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2016: Greg’s Reflection


While traveling the globe this year for Design Outreach, I heard several responses from recipients of the LifePump I didn’t expect to hear, “Now I get to go to church” and “I’m praying for you so that other villages can get one of these pumps too.” I can’t stop thinking about our brothers and sisters across the globe in very poor, desperate situations. I’d like to share a story from my trip, so you can get a glimpse of how you are changing lives in Haiti.

It was a hot and muggy July afternoon. We arrived in Port-Au-Prince and took a Missionary Aviation Fellowship six-passenger Cessna to the remote but well-inhabited area of northwest Haiti. The flight offers a beautiful view of the blue Caribbean ocean and mountains. As one missionary told us, “Haiti at 1,000 feet looks like paradise.” The situation on the ground looks much different. People are struggling. Kids are suffering. Witchcraft is rampant.

We landed and were soon greeted by missionary and former Boeing engineer Bruce Robinson. He loaded our team into his four-wheel-drive Land Rover and we took a very bumpy ride over dirt roads to their guesthouse. Bruce’s experience as a 30-year missionary brings a wealth of knowledge, strong relationships with the Haitian people and great inspiration as our first LifePump partner in Haiti.

The next day we drove about an hour over nearly impassable roads to a small village called Raymond Jean Bois, an area suffering from a lack of safe water. A recently installed LifePump is located next to a church, and we saw long lines of people from miles around getting water. The LifePump replaced another pump that kept breaking down and driving people to unsafe water sources.

The next day, our team joined their Sunday church service. After church, we asked to interview some people from the congregation about the nearby LifePump. Through a Creole translator, we asked Madame Maricien, “How will this pump now help you and your family?” Expecting an obvious answer like “Our kids can now go to school” or “I can now grow a garden,” we heard, “Now I get to go to church.”

What we didn’t realize was that Sunday, like every other day, the women walk about three miles to the nearest water source and do so very early in the morning to avoid the hot Haitian sun. This means that church is over by the time the women return to the village.

What you are doing is making a significant difference in the lives of people in difficult situations. Thank you for caring, giving your time and money, and creating a lasting impact. We started Design Outreach to share the love of Jesus by helping people the right way, the best way, and this almost always takes more time and money than alternatives. Presently, we are in conversations with national governments in Africa and Haiti, as well as the world’s largest nonprofits such as World Vision, about expanding the use of LifePumps. This happens because we’re solving real problems, doing it the right way, and praying much and often.

So what can you do? Pray fervently and give generously. So much of the world needs our help, and every single person like Maricien matters. I have witnessed the jubilation and thanksgiving that accompany bringing water to a village. To me, it is worth any amount of sacrifice to bring about just one story like Maricien’s. By continuing your support of Design Outreach, Maricien’s story can become the story of other women in Haiti and across Africa.

May God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful Christmas season!

Greg Bixler, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Co-founder DO

P.S. We appreciate your prayers and want to pray specifically for you too. Please email me and let me know how we can pray for you. My email is greg@doutreach.org.

The LifePump – the Story of a 40 year Journey | Part 2

 

From Poverty to PhD

As a child growing up 150 kilometers outside the urban center of Malawi’s Mzimba District—a rural region characterized by illiteracy rates of about 62 percent—Beatrice Chisenga spent her evenings poring over her school books, lit by the soft glow of a heavily fumed kerosene lamp.

Exhausted from fetching firewood, pounding maize, helping cook meals for her family, attending school and walking for hours to gather water, Beatrice hunched over the small table in the center of her family’s grass thatch-roofed home, her eyes heavy with sleep and her dusty feet firmly planted in a bucket of the day’s remaining water.

Her mother knew her children’s only ticket to the city—an escape from the vicious cycle of African rural poverty—was education.

By making her kids keep their feet soaking wet for long hours after the African sun slipped below the horizon, perhaps she could keep them awake long enough to study their way out of poverty.

As it turns out, her mother was right.

Nearly 40 years later, Beatrice lives in Manchester, UK, where she earned a PhD in Project Management from the University of Salford and now serves as the African Field Director for Christian humanitarian engineering nonprofit Design Outreach.

Those long nights in the books, those buckets of water she walked miles to fetch and her unrelenting ambition were the catalyst for a life dedicated to bringing hope and change to her native land.

Education Matters

In developing countries like Malawi, which is ranked the third poorest nation in the world according to the World Bank, education and access to clean water are intertwined. Without a safe water source near a village, attending school becomes impossible.

Worldwide, nearly 700 million people lack access to safe water, and women and children spend an estimated 125 million hours each day collecting water. Many have to walk miles to a water source—often a river, stream or open well—and much of the water that is gathered is so contaminated that a child dies every 90 seconds from waterborne disease

“It’s really hard to excel in school if you don’t have clean water,” says Dr. Greg Bixler, CEO and co-founder of Design Outreach, an organization dedicated to solving the world’s water crisis through robust and reliable hand pump engineering. “The distance to collect water … puts women and children in danger of being attacked by animals or bandits. The time it takes to fetch water several times a day affects the children’s ability to attend school, and walking long distances is tiring, so it also affects their ability to study.”

To complicate the issue, many rural communities place the burden of domestic responsibility, including the long treks for water, entirely on the women and girls. In sub-Saharan Africa, Beatrice says, women often work 18 hours in a day.

BEATRICE 1

Beatrice Chisenga during her University years

Beatrice knows this firsthand. Because her mother suffered from illness, Beatrice and her sister did all of their family’s household work, while her brother was excluded from such chores. “Our culture had set high expectations for a girl child in preparation for womanhood,” Beatrice says. “My mother used to state that she would like to ensure we are well-baked so as not to be ashamed should we fail to be educated and continue to live in the villages.” However, her mother ensured they worked hard in school as well.

She remembers the exhaustion that swept over her those long nights spent under the light of a kerosene lamp, her feet soaking.

She also remembers the faces of old friends who were not as fortunate as she was.

“My friend Rose was very intelligent,” Beatrice says. “Rose always attained the highest grade in our first four years of the primary school. Because of the paternal system and placing responsibility on a girl child, Rose’s mother made her drop out of school to help her look after the younger siblings, even though Rose had an elder brother . … All my life I’ve been thinking, ‘If Rose were allowed to go to school, where would she be?’”

The Fight for Water

Beatrice was the third of five children born to two primary school teachers. As early as five years old, she remembers walking up to four miles each day to gather water. As a teenager, she, like most women, became so skillful that she could balance a 20-liter bucket on her head.

While her family moved from one place to another as her parents’ jobs dictated, finding water to drink was always a challenge. Whether it was an open well, the closest river or a borehole, it was a task that took hours, and the risk of water borne disease was an ever-present threat.

One of the first drinking water sources she remembers was a river—the same river they washed their clothes and bathed in. Much of the river water closest to the bank was thick with mud and silt.

“(We thought that) as long as it was clear, that meant it was hygienic,” Beatrice says. “(So) we stepped in deeper because that was the ‘clean’ water.”

Around 1975, Beatrice’s father was transferred to a new location, Kacheche, where she saw a borehole for the first time. As promising as it seemed, the borehole was located more than a mile from the village near an agricultural station, where the government trained farmers in crop and animal management. This was the same borehole used to water the chickens, pigs and cattle.

“That water was very silty, and it was even very hard to get water from that borehole,” Beatrice says. “We waited one or two hours before the pump could produce water. Before we filled two or three pails, it was pumping dry, which meant we had to wait again for the underground water to replenish. It was very usual to be at this borehole the whole afternoon.”

Because the borehole seemed to be more trouble than it was worth, many in the village resorted yet again to water from the Kasito River, increasing vulnerability to deadly cholera and dysentery.

Like the borehole near the agricultural station, many pumps do not reach far enough into the ground to provide a consistent flow, and dysfunctional pumps are a common problem that plagues rural communities in developing countries. Some estimate that a third of the world’s hand pumps are no longer functional, leaving remote villages like those Beatrice grew up in without a reliable source of clean water.

“There was another borehole that was farther,” Beatrice says. “My mother used to wake (my sister and me) up as early as five o’clock in the morning. Most of the times we found a long queue at the borehole. We would sit down and play. You would expect to wait at least an hour at most. By the time we were back home, we had been away at least two and a half hours.”

The Shadow of Death

While waiting for water robbed villagers of their time, contaminated water threatened to take their lives. In the late 1970s, shortly before her father passed away, Beatrice experienced her own brush with death.

During this time, the Malawian government endorsed campaigns to educate local people about the importance of boiling water to combat dysentery and cholera.

“I remember the songs sung on an immunization campaign under a tree,” Beatrice recalls. “The songs were sung with passion pleading with the women not to be deceived that children are guarded against whooping cough and dysentery and deaths with African herb-medicated ropes tied around the necks or waists of the children, but boiling drinking water and treating the children with oral hydration, homemade sugar-salt water, as a first-aid measure for diarrheal diseases. Although the messages had good intentions, women who were illiterate could not comply to the sugar-salt solutions ratios. Making wrong combinations had devastating effects on the dehydrated children.”

Despite the campaign efforts, Beatrice and her family succumbed to an outbreak of dysentery, a waterborne illness that ravished their small community. For Beatrice, the disease induced months of enervating illness that almost took her life.

Even after the initial diarrhea and vomiting subsided, the illness became chronic and was so debilitating that six months after its onset, Beatrice was still unable to take that year’s final exams.

“I remember my father hired a young man with a bicycle to take me to Jombo Health Centre,” Beatrice said. “Between our school, Kacheche, where we lived and Jumbo Health Centre is a big river called Kasito River with wide banks, and often in the rainy season people were washed away and died in the river, as there was no bridge by then. My legs were tied to make sure I did not slip off. The guy managed to cross me over the river safely. When we reached the health center, I was given an injection of procaine penicillin, as I had even started coughing by then. … Despite being treated, … I never recovered. My parents started to lose hope as I could not eat and had missed going to school more than three months by then.”

As her condition deteriorated, her parents began to contact close relations, who persuaded them to seek help from African doctors. Beatrice remembers being given porridge made of water soaked in tree roots as a last-ditch effort to save her. This, too, was fruitless. At that point, her uncle decided it was time to take her to the Mzuzu city mission hospital known as St John’s.

“It was a long journey in a full bus when we arrived in Mzuzu,” she says. “I do not remember how I managed to get to the hospital, but all I remember was that I might have collapsed because the next thing I saw was (that it was) evening—it was the first time to see electricity—and nurses were handing over that I was the most critical ill patient in the ward.”

After two weeks of tests and treatment, Beatrice was sent home. Still very weak, she slept constantly and continued to miss school. As a final effort to save their daughter, Beatrice’s parents decided to take her to Ekwendeni Hospital, a Presbyterian mission under the Church of Scotland UK. “It was believed that people got better at this hospital because Dr. Irvin, a Scottish missionary and medical doctor, used to pray for patients,” Beatrice says. “This was a rumor known almost everywhere in the country by then.”

After weeks in this hospital, the doctor determined that the dysentery Beatrice had contracted caused her to develop septicaemia, a serious infection-related complication characterized by systemic inflammation and poisoning of the blood, as well as malnutrition.

Beatrice eventually recovered from the infection, but long-term effects have lingered. To this day, she is deaf in her right ear.

“Many people did not believe how I survived after being heavily hit,” Beatrice says. “I am what I am by the grace of God. Many of my fellow children did not survive who were critically ill as well.”

Changing the Story

Despite the waterborne disease that threatened to take her life, Beatrice always excelled in her studies. She and her friend Eliza, who are still close today, were the only girls to be selected by the government to attend secondary school education since their primary school opened two decades earlier at Euthini.

BEATRICE VILLAGE 2

Beatrice (second from left) with her cousins. Embangweni Mzimba District, Malawi. 2012

“I was ambitious,” Beatrice says. “With all of that  work I was involved in (at home), I started making decisions: ‘I must get educated and get out of the rural area because I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of carrying firewood, I’ve had enough of fetching water, I’ve had enough of pounding maize.’ … My ambition was to get educated so I could get a good job and live in the city.”

The school was called Mary Mount Secondary School and was a reputable girls’ Catholic institution in Mzuzu, a city in northern Malawi. During her time there, her mother’s “harsh” methods of teaching her the importance of education and studying stuck with her. By this time, though, she didn’t need soaked feet to keep her alert.

“At night, the prefects used to switch off all lights as per school policy at 2200 hours,” Beatrice says. “We used to sneak out and sit outside the classroom, reading using security lights in the cold. … Many times, a few of us would be reading outside … until 2 a.m.”

During her time at Mary Mount, she served as a senior student prefect and a leader of the student interdenominational Christian fellowship called Scripture Union.

Right before her final exams, her mother passed away, leaving her an orphan. Though she had always dreamed of following in her parents’ footsteps, her grades did not qualify her to go on to get her teaching degree university. Instead, she was accepted into a university dedicated to training nurses and midwives.

The nursing and midwifery diploma required completion of a four-year program, which she finished in 1989. She then worked with the government in the Mangochi District, mainly in the maternal and child health section.

“I noticed that diarrhea remained the highest killer of the children in the children’s ward as well as in the community,” she says. “I had passion and many times reflected on how I barely survived with the complications of dysentery whilst a young girl at Kacheche.”

She went back to the university to get her BSc in nursing, with a specialty in community health. “Improving the livelihoods of the rural has been my passion,” she says.

Inspired by the need for improved health care in rural communities, Beatrice worked with key international NGOs at the operational as well as managerial level to improve rural health, including safe drinking water.

The fervor she developed as a nurse led her to work with NGOs that dealt with rural health programs. Because there was no Master’s program for community health in Malawi, Beatrice moved to the UK to earn an MSc in project management and later a PhD with a focus on examining factors that influence maintenance of boreholes in a rural context.

“The particular interest arose because of the experiences of the borehole at Kacheche which is so vivid in my life,” she says. “Now, in Manyamula in the late 1980s, we saw a great development as World Vision had constructed a borehole about 1 mile from my grandfather’s house. When we went again, the borehole had broken down, and my grandmother used to say, ‘The World Vision borehole has broken down. We have gone back to draw water from the dam.’ These two lived experiences facilitated me to explore the factors that influence the maintenance of boreholes.”

Beatrice Chisenga (white blouse) in the home of her grandfather with village relatives. Manyamula, Mzimba District. 2014

Beatrice Chisenga (white blouse) in the home of her grandfather with village relatives. Manyamula, Mzimba District. 2014

Knowledge to Action

In July 2015, Dr. Beatrice Chisenga and Dr. Greg Bixler just happened to be at the same conference at Loughborough University in England, the 38th International Water, Engineering and Development Center Conference.

After hearing Beatrice present her PhD research on how the government and NGOs can improve water supply in rural communities, Greg introduced himself and shared with her the mission of Design Outreach.

“She seemed really interested in what we were doing,” Bixler said. “I just had a gut feeling. How many people have left the village and done (what she’s doing)? It’s just amazing.”

Their initial connection led to a series of Skype conversations and the development of “a high level of trust,” Bixler says.

As a result of those conversations, Beatrice became Design Outreach’s African Field Director and is now serving as liaison between Design Outreach and the local Malawi government in a joint effort to provide improved water access for rural communities—specifically, the LifePump in Malawi and beyond.

Designed to reach depths of up to 325 feet, more than twice that of other hand pumps, the LifePump is a robust, ergonomic hand pump that makes pumping water efficient, reliable and easy for everyone—from young children to pregnant women to the elderly.

Based on a progressive cavity design, the LifePump produces water almost immediately and is still working reliably more than two years after installation in some communities. Because some traditional hand pumps are known to fail after as little as six months of continuous use, the LifePumps’s durability is crucial.

While the pump’s resilience is critical for long-term impact, the Design Outreach team also understands the importance of providing a sustainable solution through proper maintenance training and a readily available supply chain.

“Design Outreach is focusing on a very critical priority problem at an international and in-country level,” Beatrice says. “Improvement of technical capacity and the supply chain is very important. Most NGOs aren’t even involved in the supply chain. If pumps break down, there’s no spare parts. Design Outreach is interested in improving the supply chain.”

Dr. Beatrice Chisenga’s childhood is proof that a long-lasting solution is needed to prevent debilitating illness, provide opportunities for children to attend school and begin to break the cycle of poverty, particularly in the rural communities that are so close to her heart.

“Providing a sustainable LifePump is actually a great thing for the rural areas, improving their lives,” she says. “The pump is more durable and has a greater lifespan than ordinary pumps, and the fact that they have come up with a pump that can retrieve water up to 100 meters (325 feet) is a great asset.” Beatrice believes she has the knowledge and skills to help the Lifepump project excel in different countries by negotiating for sustainable project management principles, which encompass a bottom-up community-based management approach as proposed by UNDP.

Thanks to Dr. Beatrice Chisenga’s understanding of Malawian culture and the inner workings of the government, as well as her web of connections in her country, she is in the process of negotiating with the government for the LifePump inclusion and possible consideration of standardization at country level. “This could be the beginning of policy negotiations and strategy for introduction of the LifePump standardization in Malawi and beyond.’ according to Bixler, “that would open the door for hundreds of pumps in Malawi alone very soon.”

Beatrice says she has always been motivated to use her knowledge of improving world water access to change the story for countless people in her native land.

Now, without question, she is.

Beatrice (Left) Chisenga and a village relative. Embangweni Mzimba District, Malawi. 2014

Reflecting on her story—both the trials and triumphs over devastating illness and a male-dominated culture—Beatrice sees God’s hand at work in her life. “I was very down that I failed to (meet the requirements) for the teaching degree, but when I look back, I feel it was God’s perfect plan,” she says. “It was in 1981 when I was assured that Jesus died and saved me as a person. Since then, I have been persuaded to imagine that God had a purpose for my life, especially that I escaped death in Kacheche.”

Perhaps now, because of Beatrice’s story and the work of Design Outreach, children in rural Malawi will be influenced to have the energy and health necessary to dream big, to study hard, and to live a life drastically different than those who went before them.

Perhaps now they can find their ticket to a better life through a sustainable supply of safe drinking water provided by innovative, durable technology such as the LifePump.

 

The LifePump — the Story of a 40 year Journey | Part 1

Many of you are familiar with the success of the LifePump, but did you know that the LifePump story has actually been in the works for more than 40 years? We want to share with you how the LifePump came to be, and for that we need to rewind a bit! Below is Part 1 – featuring the incredible story of Chris Walter, whose experience in the Peace Corps eventually led to major connections for Design Outreach.

From Peace Corps to LifePump

For California native Chris Walter, passing by a Peace Corps information table in the middle of the U. C. Berkeley campus in the 1970s would be a turning point in his life. Little did he know, that moment—and the passion that followed—would help pave the way for the work of Design Outreach, a Christian humanitarian engineering nonprofit dedicated to developing innovative solutions that help break the cycle of poverty.

Walter, now a software company professional living in San Jose, was studying geography at the time, struggling to determine how he wanted to use his degree. Having a hunger for adventure but little idea of what he wanted to do long-term, he stopped by the Peace Corps booth and spoke with recruiters—a conversation that would land him in the heart of the Central African Republic.

“It was like a light bulb went on,” he says. “This is actually why I’ve gone to college. This is what I want to do with my life.”

During his two years of Peace Corps service from 1977-1979, Walter worked on a well project funded by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), drilling boreholes and installing hand pumps in response to a decade-long Sahelian drought that took the lives of more than 100,000 people. That’s where Walter says he “developed (his) taste for living and working in Africa.”

1979 PCV Tim Crow (beard) and Christopher Walter are volunteers with a mobile, small bore hole well-drilling team. They work together with the mobile drilling rig, using augers to drill a 4-inch hole which they will fit with a two inch pipe to provide clean drinking water to the community of Batangafo. Small bore holes can be dug more quickly and less expensively than the open, traditional wells, can go greater depths, and are less susceptible to contamination.

1979
PCV Tim Crow (beard) and Christopher Walter are volunteers with a mobile, small bore hole well-drilling team. They work together with the mobile drilling rig, using augers to drill a 4-inch hole which they will fit with a two inch pipe to provide clean drinking water to the community of Batangafo. Small bore holes can be dug more quickly and less expensively than the open, traditional wells, can go greater depths, and are less susceptible to contamination.

“There was a lot of inspiration there,” he says. “Part of it was the joy of working with water—being at a well site when all the women and children come up and there’s such a transformation in their lives and there’s a happy crowd around. It was wonderful being around those wells.”

Those two years, Walter says, were life-changing. The exotic African culture, the break from a materialistic American way of life, and the confidence that his time was being used for something worthwhile ignited his passion for providing clean water for the 663 million people across the globe who go without.

When political unrest and human rights violations in the region put a stop to USAID funding of the project he worked on, Walter found himself back in the States unsettled and unsatisfied. “I felt like there was a job left undone,” he says, “so I was queued up to try to do more.”

With a newfound passion for improving water access in developing nations, Walter searched for jobs that would give him the experience and qualifications necessary for full-time work in international aid. After doing hydraulic analysis for a geophysical engineering company, he landed a job at Robbins & Myers, a diversified manufacturer that was looking for a French-speaking person who wanted to be in Africa. The company had just started a new international division that supplied progressive cavity pumps to developing markets, and they needed on-the-ground support.

Walter was the perfect fit. “I found them, and they found me,” he says.
During his four and a half years with Robbins & Myers, from 1981-1986, the new field service engineer—and later the manager of marketing and distribution—would make 19 three- to six-week trips to Africa to troubleshoot the hand pumps, meet with project personnel and funding agencies, and work with local manufacturer representatives in countries across the continent he had come to love.

These pumps, unbeknownst to Walter, would long outlast his stint with Robbins & Myers, providing clean water to hundreds of people for years to come.

A Shared Passion
From 1981-1990, the United Nations (UN) designated The International Drinking Water Decade, a period when international organizations joined forces to provide access to clean water and sanitation worldwide. According to The Global Development Research Center, this decade of awareness and heightened efforts provided clean water to more than 1.2 billion people and sanitation to about 770 million.

During this time, Mike Dillon, current president of German pump manufacturer SEEPEX and Walter’s former boss at Robbins & Myers, was involved in the development of a progressive cavity hand pump that was instrumental in the UN Water Decade’s goal of improving global water access—the same type of hand pump Walter had helped troubleshoot for his nearly five years with Robbins & Myers.

These pumps were durable, long-lasting, easy to use and different from any of the other hand pump technologies available at the time. But despite the clear benefits, production would soon cease.

Just as the Peace Corps had stopped receiving funding because of volatile conditions in the Central African Republic, the operation of which Dillon was a part came to a close because of high production costs and competition.

For nearly three decades, the passion that Walter and Dillon shared for changing the story of the millions of people worldwide who lack access to clean water would still simmer. Walter took jobs at software companies that would allow him to continue to travel to developing countries, and Dillon clung to his progressive cavity hand pump literature hoping that the pump he had worked so hard to develop would one day be used again.

A Crucial Connection
In late 2011, Walter was browsing social media when he came across a photo that caught his eye. The photo was posted by Jim Hocking, founder of an organization dedicated to serving people in central Africa by providing clean water and the hope of the Gospel.

A Moyno pump at Maigaro Disp 2 village in Central African Republic in summer 2015 (Courtesy of Water for Good)

A Moyno pump at Maigaro Disp 2 village in Central African Republic in summer 2015 (Courtesy of Water for Good)

Called Water for Good, the nonprofit works primarily in the Central African Republic, the same area Walter served during his time with the Peace Corps and the same place where Design Outreach CEO and Co-founder Dr. Greg Bixler and his team of engineers began work on a new hand pump that would overcome the challenges faced by other pump technologies in rural communities.

Some hand pumps last only six months before breaking down, and some estimate that a third of the world’s hand pumps no longer work. This knowledge is what pushed Bixler and Co-founder Abe Wright to use their engineering skills to develop an innovative pumping solution to help reverse these alarming statistics.

The photo that Walter saw on his social media news feed depicted a Robbins & Myers hand pump still in operation in the Central African Republic—the same type of pump he had worked with decades prior and the same type of pump that inspired the Design Outreach team to develop the LifePump, a progressive cavity hand pump designed to provide even the most remote villages with a safe, reliable and sustainable source of clean water.

It was this photo that set off a chain of events that Dillon describes as “serendipitous” and that Bixler calls “a God thing.”

A Network of Ambassadors
After seeing the photo that reminded him of his own time in central Africa, Walter reached out to Hocking, and the two discussed their connections to others working in international water supply. Walter knew Dillon from his work with Robbins & Myers, and Hocking knew Bixler and Wright from his association with the Grace Brethren Church and their shared connection to the Central African Republic.

Both Walter and Hocking were enthusiastic about the use of progressive cavity hand pumps, having seen firsthand how many of the early Robbins & Myers pumps were still functioning 30 years after installation. Knowing that Bixler and Wright desired to engineer a sustainable pumping solution that would outlast traditional hand pumps, Hocking told Walter about the work of Design Outreach.

Meanwhile, Bixler and Wright knew they wanted to develop an improved hand pump modeled after the Robbins & Myers pump used in the Central African Republic, but they didn’t have a manufacturing partner to engineer the parts. After extensive testing of a prototype in the Central African Republic, Bixler and his team knew that the hand pump project would require a reputable company with quality manufacturing capacity that could engineer and manufacture a couple specialized parts.

“One thing we realized at the end of the testing period is that we needed to make an optimal progressive cavity pump element or the project was not going to work,” Bixler says.
In an effort to track down a suitable partner company, a Design Outreach volunteer had been researching companies that might be able to provide the pumping elements—the rotor and the stator. But no one seemed to be interested. Still, the volunteer sent information about Design Outreach’s LifePump project to the SEEPEX office in Enon, Ohio, hoping it would catch the eye of someone there.

Just when the Design Outreach team, also based in Ohio, thought the search might be fruitless, Walter reached out to Dillon, encouraging him to be a part of the LifePump project.

“Mike was walking through the (SEEPEX) office and saw something on someone’s desk about the hand pump, and he said ‘I want to take care of that,’” Bixler says. “There’s no coincidence. How many progressive cavity pump manufacturers are there in the world? Maybe half a dozen? And this is located an hour away. … This is one of those things we like to call a ‘God thing’ because there’s no other explanation.”

A Pump Built for Life
As a result of the connection that Walter helped facilitate between Design Outreach and SEEPEX, the LifePump became a reality and enough have been produced to serve an estimated 27,000 people in Africa and Haiti with implementing partners World Vision, Water for Good, and ODRINO – through a 7-country pilot program to prove field-readiness. Results have been very positive and are catching the attention of prominent NGOs and high level Ministry of Water and Irrigation officials.

A Moyno pump at Nandobo Ecole village in Central African Republic in 2014 (Courtesy of Water for Good)

A Moyno pump at Nandobo Ecole village in Central African Republic in 2014 (Courtesy of Water for Good)

Designed to reach depths of 325 feet, the LifePump can draw water from locations where other hand pumps have failed. Its durable construction and ergonomic design make it ideal for remote areas where women and children are primarily responsible for gathering water.

While the LifePump was inspired by the Robbins & Myers pumps that Walter and Hocking worked with during the UN Water Decade, Bixler and his team of engineers have labored to perfect the design.

“I was almost shocked at how much improvement they put into the design of the pump,” Walter says. “It looks like an incredible machine, and it looks like the kind of machine that is really well-suited to where it’s going and what it needs to do.”

Hocking, having spent much of his life dedicated to serving the poor in Africa, also acknowledges the importance of the LifePump. “Longer-lasting pumps are definitely more valuable, especially in remote areas of the world like the Central African Republic. … Design Outreach has actually produced a pump that will draw water out of deep wells where other pumps cannot.”

For Walter, knowing that the connection he helped facilitate has led to the production of 68 LifePumps for Africa and Haiti is both comforting and inspiring.

“I feel really, really fortunate to have had something that I had put a lot of time and effort and hope into … 30 years later to actually see, ‘Oh, I contributed,’” Walter says. “It was just a dream come true.”

Introducing Our New Fundraising Coordinator

We recently welcomed Amy Leffel to the Design Outreach team as a part-time Fundraising Coordinator. Amy comes with a vast array of experience and a deep passion for affecting the lives of the poor—both physically and spiritually. Our marketing partners at 212 Media Studios took a few minutes to get to know Amy, and thought you would love to meet her too. Here is a glimpse of their Q&A time: 

Q: What brought you to DO?
A: “I came to DO just a few short weeks ago! I heard from Jeff Jackson that DO was looking into hiring a fundraising coordinator, so I investigated DO online and was so excited about what’s going on here! I am very excited to be working with DO to meet the needs of the poor overseas, something I am very committed to.”

Q: What other experience do you have in this field.
A: “My interest and burden for helping the poor started when I was a teenager, having taken many trips overseas, I was devastated to see the kind of conditions people lived in. My exposure to global poverty came from trips to Haiti, Mexico, Cambodia, Indonesia etc. My burden for alleviating poverty led me to study International Development in college, where I was able to learn a great deal about how to solve core issues in the under-developed world.”

Q: Where are you from? Married? Have kids?
A: “I am from Columbus and just graduated from THE Ohio State University. I live near Ohio State’s campus with a few roommates who are in my Bible study. I love living with these girls, never a dull moment!”

Q: Why are you excited to work with DO?
A: “I am excited to be a part of DO because we are directly effecting the lives of the poor. We are making a real difference in Africa right now by supplying rural villages with clean water. The ripple effect of clean water will allow the people in these areas to have more free time to improve other aspects of life. What is also exciting about working with DO is knowing that not only are we meeting physical needs, but spiritual need are being met, through sharing the gospel!”

Q: What responsibilities will your job include? And how many hours per week?
A: “My position at DO is Fundraising Coordinator. Primarily I am keeping in touch with fundraising champions who have contributed to funding a Life Pump for a village. In addition to conversing with donors, I am also playing a role in starting new fundraising ideas and forming new relationships with groups in our community. My role is to maintain and begin new relationships with partners of DO, which is so fun for me because I love people! I work part time—about 20 hours a week.”

Q: What do you like to do for fun?
A: “In my free time, I am very committed to my Bible study and spending time with my friends there. I also am involved in leading a high school age Bible study which is so chaotic, and so fun! In general I love doing anything with people. I especially love being outdoors any chance I get; on any given Saturday night, you can probably find me sitting on my porch or by a campfire with friends.”

Want to get in touch with Amy? Contact her via email at amyl@doutreach.org

Water is Life

A world without water is a world void of life. Mars is a perfect example. Humans need water to survive—and not just for the physical health benefits it offers. Water is crucial for the growth of plants, for bathing, cooking, cleaning, making mud to build bricks, and so much more.

Last March, Amelia—a journalist for Pumps and Systems Magazine—joined us on a trip to Malawi and Zambia. Seeing the dry, hot African plains with limited water made her realize just how important clean water is.

Side note: Amelia was part of a bible study on the book of John. Ironically, jut before coming to Africa, it was her week to teach the lesson, which just so happened to be about John 4—the woman at the well.

In that story, the woman—an outcast, is getting water from the well. Jesus begins speaking to her and tells her all she ever did; how she had been married to 5 men, and was currently with a man who was not her husband. Why did he point it out? Because it proved she was soul-thirsty. She was looking to fill a void that nothing could satisfy. And as a response Jesus didn’t condemn her. He told her that he could give her living water so she never thirsted again. His water offered life. Eternal life. He was the wellspring she needed.

As Amelia went to Africa, she couldn’t help but compare the two scenarios; the one in the Bible, and the one in present-day third-world nation. Both included a dryness that wears down the soul. Without LifePumps, the African women would often be gone for 12 hours per day, getting water at the well, which would slowly drip brown water into a bucket. After fighting off hyenas and other wild animals, the women would walk miles back to their homes, where they would attempt to feed their children.

Marriages were falling apart because the women were never able to be with their families. Kids were not going to school because they had to pick up the slack at home.

But with the Lifepump, women were able to stay home. Their marriages were doing better. They were able to plant gardens and make bricks to build homes. Kids were going to school. The Lifepump truly brought life to the village.

And Amelia thought about how the Lord does that for us. He doesn’t just satisfy a small thirst within us. He gives us life abundantly. His “water” on our dry souls gives us an all-encompassing life change. And she was able to share that with the Africans she met.

How appropriate that it is called the Lifepump. What a great way to exemplify the values Design Outreach is founded on: The Lord offers life. And like he did for the woman at the well that hot day 2,000 years ago, the water he offers you and I today quenches for more than a moment, in more than one way. It lasts for eternity.

To hear the story from Amelia’s perspective, check out her article in the Pumps and Systems Magazine.

 

 

 

 

A New Perspective

Dina Tayim recently went on a trip to Africa with Design Outreach. She shared some of her reflections with us, and we thought you would enjoy hearing about it too!

It’s crazy to think our trip was only a few weeks ago. What an incredible experience! It makes everything I’ve done for Design Outreach so real. Seeing the end-user experience was very eye opening. Even though I knew that such underdeveloped communities existed, it’s different now that I have seen it first hand. It’s so weird to wake up in a bed every morning, drive my car to work, complain about gas prices, go through whatever the daily grind might be, knowing that I have personally met—and I’d like to think befriended—people who live in mud and straw huts with limited access to water. It is just so jarring. I haven’t quite figured out how to reconcile my thoughts.

Being able to meet with World Vision, and the pump technicians, and the village community helped me gain a lot of insight into how things work and are managed end-to-end. One week was an extremely short amount of time, so I feel like we got a lot accomplished considering.

One thing that made me slightly uncomfortable (in a good way!) was the language barrier. It was great to bond over learning some new words, but it was really strange being the outcast in a sense. At the same time we were always the center of attention, which was totally expected, but still a little strange. As soon as I started walking over to the kid on the soccer field, I could literally feel every single persons eye’s on me, waiting to see where I was going, what I was going to do, etc. Even at a village in Malawi, all the kids remembered my name when we came back a second time. To me, that enforces the fact that we actually have a lasting impression on the people. They will remember us, and what we did, and most importantly, how we made them feel. And vice-versa. This is an incredible responsibility and I’m honored to help represent DO.

The kiddos made me happy. They are just so innocent and enthusiastic; you can’t help but feel happy around them. They are also the easiest to get along with, and bonding with them was a major highlight of the trip for me. I am also extremely thankful for our awesome drivers, Paul and Maybin. They were incredibly gracious hosts and I hope to keep in touch with them. Nothing really made me sad other than not having enough time.

I hope to go back someday.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Janet Bixler

Recently, we introduced our new team member Jeff. Over the next few months, we want to take time to introduce our volunteers and partners who have made Design Outreach possible. Today, we would like you to meet Janet Bixler—proud mother of Greg Bixler. She has been a huge part of our fundraising success, and would like to share the impact it has had on her personally.

I have always heard about the poor people across the ocean—especially Africa—that die from famine, lack of clean water, unsanitary conditions, no medical help, etc. and felt sorry for them. But that is as far as it went because I knew I could not do much.

Yes, my church sends children’s dresses, money for mosquito nets, and blankets to foreign countries—but never did anything about lack of clean water. That was always someone else’s problem. When Greg started to talk about this pump project, before it was called Design Outreach, his dad and I had doubts as to how anyone could make such a major impact on this huge problem. Through these last several years, he and his team have made tremendous strides in something that has proven to work. If it weren’t for Greg’s faith in God and his perseverance, Design Outreach would not have gotten off the ground.

Because of the long discussions and Greg’s recent travels to Africa, I became a champion leader for the 100-pump project. I talked to my pastor about this project and how I felt that it was God’s will that we should raise enough money for a pump. I was apprehensive at first since our members are older and on fixed incomes—but they are very faithful when it comes to missions. My pastor suggested that we have a drive-thru spaghetti supper on home football games. I recruited several people to help me, and for three Fridays we had the best spaghetti deal around!

Despite rain and burnt sauce, we raised several hundred dollars. However, we had a long ways to go. Greg came to church and showed some of his recent pictures and talked to the congregation about the project. People started to hand me checks and cash. I was overwhelmed. Whenever I saw someone, I would talk about it and they would hand me money. I carried the DO cards with me and handed them to relatives and friends. I used Facebook and e-mail to inform people of current trips and how things were going. I wanted to keep people up-to-date and informed of the tremendous job DO has been doing. Finally at Christmas time, we offered a match for whatever was donated and used it as a gift in memory of someone’s birthday, Christmas present, or whatever. This seemed to be very successful.

I took some of Greg’s pictures and made them into posters and made a display at church. This showed the congregation that they were real people and real villages.

We did raise enough money and are anxiously waiting to hear when the pump will be installed in Kenya in December. I am planning on making more posters as a follow-up.

There are not enough words to show how proud we are of Greg, (although we are prejudice), and his team in this fantastic job that God has put upon them. I know it has changed my perspective of what we can do as individuals.

 

Meet Our New Marketing & Communication Specialist

We recently welcomed Jeff Jackson, a part-time marketing and communications specialist, to the Design Outreach team. Jeff comes with a vast array of experience and a deep passion for serving developing countries. Our marketing partners at 212 Media Studios took a few minutes to get to know Jeff—and thought you would love to meet him too. Here is a glimpse at their Q&A time:

Q: What brought you to DO?

A: “I am in the same church as Thom Haubert, (one of DO’s engineers), and responded to the job posting he put on one of our email lines. I would like to think it was divine providence, but I’m sure there was a bit of ‘right place, right time’ thrown in there as well!”

Q: What other experience do you have in this field?

A: “I studied Landscape Architecture and Urban Design during undergrad, and took part in a study abroad international development studio in Ghana, where I saw first hand how design and planning could be used in the developing world. After graduating, I took a job doing Real Estate Marketing, but I never lost my concern for developing countries. I have since traveled to Kenya to take part in a hospital master plan with Engineering Ministries International, and to India to intern with India Gospel League. After my trip to India I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Community and Economic Development to better understand how cities and communities can be formed both physically and operationally. I am thinking about pursuing a PhD in City & Regional Planning—but we’ll see how I feel after graduate school!”

Q: Where are you from? Married? Have kids?

A: “I was born and raised in Columbus, OH. I am currently single but live with 10 of my close friends, who can sometimes count as children albeit in an endearing sort of way.”

Q: Why are you excited to work with DO?

A: “I am honored to be able to come alongside the DO team to contribute not just my skills and experience, but passion for meeting the needs of those in developing countries. I’m excited to be used by God in the ways He’s gifted me in order to accomplish the good works He’s set before me.”

Q: What responsibilities will your job include? And how many hours per week?

A: “As of now it’s kind of a mixed bag of graphic design, administration, planning, marketing, communications, and fundraising coordination. I hope to use my skills as an urban designer/community and economic development professional to aid in creating new products for DO. As of now I am part time.”

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

A: “I have a broad background in the fine arts that I like to dabble in from time to time. I began my undergrad as a music major, and have been playing for most of my life. My main instruments are French Horn and Sitar (I know…weird combination). I also enjoy drawing (graphite /color pencil/calligraphy) but usually have to wait for a birthday, holiday, or wedding to have an excuse to make something.”

Want to get in touch with Jeff? Contact him via email at jeffj@doutreach.org

4th Grade Class Funds A LifePump

The following post was  taken from an article published by Jackie St. Angel on Rumson-Fair Haven Patch

RUMSON, NJ—“Luck is on your side today,” predicted Michael Dunn’s fortune cookie. Dunn of Middletown who is a Seventh Grade student at Holy Cross School, won the cookie and other prizes at the Cardboard Arcade Day fundraiser for charity, hosted by the school’s Fourth Grade. “I think the arcade is pretty cool,” he said, surveying more than twenty games with colorful names such as Crash and Burn, Plinko, Twirl a Whirl and Alpine Slide that the Fourth Grade students built from cardboard boxes. Luck definitely was on the side of the other students in the Catholic elementary school who came away with prizes, both large and small; an appreciation for the creativity of their classmates; and an awareness of the need for clean water in African villages—the catalyst for the fundraiser.

The money raised from the arcade will go to the Hundred Pump Project, a collaboration between Design Outreach, World Vision and private donors, to install 100 Life Pumps in five African countries this year. The pumps will provide long-lasting, clean water for tens of thousands of people in African villages.

The young entrepreneurs exceeded their fundraising goal of $1000. After a preview Arcade Day for families, donations started coming in from parents as well. An anonymous donor offered to match the amount raised. “There is a real possibility that we will reach $3000,” said Fourth Grade teacher, Maryjane Gallo. “The response from the students and from the parents has been phenomenal.”

In addition to having fun and engaging in community service, the project was a valuable learning opportunity for the Fourth Graders who also created posters and spoke to every class to promote the event throughout the school.

“We learned about Guinea worm disease that affects African communities that do not have safe water to drink and read the book A Long Walk to Water,” explained Gallo. “We try to support whatever the children choose for their charitable project and make it more meaningful.”

The idea for the charity of choice began as a dinner-table conversation in the home of Fourth Grade student, Paige Jaenicke of Middletown. Her father, Brian, heard a presentation at his workplace about the Hundred Pump Project. “I showed Paige the website and didn’t think anything more about it,” he recalled. “I was shocked when she told me she had a meeting with the Principal.”

“I couldn’t believe people didn’t have water,” explained Paige Jaenicke. So I thought we could do something about it.” She enlisted the help of her friends Mia Strazzella of Fair Haven, Charlotte Memon of Middletown, and Nina Mazzacco of Rumson to lobby for the charity and Mrs. Gallo who suggested the arcade.

The Fourth Grade students enthusiastically adopted the project and worked together to conceive of and build their games. Stephen Makin and Christopher Stypa of Rumson built Crash and Burn that challenged drivers to steer a car on a moving, curvy road.

Barrett Heine of Middletown and Owen Kenney of Rumson engineered a ball return using a network of PVC pipes for their game, aptly named Barrett’s & Owen’s Arcade. “The first thing they’ll see is a bucket of candy and then our amazing game,” exclaimed Heine who eagerly collected tickets from the players. “It’s awesome,” added Kenney, “because it’s for Africa.”

Holy Cross School, a Preschool through 8th Grade program, delivers a healthy balance of faith formation, academic excellence, and personal growth in a welcoming family atmosphere. Visit www.holycrossschoolrumson.org.

Reflecting on Africa

I’ve been back from Africa now for just over a week, and I love sharing about the trip over and over with friends and family, including our DO family. Last Saturday we had a large gathering of DO volunteers in Columbus, where I was able to share what God is doing in Africa through us. It was a very encouraging time, and ended with prayer. We prayed not only for the villagers getting the LifePumps, but also for Amelia who is writing the Pumps & Systems article, for our driver in Malawi who is having family challenges, for the shipment getting cleared in Ethiopia, and so on.

People are always amazed at the stories—especially stories about how marriages are staying intact because of the LifePump.

This trip has made me examine my own life. I’ve realized how different our family would be if my wife, Mary Hannah, had to leave for 12 hours to go get water every day. I can also imagine my own kids, 2 and 5, in ragged clothes with a very different future ahead, just because they were born in an African village. Perhaps they would be like those kids I saw in Africa, 12 or 13 years old, who already have their own kids. We were told that in many cases parents encourage marriage at such an early age so that they have fewer mouths to feed. What parent in the U.S. has ever had to think of that?

One of the most impactful parts of this last trip—my 4th to Africa now—is how I’ve seen the transformation of villages over time. Over the course of 1.5 years, I’ve watched one particular village in Malawi transformed because of the LifePump, and it continues. It gives me goosebumps every time I talk about how many lives are radically improved in the name of Christ. It also makes me realize the tremendous responsibility that we have in Design Outreach—to ensure that the LifePump is available now, and in the future.

It is a great privilege to represent the DO team and the many sacrifices that have made this all possible. But this is about more than that. When I see the people—especially kids in the villages—it’s personal. It’s no longer about a pump that we’re designing to “last longer and go deeper.” It’s people’s lives that we’re talking about; people like Vickness, who tells us that there is now a school built for the little kids in Malawi. It’s about stories like those we heard in Zambia; because of the LifePump, large gardens are being grown at schools—which means many more kids will stay in school because food is a primary reason they attend. This sort of thing affects generations to come, and can give them a fighting chance to break the poverty cycle. What a wonderful privilege and deep responsibility God has given DO to carry out!

I wish I could take everyone to Africa to see, smell, and feel what I’ve gotten to experience. To date, there are over 2,000 people who are being directly impacted by the LifePump, and we are just getting started! To continue strong, it takes all of us—prayer warriors, volunteers, and donors. Thank you and God Bless!