Ecuador Update- June 2016

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It’s been just over a month since the earth shook coastal Ecuador to its knees with a massive 7.8 earthquake. The quake was devastating, completely wiping out many of the quaint fishing communities along the coast. To top it off, roughly one month later, just as people were finding the courage to start sleeping inside again, two more 7-plus Richter-scale quakes shook the same areas within a 24 hr period. The damage this does physically is obvious, but the psychological ramifications are shattering on a whole other level. The constant fear that the ground beneath you and the walls around you might crack and fall at any moment is a highly anxious frequency to be stuck in.

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I’ve seen it firsthand in other places we’ve responded, such as Haiti and Nepal. People are scared with acute PTSD that takes years to recover from. I even have it myself from all the years of working in these zones — in Nepal, for example, we had 5-10 quakes a day that were all 5.0 or bigger. You get used to it, but it’s unnerving… and still today when I’m walking in NYC and a subway goes by underneath my feet on the street, my first reaction is it’s a quake. My nervous system is now wired that way and always in defense mode for such an event. But at the end of the day, I get to go home to US and find some sort of peace and stability. I can’t imagine what the residents who don’t get to leave feel like living in a constant state of instability. It is truly a test of the human condition, and though ultimately we will always repair, rebuild, and move on, we will do it bearing the scars of these experiences forever.

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From a Waves For Water perspective, I am happy with the progress we have made. This has been a very tough one, mostly due to the geographic predicament of the quake zone. There is a very big area affected by these quakes and access is limited. In Haiti, for example, the devastation was pretty tightly focused to a few areas. This time, it’s spread out over hundreds of miles. So we keep chipping away at it, knowing that we can reach all the areas over time.

I often speak about our program from an empowerment perspective. In my opinion, the “teach a man to fish” metaphor is literally the only approach that should ever be taken in development or aid work — whether it’s disaster related, disease prevention, or long term development-style initiatives. This single notion, if properly implemented is what draws the distinction between a sustainable program and just the distribution of supplies.

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Since day one, W4W has put emphasis on the empowerment model for the simple reason that we ultimately want to work ourselves (the foreigners) out of the equation over time. This means spending however long it takes in the beginning phases of a program  — in Haiti, for example, I spent 2 straight years there developing our program that is still thriving to this day and entirely operated and managed by Haitians. Because at the end of the day, we are not just installing a well or rain-catchment system, or passing out filters. We are connecting a problem directly with a solution — by way of local networks and team building, through intensive education and training, so that these solutions just become new tools for the local players we’ve enlisted to be able to help their communities on their own.

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So, here in Ecuador, that is exactly what we’ve done. We have spent the better part of the past month building and cultivating local Ecuadorian teams in each of the hardest hit communities. These are individuals or groups that we’ve identified, enlisted, and empowered through our program are now the clean-water advocates of their communities — implementing water filter systems to families, schools, and tent camps, on a regular basis — with the proper follow-up thereafter.

 

We are just one small organization, but with this approach we can have a very wide reach. And it’s working… so much so that one of our teams went into a new community a few days ago and met with the local leadership, and before our team was able to share who they were and what they were doing the local leader proceeded to tell them, “there is a really great organization in the area called Waves For Water that is doing fantastic work providing communities with access to clean water through local networks”. As you can imagine, that is the best case scenario — hearing about the very work we are doing and the positive impact it’s having from the most grass roots ground level. It was a nice surprise for our team to then tell those same local leaders that they were in fact W4W, and were there to now help their community.

 

To date, our teams throughout the region have implemented 2500+ water filter systems, in over 10 communities, such as:

  • Esmereldes
  • Cojimes
  • Pedernales
  • Jama
  • Canoa
  • Bahia
  • San Vicente
  • Manta
  • Portoviejo
  • Puerto Cayo

We feel that with the support that came in for this first phase we have really stretched the funds, maximizing the impact, and are laying an incredibly solid and sustainable foundation for the coming months. That said, in order to do this we now need to set our sights on securing new local and international long-term partnerships that can help us scale the program.

This is a pretty standard model for us in terms of disaster response programs:

  1. Phase one is very time sensitive and focused on mitigating the immediate suffering due to the earthquake itself (by implementing our water filtration program).
  2. Phase two, which we are embarking on now, is looking more at the long game — designing programs that are self sustaining and cover every aspect of need in each community. This includes rain-water harvesting systems, the installation of new wells and/or bore hole pumps, and filtration systems for every household. This is the comprehensive approach we have taken in virtually all the countries we operate in, around the world.

The hard work has already been done — our presence and the impact it has had throughout the region is undeniable and firmly in place. And we already have the data and testimonials to showcase this. So now, all we need are new partners that can provide the necessary resources to help us scale this already proven model.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this program is a real, viable way forward in the discussion of access to clean water for Ecuador. What’s at stake here is not just giving a family or village access to clean water, but rather an entire region, or state, or even the entire country over time. This is a solvable problem. Period. It just takes a collective consciousness and effort to make it a reality.

Lastly, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank some of the players who have helped us get this far down here: Ecuador Earthquake Recovery Fund, The Pamela Anderson Foundation, Airlink, The Waterbearers, World Ventures, APE, among others… In addition I’d like to throw a special shout out to a couple of our local “boots on the ground” partners that we have been fortunate enough to plug into — Proyecto Amor 7.8 in Puerto Cayo and Alfredo Harmsen and his Sathya Sai School in Bahia. Keep up the good work guys!

Thanks and should any of you want more info about the situation down here or how to support our program through the coming phases please contact - caitlan@wavesforwater.org

 

Cheers!

Jon

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World Water Day 2016 + _ForWater

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Greetings from Indonesia!

If I really take a step back and reflect on all the impact Waves For Water has made over the past 6 years, it started with one simple idea – the notion that we can go out into the world and do the things that we love, while helping along the way. But inception alone will not materialize something, there has to be a physical starting point as well. And for us that was a small island chain off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, called the Mentawai Islands. That was ground zero for W4W – a casual surf trip with friends that turned into an impromptu disaster relief mission; setting the stage for all the little thoughts and ideas I had in my head to come together into one clear vision. It was the true defining moment of my life so far, and I have never looked back since.

So, I am proud to announce a return to my roots, of sorts – I have just returned to those very same islands for a grass roots W4W World Water Day activation. Again, on a boat, with dear friends, doing the thing that I love (surfing)… and again, armed with 10 filters, just like the first trip. I don’t have to express the significance and sentimental virtue of a trip like this… but I want to. I think, no matter how much we grow, it’s always important to remember where we came from… and to honor that with through actions such as this.

That said, I’d like to also share the role this trip will be playing for us on a professional level. Our mission has always been to get clean water to every person who needs it, which is why we have decided to expand on our guerrilla humanitarianism approach and create a new digital platform called _ForWater. Not only will _ForWater allow you to be a part of the global community, but with its interactive app and website, you can create your own clean-water projects and donate to existing initiatives, from virtually anywhere. Ultimately this new tool will empower individuals to become part of the solution, on their own terms… playing a key role in helping to solve one of the major global issues today.

We wanted to really open things up and make it about you. With this platform, it not just Waves For Water anymore, it’s “YOU” For Water. It’s all of us, organizations and individuals alike, standing together in the fight for access to clean water.

For more info on all of this and how to support, stay tuned to our social media and visit – www.forwater.co.

I have also included our “Water Crisis is Over!” World Water Day campaign tool kit, which we are using to announce the launch of _ForWater. All the information (graphics and sample captions) for you to participate in the social media campaign with us, is there.

Thank you all for your unwavering support and encouragement over the years.
Jon

 

5 Years Later // Haiti Earthquake

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Friends,

I know we all ring in the new year on Jan 1st… but over the past 5 years another date has surfaced as a more significant marker for me - January 12th, the day a 7.0 earthquake decimated Haiti.

My Dad has a saying – “Everything is fine until it isn’t”… One moment life is happening just as it always has, and then within 45 seconds it has changed forever. Such as the case in Haiti…

I arrived there about 3 days after the quake struck… it was nothing short of a war zone. Port au Prince was a city left in shambles, with unimaginable scenes around every corner… that first week was the hardest, seeing bulldozers scoop bodies into mass graves is something that is forever burned into my memory. Waves For Water was in its infancy. I went on a whim, mostly just because I had the opportunity, and then stayed for two years. I’ve said this many times before but EVERYTHING that we do today is a result of what I learned there in those years following the quake. That was the proving ground for everything…

Cracked Street

Being that it quickly became the epicenter of the aid world, I got to see first hand what other org’s/groups were doing right, but more importantly what they were doing wrong. I didn’t come from the aid world so I obviously had a lot to learn, but I also had ‘fresh’ eyes. I couldn’t believe how many org’s were paralyzed by their own bureaucracy… it didn’t make sense. From an outsiders perspective the problem set related to a disaster seemed fairly easy to understand. It was pretty fundamental problem solving, really – food, water, shelter, medical, rubble & debris removal, and so on and so forth… all the basic human needs that had been stripped away by the catastrophe. So why the bureaucratic gridlock?? A question we are still puzzled with today… and I now know there are many contributing factors… but the short answer is that most of the existing models are outdated… similar to what has happened with Wall St, politics, real estate market, or even the Arab Spring. All are examples of antiquated models that have recently come to a head and in some cases exploded into change. The aid world is no different… with the current level of connectivity at our fingertips, newer (more decentralized) guerrilla models are emerging. And many of them are extremely efficient and most importantly – transparent. It’s a new paradigm… and it’s wonderful to be a part of.

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Professionally speaking, this is just an example of some of the things Haiti taught me… but, on an internal personal level, no single place in the world has contributed more to my growth. The changes I went through there are unparalleled. It was the ultimate initiation into my truest self… an unveiling… an awakening of a beast, full of light. This is why Jan 12 is a much stronger new year marker for me – it represents a rebirth. That said, I am in no way implying that this is the case for anyone else… everyone who was touched by this event has a different relationship with it… and the overarching theme is utter devastation and loss… something that should never be forgotten.

So, as we are now approaching the 5 year anniversary, I am inspired to look back at all that has happened since I first arrived there. As I sit here and marinate on what a tremendous global impact we’ve had, I am reminded of certain stand-out moments that have helped define everything:

 

  • Responded to 12 global disasters – Indonesia, Haiti, Japan, Bosnia, Pakistan, India, Philippines, etc…
  • Created and implemented the first military/civilian partnership of it’s kind in an active war-zone in Afghanistan.
  • Launched our DIY driven volunteer program called, Clean Water Couriers, in which we arm travelers with water filters that they offload to communities in need, along their journey.
  • Provided 100k people with access to clean water in one single day, through our “#100kWorldWaterDay” project in 2014.
  • Domestic rain-water harvesting project with Native American – Lakota tribe, on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
  • Helping to reinvent the way “CSR” programs are done with corporate partners such as – eBay, Hurley, Mitsubishi, Ambev, PayPal, Nike, Red Bull, The Meatball Shop, Nextel, etc…
  • Unprecedented programs in “high risk” territories such as Syrian refugee camps, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea.
  • “Sede de Vencer” World Cup 2014 project – in partnership with Brasilian soccer star Neymar Jr and PayPal, that provided access to clean water to underserved communities in all 13 cities where Cup games were played.
  • Partnership with the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals), in which we created the “positive footprint” to the tour by implementing our clean water program in nearby areas of need to all 12 stops throughout the year.
  • Provided millions of people with access to clean water through our long-term development programs in over 15 countries.

These are some of the highlights that are standing out to me right now, but the real magic is what happens within our community, day in and day out. Our fearless team that works tirelessly to improve quality of life for people all over the world. Our local networks (aka the unsung heroes) in all the countries we work, consistently raising the bar and fighting for their people. And lastly, all of our supporters out there who stand up, time and time again, in the name of clean water. It’s all really inspiring!

Meeting in Tent Camp

I will be arriving in Haiti tomorrow to support and facilitate a first of its kind anniversary event happening in Leogane (actual epicenter of the quake). It is a five mile run, in which thousands of Haitians and internationals will be participating in solidarity and remembrance of all those lost in the 2010 quake. We are also tying a clean water activation around it, so should any of you feel like supporting it, here is the link.

Thanks and wishing you all a kick-ass 2015!!

Peace out!

JR

IDP Refugee tent camp

Project Pine Ridge

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I’m happy to share with you an incredibly special project we just completed on the Lakota Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. However, i would first like to sincerely thank the gracious students, teachers and parents of The Willows Community School in Culver City, California for conducting a Read-A-Thon benefiting W4W and raising the funds to cover the costs of the first phase of Project Pine Ridge.

This dispatch is a little longer than ones I’ve done in the past – which is very indicative of how much it impacted me. It’s been one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had. I love getting schooled. With WAVES FOR WATER programs in 12 countries and counting, I get schooled a lot. Each project has its own set of challenges and lessons to be learned— and without fail, as soon as I think I’ve got everything figured out – BAM, life has a way of  humbling me. We recently launched a clean water project right here in the US – our very first domestic project. Since day one, people have always asked me if and when I would be doing a project on our home soil. My response has always been that I would love to, but only if I could find a need that called for it.

My sole focus with W4W has always been identifying and addressing true need— so I wasn’t about to create something  just for the sake of doing a local project. I did look into severely poverty stricken areas throughout many American cities and found that even in the worst crack ghettos people could still walk into a McDonalds and get a cup of tap water if needed – or from a gas station bathroom sink – or even poach water from a garden hose faucet on the side of a building. Point is, people in our country can generally find potable water if they need to.
Then I visited Pine Ridge – a Lakota Reservation in South Dakota. Different reservations around the country had come to mind before, but knowing how insular they are, I had no real idea of how to approach them. Then, through a friend of mine – Amelia Barlow (who has relationships with two prominent families on this particular reservation), I was finally able to get a real look at life on a Rez, and its many challenges. I went into it with a very humble and sensitive outlook. All I wanted to do was learn about their needs and see if I could possibly apply to them, what we do for communities in other parts of the world. Amelia told me that they had big problems with uranium contamination in their water supply. Apparently, when the US government allocated this land for the Lakota reservation they cleverly retained the mineral rights. In other words – “Here take this land, but we can (and will) mine it whenever we choose to—” As a result, there have been a number of uranium mines put in place over the years and the primary aquifers on the reservations are now compromised. These aquifers are what all of the wells on the Rez pull from— So, in this case, when there is a significant and steady rise in cancer cases, there are obvious things to look at. Long term exposure to uranium and arsenic would naturally be at the top of that list.

Again, I will not pretend to be an expert on all of this – but some things in life are just plain simple – it’s actually just math & science. Yes I have my opinion, but it’s based off very basic and relatable facts – if something is considered to be poisonous when ingested (such as uranium and arsenic), then we shouldn’t drink it— or we’ll get sick— simple as that.

Obviously the relationship between the Native American community and the US Government has a deeply sordid past. Again, I will not pretend that I am an expert  when it comes to the complexities of this topic— But I will share some of the things I experienced while working out there:

I learned that Pine Ridge Reservation has the number one suicide rate in the world— THE WORLD!! I learned that the life expectancy in Haiti is higher than on Pine Ridge— and the poverty rate there is almost at 50%. Aside from these being staggering statistics, the biggest eye-opener for me is that it’s all right here under our noses. When people think about America, they don’t think of statistics like these – they think of places like Haiti, Somalia, etc—

So in a nutshell – the folks on this reservation face a wide range of challenges that are as hard as anywhere else in the world I’ve seen… And water is just one of them.

When I first went out there to meet with Amelia’s friends (Alex & Deb White Plume and Tom & Loretta Cook), I knew that it was a very significant opportunity— one that I had to treat with utmost humility and candidness, no matter what I was about to learn. After explaining to them what we do around the world— and thoroughly hearing about their situation, I was very clear in saying that I wasn’t sure if we could help them. I was NOT going to be another guy that comes along making promises that he can’t keep.

Basically, the filter systems we use around the world are primarily for biological contaminants and will not remove uranium, arsenic, etc— There are ways to remove uranium from the water but it is a complex process at an unrealistic price. The only thing I could think of with was to try to create an entirely new source, bypassing ground water all together. So from a page straight out of my Dad’s playbook, the solution of harvesting rainwater came through— He has designed & installed many rain-catchment systems in Africa over the last decade. Everything actually started with that – W4W was inspired by (and essentially born from) his work doing these rain-catchment systems over the years. So, to come full circle and talk about doing a rain-water project, in my own country no-less, was incredibly special.

Laying out water tank foundation at Cook site

There are many reasons why I feel this project is significant — some are obvious, like simply providing clean water to people in need. But then there’s the deeper layers, such as the symbolism of two groups (often at odds) coming together for the greater good. Or the empowerment the Lakota will feel from doing something that speaks directly to what their belief system was founded on – nature and mother earth. And lastly, for us (W4W), to successfully implement a solution that is more or less illegal everywhere else in our country. Yes you heard me – catching rain water for drinking purposes is illegal (or ridiculously hard to get approved) in most states across the US. As a matter of fact, the week we were on Pine Ridge a man was arrested in Oregon for doing just that (see story here – http://now.msn.com/oregon-man-jailed-for-collecting-rainwater). It’s all just baffling to me— but again, back to the significance of this project – the Lakota reservation is a sovereign nation, which allows us more freedom to do something like this.
The system is very simple in it’s design. All one needs to catch rainwater is surface area. So following the model that my Dad came up with for all the villages he’s helped in Africa, the concept is to use what’s already there. We use the roof of their house as the rain-catcher – then install rain gutters— then build a foundation on one side of the house, install  a thousand gallon gal tank— and then feed the rain gutters into the tank with PVC piping. All we’re doing is KEEPING the rain that hits their roof instead of trying to get rid of it, like most traditional housing design does.
I often feel like there are bigger hands at play when I’m doing this work and usually, during a project, very clear validations keep showing up to support  that feeling— to confirm all the many choices I’ve had to make over the course of an entire project – ultimately, affirming that we are on the right path and to keep pushing forward.

Example: a few days prior to our trip the current  edition of National Geographic Magazine came out and the cover story is about Pine Ridge. Not only is it about the EXACT area on the Rez that we are working but it features Alex and Deb White Plume, our partners for this project.

These types of magazine features are carefully constructed over a very long period of time and I, too, have been developing our project for almost a year. I had no idea about their story and they knew nothing about ours – so for both of them to come to life in the same week is remarkable to me.

View Nat Geo article below:
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It’s an  incredible article that provides a sobering look into this community and the many challenges they face. It goes back to what I said earlier about the majority of us never knowing just how tough some conditions are right here in our own country. Well Nat Geo has brought this topic to center stage and I think a lot of people are now going to take a long hard look at it. I’m inspired to shed light on  a world that has been overlooked too many times, for too many years. A reality with serious needs— can only be met once those needs are known. That said, I am excited that W4W can play a part in the solution.

I have always looked at W4W as a catalyst, of sorts. Yes, we implement large scale programs across the world — which have an undeniable impact — but, beyond the obvious aspect of what we do, I’m aware of a deeper purpose. I see it like this – there are negative patterns that have built up over time in these places — as a result there’s a perpetual state of need that keeps feeding itself. But then something comes along that interrupts that pattern, shifting the energy – a catalyst. The trigger from this occurrence is often just the spark needed to steer things in a new direction – a better possible future.

I have seen it with my own eyes – a simple act, such as giving someone clean water, can (and does) change the course of their overall future. It causes a ripple effect that kick-starts change in many other aspects of their lives. When a village in Indonesia, Africa, or India spends half a day fetching water and the other half gathering firewood so they can boil that water – they’re left with no time for anything else. It’s just pure survival. But, providing an easy way to clean that water, eliminating the need to boil it, half of the their day is freed up to do other things – work on crafts, go to school, etc. Basically, each small act leads to large scale change.
We expect this to be the case for our Pine Ridge project—

We also hope that America will uphold it’s treaties and the Black Hills will be returned to their rightful owners, the Lakota. Through our actions we make this stand: Uranium mines must be shut down and absentee mining companies held accountable for the damage they’ve done—

Before & After – White Plume site

Lastly, I hope that one day reservations across America will all exercise their right to catch the rain that falls from the sky—

Thanks!
Jon

PS – I’d like to throw out another BIG thank you to Amelia Barlow for helping to make this project a reality.

Project Nicaragua

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I often describe Waves For Water, ultimately, as an empowerment project… obviously the people who receive the help are empowered when they have access to clean water, in some cases, for the first time in their life. But the other side to this is what happens to the person administering the help – through our model that we like to call “do it yourself” (DIY) humanitarianism or “guerrilla” humanitarianism, the person who has chosen to take it upon themselves and provide aid to communities in need is ABSOLUTELY empowered as well. It’s like the whole ‘pay it forward’ philosophy, but supercharged. To put it simply, when a young eager surf adventurer sets out on his/her path to find epic waves – but decides to throw some of our clean water filters in their bag to offload along the way, they have just made a dynamic choice that will completely alter their experience – and all of those around them. Think of the filter as the missing link… a bridge of sorts that connects and engages people on a level that wouldn’t happen otherwise. There are the obvious and primary benefits this program provides from a health standpoint. But the real magic happens when a random traveler finds the local beneficiary that they’ve chosen to help and starts to engage with them in a way that could never be accessed as just another surfer passing through. There is a REAL interaction that takes place when the traveler starts to educate and train their beneficiaries with this solution… In the end, the recipient has a new found knowledge of the water problems they face, but also in a solution to help them combat it every step of the way. And the traveler, has a completely new understanding of this community/culture, and a genuine personal relationship with the people in it.

Empowerment all around
- The communities finally now have the tools to help them start building towards the progress they all long for.
- The traveler, most importantly, followed their heart and went surfing (or whatever else it was that drove them out on the road) and did their part along the way. They actually did the most natural thing we can do as human beings – help one another. It’s these types of simple actions that help to restore the natural balance of humanity.

So that said, it really becomes a very clear equation for anyone to participate in…

It REALLY is this simple folks…

One of the beneficiaries of our clean water program

On that note, we were recently asked by Lance and Kristin Moss of Surfari Charters in Nicaragua to partner with them in launching our program for the villages around their camp. This type of mission obviously speaks directly to the core of what our organization was originally founded on – adventure surf travel. We accepted their offer and looked at it as the perfect case study to prove a model I’ve had in my head for a long time – one where surf/adventure tourism is infused (not bombarded) with a little more purpose.
The idea was that once went down and helped Lance and Kristin set up some good trusty local networks to implement the program to – then all of their charters for the rest of the year can have the option of bringing filters down during their week to help reinforce those networks…

It’s creating a very user-friendly sustainable supply chain that rides comfortable on the coattails of peoples love for surfing and fishing. It’s not a new concept, I believe Nihiwatu Resort in Sumba, Indonesia has a program where all their guests get to take one day out of their trip and help the nearby village through a number of projects they’ve set up. The philosophy is also being coined “Volunteerism” these days. I just like to call it – doing our part!

W4W and Surfari crew with local village

So, we went down to Nicaragua, brought 30 filters (enough to provide 3000 people with access to clean water) and set up three local networks with them. Since our trip every one of Lance & Kristin’s charters has personally bought, carried, and implemented more filters to those networks.
It’s a model that is thriving and growing with each passing week. The last and probably most fun element of this mission was having some good ol’ froth-mouthed grommets along with us – young LA based pro-surfer shredder, Dane Zaun, and his trusty filmmaker sidekick, Matt Grote. Their energy and stoke was a nice reminder of what W4W is all about… and a refreshing break from some of the heavier projects we’ve done recently in places such as Afghanistan and Haiti.
We surfed our brains out… threw back a hefty share of Toña’s (local Nicaraguan beer), helped a bunch of local people with the basic yet ESSENTIAL need for clean water, and had a shit-load of fun in the process…
Matt made a video of the trip that shares the experience thru Dane’s eyes… On behalf of W4W, I’m happy to share it with you all… I feel it’s a great snapshot into the innocence and purity that comes from doing what you love, and helping along the way.
In addition to Hurley stepping up (as always!) I’d like to throw a shout-out to Lance, Kristen, and the entire crew at Surfari Charters for initiating this. Lastly, I need to throw out BIG props to W4W Executive Director, CHRISTIAN TROY, for really running point on this project and making it come to life from our end… Well done crew!!

Christian Troy with examples of dirty water & clean filterd water

See you all around the next corner…
Jon

Peru // Project Q’ero

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There is a specific moment that happens every time we do a water filter demo for a community in need. I call it the “Light Bulb” moment.

Their eyes widen — jaws drop — and they stand taller — proud like. It is magical.

I forget how magical it really is sometimes because I am so close to it. Here’s a quick snapshot of what this moment usually looks like — we take a local water source that sometimes looks the same color as an IPA beer, run it through the filter system that we built in a matter of minutes (with nothing but a 5 gal bucket and a knife) and viola — out comes crystal clear potable water. It is amazing — But the best part is that it’s real — no illusions, just a perfect shiny example of technological evolution. And the proof — Well, using the most extreme example, it’s about as simple as this — we go into a community where people are dying — we do our program — they stop dying.

But it’s the “Light Bulb” moment that makes my heart expand every time. Watching people’s reactions when the only water source they’ve ever known, goes from dark to light is priceless.

I recently got the opportunity to do a project with a few of the Q’ero villages in the Peruvian Andes. An incredible woman by the name of Denise Kinch reached out to us and asked if we’d be interested in partnering up with her to provide these villages with clean water.


Her foundation, Vanishing Cultures, has been working with these particular villages for 20 years, aiding them on many fronts. She has also studied and practiced their spiritual belief system for just as long and is now a renowned teacher of such ways herself.

She has devoted much of her life to helping this community that most of the world doesn’t even know exists. I’ve done this long enough now to know that there are indigenous communities all over the world that have slipped through the cracks and are literally receiving zero help of any kind.


Mostly its due to proximity — just getting to the Q’eros is a feat. The physical difficulty alone cuts down the abilities of many aid groups and if no one goes; then no one knows they exist, let alone the problems they face.

There are pockets like this all over the world and ever since starting W4W I have loved finding these pockets. It may just be habit from my days of surf exploration, but really I think it comes from a bigger notion, one that strikes a very deep chord. It’s the notion of the “forgotten ones” — the people around the world that for whatever reason have found themselves in the shadows. They are out there in the farthest corners with the same basic needs as everyone else, but there’s no ears listening to them.


I absolutely love my work and no matter who the recipient is, it always boils down to this — humans helping humans with the basic needs we are ALL entitled to. That said, I get an extra level of expansion when we get an opportunity to help the “forgotten ones”.

From a W4W standpoint this journey was right up our alley — rugged adventure + humanitarianism — it’s what we’ve always done and a perfect example of our philosophy in action: Do what you love to do and help along the way.

Thanks to Hurley and badass lens-man, Tom Aiello, this journey was documented. I will let the video do its job at sharing the rest of this epic mission with you. Please check it out— and if you feel inclined to share it, I’m very grateful for it! Also, big ups to Rob Machado for creating/playing the closing song for this video!

Thanks!

JR


Afghan Update 2012

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Jon and Christian training the troops

I have said this before, but I really can’t say it enough — I am convinced that our Afghanistan project is a game-changer on almost every level… it feels like a very special moment in time where we are seeing cultural and social divides get absolutely pushed to the wayside.
There are the obvious benefits of implementing a program like this. It is generally good for all involved parties – the recipients and benefactors. In this case, the military is able to establish a genuine and productive rep-ore with the communities they’re operating in and the communities are gaining access to something they’ve never had before – clean water.
But given the dynamic in Afghanistan and all the complex social and traditional layers, there are other positive byproducts that are coming to light as a result. Some of which I have never seen or even thought of before… such as this — I want to share an excerpt from a note that US Army soldier, Kyle Dubay, wrote to our site shortly after learning about the project: “…I hope you realize that your work has not only saved the lives of the Afghani people, but the lives of my brothers in arms as well by helping to allow a trusting relationship to build between the villagers and the US military. Thank you!”. This is obviously something that speaks more specifically to a war-zone environment but is, none-the-less, a priceless byproduct of the original intent – to simply provide people in need, access to clean water.
Now I’ll flip over to the some of the impact this is having on the Afghan people. No matter where we work in the world, this program is, and always has been, an empowerment project. “Evil”, thrives off of suppression and intimidation. But the real essence is always control – if “Evil” can keep people powerless then they will always be in control. So we are seeing in Afghanistan, that by empowering people through this program, it is serving as an instrumental weapon against such evil – if people can stand on their own two feet, independently, they can finally think for themselves… and fight.

There are many needs out there – water is just one of them. But it is a vital step forward… and with each step we get stronger… and closer to realizing our potential… our purpose…
I want to say a special thanks to The Wolfhounds for spearheading this initiative. Several other units around Afghanistan have now followed suit and are launching the program with us in their AO’s.


It is my personal goal to get every single unit in Afghanistan on board by the end of 2012… and then other countries the US Military operates in thereafter…

This is a very tangible and finite concept – it will succeed.

Cheers!
Jon

Afghan Campaign: W4W & The Wolfhounds

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Christian Troy, Jon Rose & CPT Brabner

I write today with the great excitement of introducing our recent project in Afghanistan with you. About six months ago a US Army Captain by the name of Michael Brabner reached out to us through our website. His battalion, called The Wolfhounds, is stationed in Northern Afghanistan in the Kunar Provence. He contacted us to see if we’d be interested in doing a project to help the Afghan communities in his unit’s AO (area of operation). He said that there were about 5 villages in his area and none of them had access to potable water. Apparently the Kunar River, which every village is built along, is their only source of water. And since everything (I mean EVERYTHING) is dumped into it, waterborne illnesses crippling these communities is almost indefinite.

Afghan Village

Like many of the places around the world we work, these type of illnesses basically become a part of everyday life – for people in these places, there is just no way around it, no other choice… So they continue to get sick and even die from problems that are completely preventable. This is the very reason Waves for Water exists. Our single most important purpose is to bring the great solutions that already exist directly to the problem – stopping the widespread sickness and senseless deaths that follow.

Afghan Boy in Nari

So in the case of Afghanistan, CPT Brabner had relatively simple questions – would our program work there? And if so, would we be willing to partner up them to implement it? Right away I was deeply struck by the possibility of being able to help these people that were in such great need to the seemingly inaccessible.

It’s no secret that Afghanistan is considered to be a hostile place at the moment, especially for Americans. But the majority of the local population have the same basic needs as anywhere else – and the fact that it is still a kinetic war zone, brings the likelihood of humanitarian assistance down to a dramatic degree.

Filter distribution. Photo: Logan MB / Eyeconic Images

This brings me to my point – who is there, all the time? The US military. They are stationed throughout the entire country with great infrastructure in place. Whether or not you agree with the reasoning for being there in the first place doesn’t matter at this point – we are there. So it is even more important to make the absolute best of being there, which CPT Brabner and his crew are doing. Their first objective is to keep the insurgents at bay, so that the majority of the population can go about their lives without living in fear of being bullied and harassed by “mafia-like” Taliban forces. And in addition, through projects like ours, this military unit has actively sought out new innovative ways to help these villagers beyond their basic orders.
This is a pivotal time for US Operations in Afghanistan – I feel that this project could be instrumental in changing the conversation from the negative reports we so often hear in the media, to some of the positive impacts that are taking place – like this W4W mission! We are embarking on a path that could help to reinvent some aspects of the existing military model, and the perceptions that follow it. The military is not just a symbol of a nations strength – it is also a network. One that reaches far and wide, with great structure and organization throughout. If we can tap into this network and create program where every single military unit has water filters that they can distribute during their deployments – we are talking serious global impact!

Afghans recieving filters. Photo: Logan MB / Eyeconic Images

If our mission is to get clean water to every single person who needs it, then we need all hands on deck. This is one great example out of many that need to happen if we are going to achieve our goal. When CPT Brabner reached out, I could tell that he was genuine in his attempts to help the Afghan people. The military doesn’t get much credit for its humanitarian efforts – and while it might not be their primary focus during deployment, they do embark on a number of humanitarian initiatives… I saw it first hand just after the earthquake in Haiti when we worked side by side with the 82nd Airborne. Then, again, months later during our project with the UN Military – also in Haiti… and now in Afghanistan with The Wolfhounds.

US Army CPT Brabner & Jon Rose preppimg filters. Photo: Logan MB / Eyeconic Images

Being raised by hippie parents and choosing a career path as a pro-surfer, I had literally zero experience with the military before starting my work in Haiti. The closest I ever came to the military was trying to sneak my way on to Camp Pendleton in San Diego because it is known to have good waves on base. But now having logged some serious time with our armed forces in two countries, I can speak with confidence when saying how incredibly grateful I am of their service. It is moments like these that truly showcase the greatness in humanity.

With the first phase of this mission already completed, Waves For Water and The Wolfhounds have effectively provided 20,000 Afghan’s with access to clean water. The project is now gaining momentum throughout the military chain of command and the private sector alike – phase two has already been funded (thank you Bill Nelson & HBO) and is set to launch in January with 500 more filters that will provide an additional 50,000 Afghan’s with clean water.

Please spread the word and help to bring a positive light to an otherwise dark subject, like war.

I’ve attached a sampler of personal images from the trip… We have a lot more (as well as some video content) that we will be sharing soon. Stay tuned…

~ Jon Rose

Afghanistan Project Insight

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Greetings!

This was a dispatch I wrote from the field during our recent Afghanistan Project in Dec ’11. Wanted to shed some further light on what I feel is truly a ground breaking initiative.

I knew this Afghan project would be significant, but today… today was hands down one of the best experiences I’ve had since starting W4W. We’ve spent the last 3 days embedded with the Wolfhounds, learning all about life in a war-zone – living in their barracks, eating with them, etc…

FOB Bostick // Town of Nari

Of course I see parallels between some of their principles and those of W4W. I have felt this way ever since we had the privilege of working side by side with the 82nd Airborne in Haiti. The entire military system is founded upon honor, respect, bravery, and discipline (to name a few)… but what they rarely get credit for is their compassion. Not only for one another, but for the local cultures they work amongst while deployed. I saw it in Haiti and I’ve seen it again here – these soldiers genuinely want to help the Afghan people to stop living in fear of the Taliban… and ultimately, help them stabilize their country in the process. That said, when I think of this project – the partnership between W4W and The Wolfhounds, I’m becoming aware that we are all a part of something very very grand… something bigger than all of us as individuals. In addition to the obvious benefits the filter program will have on this region, we have created a unique opportunity to change several perceptions surrounding this war – and war in general.

Waves for Water – Demonstration for Army at FOB Bostick

One of the main implementing strategies of W4W has always been a “train the trainer” approach, which is something we actually lifted from military DNA, long ago. It’s basically empowering people through a tiered system that enables each level to do what they do best. For instance, this project – we spent the first day here on base training a selected group of team leaders from this battalion. They are the ones who are constantly interacting with the communities in the region and have personal relationships with some of the key local figureheads. By empowering the first tier (the soldiers), we solidified them as the ones that would lead this project and see it through long after we were gone.

W4W trains troops on filtration

The next step was for the team of newly trained soldiers to coordinate a “shura” (Afghan for meeting or gathering to discuss important matters) to pass the training onto a hand picked group of village elders and/or community leaders. Then, based off of their extensive knowledge of the local communities, those enlisted individuals would devise a distribution plan for each of their villages. This is an old model… We’ve used this same approach in Haiti, with the ultimate goal being that we – the foreigners, do not retain any of the power once the program has been implemented.

This system really helps to integrate something foreign, like new technology, into a community – with the trust and understanding it needs to have staying power. If we try to push this solution directly onto a family in Afghanistan, the likelihood of them trusting us, and ultimately using it after we’re gone, is much lower than if it is presented to them by a friend or a community figure they know and trust. The ultimate goal for us is to implement a program this way, do an assessment of the region months later, and find that the families who are thriving because of it – have no idea who we are. Their relationship is with the schoolteacher or medical clinic that provided them with the filter system, not the guys from Waves For Water. If that is the case, we have done our job perfectly.

FET team member giving demo to Afghan woman

Today I saw cultural divides fall in a matter of minutes. We accompanied a group of female soldiers and their FET (female engagement team) team, lead by a Lieutenant named Lauren Luckey, into the nearby town of Nari. The FET team is tasked with trying to engage local Afghan women and work with them to help stabilize their communities. Women are simply not allowed to be seen in public – they wear full burkhas that leave no percentage of skin exposed. There isn’t even a slit for their eyes, only a little mesh window in the fabric for them to look through. Because of the relationships that LT Luckey and her team had forged a few of us men were allowed to be present during the demonstration. The rules and traditions of this region are so deep rooted that an invitation like this is literally unheard of. We watched in a secured courtyard as the FET team gave the very demonstration that we’d given them on base a day prior. We watched in awe as the brave few women who chose to stay – only 3 out of 10 stayed for meeting because they heard that (American) men would be present, started assembling and using the filter systems. The finale came when a young girl, a student of the school, took what might have been the first sip of clean water in her life, after filtering the water she normally drank – urban run-off collected from a ditch outside the school walls – animals visibly defecating in it up-stream.

Afghan girl drinks clean filtered water for the first time

Today was a good day…

~ Jon Rose

Watch video on Waves for Water in Afghanistan with the Wolfhounds from the US Army.

SWU Partnership – Brazil

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One of the best things about what we do is being exposed to people/groups around the world who are doing innovative and inspiring things… people out there, taking initiative and choosing to not only do their part, but trail-blaze in the process. Of course I love our country – it’s been a place that is founded on free will and innovation. But, as most of you well know, there are amazing things happening out there all over the world and I’d like to take this opportunity to share one of them with you…

Waves For Water was recently contacted by a group in Brazil that produces a giant music festival each year just outside of Sao Paulo, Brazil, called SWU – The letters stand for Starts With You. It is a festival on par with the ones we are so familiar with in the US such as Coachella & Lallapalooza. Some of this years headliners include – Kanye West, Faith No More, Snoop Dogg, Stone Temple Pilots, Black Eyed Peas, Duran Duran, among others. But the difference in SWU is it has a purpose beyond the   music. The entire thing is a sustainability/awareness campaign, with music as the common thread. The concept is simple – attract an entire demographic with great live music, but while you have them there, TURN THEM ON…! Shift their consciousness and create an army of educated soldiers in the fight for a new, more conscious, reality… It’s all about information – once you are informed, you are responsible… once you are in touch with your responsibilities, you have a better chance of carrying them out and actually helping to change existing paradigms that are either outdated or simply broken.

So, SWU walks their talk… and how they do so is by partnering with organization or groups that they feel are worthy of exposing to the massive audience at their festival. When they partner, it means that they co-create (and sponsor) a community driven action with each partner. In the case of W4W, through our program, they wanted to collaborate on a project for a specific slum on the outskirts of Sao Paulo that, in its first phase, would provide 900 families with clean water. Their concept is brilliant – execute a real action with their partners months before the festival… do a huge media push around each action to get people acquainted, and then physically showcase each project at the festival through a range of mediums – build outs, videos, live demonstrations, etc…

We completed the first phase of the slum project with them recently and it was incredible. It’s all about implementing change on the ground level and turning on the next generation in the process… I even had my girlfriends son, Dylan, come along to help and see first hand the harsh realities that many people face, day in and day out, around the world.

SWU was a flawless partner… and really helped get the message out afterwards on a national level… And along with the unwavering support (since the inception of this project) by the Hurley crew in Brazil, it was by and far one of the smoothest projects we’ve ever done – anywhere! I’ve attached images from the project…

Lastly, they have asked me to speak at their global sustainability symposium during the festival… I said yes, of course… and am completely honored to do so. The other speakers include Neil Young, Bob Geldof, and Donna Karen… to name a few.

Here’s a link to learn about the event – http://swu-admin.swu.com.br/en/

Wish us luck!