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Clean water initiative gives the gift of clean drinking water to African village

Andrea Blackstone | 12/19/2014, 6 a.m.
The Ice Bucket Challenge, which involves pouring a bucket full of ice water over a participant’s head to raise money ...
Lamin Jatta, president and CEO of the Kunta Kinteh Family Foundation has never forgotten having to fetch water in buckets in the morning and evening when he was growing up in Juffureh. The method of getting water to drink, cook and wash has reportedly not changed. Jatta knew others who died from unclean water. His personal experience is part of the reason why he is so passionate about completing a clean water project in Juffureh, although he now resides in the United States. (Courtesy Photo/Lamin Jatta, The Kunta Kinteh Family Foundation)

The Ice Bucket Challenge, which involves pouring a bucket full of ice water over a participant’s head to raise money for charity, reportedly raised millions of dollars worldwide for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Videos of people taking the frigid challenge are widely shared on social media. The fundraiser seemingly sparked a new wave of nonprofit and fundraising activism. Other nonprofits are currently implementing similar online campaigns, while putting their own twist on the Ice Bucket Challenge concept.

For example, Lamin Jatta, a ninth generation descendant of Kunta Kinteh, is spreading awareness about water’s value as a precious resource in-person and through social media. He hopes that the public will feel compelled to help bring clean drinking water to the village of Juffureh in Gambia in West Africa. Jatta and a new team of ten volunteers, primarily based in Seattle, Washington launched an online fundraising campaign on Dec. 11, 2014 to raise funds.

“Our program manager, Courtney LeMarco, came up with an idea to campaign online during the holiday season. Our goal is to have 100,000 people donate at least $10 each. If we achieve this, it would help make our dream come true to bring clean water to 2,800 people who live in the village of Kunta Kinteh. Friends and family can also challenge each other to donate online while sharing the campaign and message of the nonprofit,” Jatta said.

Jatta, president and CEO of the Kunta Kinteh Family Foundation, officially secured nonprofit status in Oct. 2014. He connected with Quest Water Solutions, an innovative U.S. water technology company based in Canada, which is gaining momentum to work on similar water projects in developing countries.

John Balanko, Quest’s CEO and president, works along with a core team of about six people and contractors, to bring clean water to places like Angola, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and South America. He explained how greatly clean drinking water is needed in many parts of the world. In some cases, the efforts of well-meaning volunteers who seek to bring clean water to developing countries may not be as effective as first believed.

“A lot of charities and churches go in and dig boreholes. What they don’t realize is there could be heavy metals in the water, which is common in Africa. Drinking this water could kill a child under five faster than drinking polluted water,” Balanko said.

One reason why Quest’s water technology is being accepted worldwide is because the majority of similar water units may cost approximately $3,000-$5,000 to maintain yearly, whereas Quest estimates that their unit requires approximately $750. No expensive chemicals are used with Quest's technology. In Angola, two 24-year olds who live in the village run the unit.

“It’s very simple to teach a technician to replace auto cleaning filters,” Balanko said. “The AQUAtap™ Community Drinking Water Station and WEPSTM Atmospheric Water Extraction and Purification System can be used with fresh water, brackish water or salt water. Technology is not that much different, it’s how we put it together. No one really does a purification and distribution unit. We call it a community drinking water station. You come up to it, push a button and water comes out about a liter per ten seconds. It’s all solar-powered without batteries. It’s a special solar pump that we use. Our water beats the World Health Organization’s standards for drinking water by a long shot.”

Jatta is waiting for authorization from his foundation to order four units. The retail price point is estimated at $120,000 per unit, although Quest is willing to offer a discounted rate, since the Kunta Kinteh Family Foundation is a nonprofit.

“Each time we set these units up, they’re up and running in about four hours,” Balanko said.

To learn more about Jatta’s online fundraising campaign that ends February 28, 2015, visit: www.crowdrise.com/kuntakintehfamily.