Six years ago, inspired by an eye-opening trip to Belize, three Santa Barbara teenagers decided to start helping less privileged parts of the world get access to clean water. In so doing, they realized that other young people like themselves really did care and want to get involved, so the nonprofit organization Hands4Others emerged as a result. To date, they’ve helped more than 150,000 people in nearly one dozen countries find cleaner drinking water.
This Saturday, they are asking you to help with their cause by donating items that they can sell on their eBay marketplace, with all proceeds going to help a specific project in the village of Kabawanga, Uganda. Below, Hands4Others cofounders Spencer Dusebout, who is 21 years old today, explains his organization’s efforts in more detail.
Who founded your organization, when, and why?
Myself and two friends, Jack Davies and Scott Schurmer, founded it more than five years ago. We were confronted with the reality of the world’s water crisis on a trip to Belize, where we saw women and children walking hours to gather water that looked a lot more like coffee than water. Growing up in Santa Barbara and enjoying every blessing, we knew we had to do something to help.
As we shared with the community at large what we were doing, we were joined by many of our peers, as well as supported by the adult community. It turns out the world’s water crisis is a huge issue — 1.1 billion people lack access to safe water — and it also turns out young people want to actively make a difference in the world. The goal of H4O is to serve as a platform, which allows young people to effectively make a difference in the world by providing sustainable access to safe water who lack it.
What is the current crisis in Kabawanga?
The water source at Kabawanga has presented significant issues. An existing swamp/pond source is located well to the east of the community. Water quality in the swamp presents some challenges with low pH, though this does not preclude its use as a source. However, the distance from the community to this source is well over a kilometer and, if used, would add significantly to the resulting project costs.
We’re supporting a Water Missions International proposal to pursue construction of a new borehole/well in the community. There are challenges associated with this approach, including unknown water quantity and water quality. Given the prevalence of existing surface waters in the area, a borehole/well is considered the most cost effective approach and is included in the project layout and budget.
How did you select this country and region to focus your efforts?
H4O wants to help people who are in the most dire need for clean water. This is why we work with Water Missions International, which has the highest possible rating for charities (based on Charity Navigator’s guidelines). We let them know of a campaign we are running, and they provide us with a village that needs water the most. In this case it is Kabawanga, Uganda.
Water Missions International has in-country staff who are centrally located within their program areas and responsible for identifying villages in the surrounding area that are in need of clean water. They assess the community on two primary criteria: one, the accessibility to a reliable water source and, two, the committed buy-in from the community members to prepare for and maintain the system properly. If these two criteria are met and after the community submits a proposal, Water Missions will begin the program design phase.
What will this weekend’s fundraiser do for the villagers there?
This fundraiser will collect goods from donors, which we will then sell on our H4O Marketplace, and the proceeds from the sales will help provide clean water to the villagers in Kabawanga, Uganda.
What other initiatives are you working on?
Our H4O Marketplace is our newest initiative. It’s a new way to give. Rather than soliciting monetary donations, we ask people to give items “of value” that are laying around their house and not being used. We will then sell those items online and help raise money to provide clean water to those in need. If anybody has items that want to donate, they can contact email@example.com.
We also have our annual Walk 4 Water each spring. Last year, it raised over $50,000.
Finally, our vision trips take place each summer. Here we take a groups of students down to the villages that they helped raise money for. Last summer we took a trip to Honduras. But we have also taken trips to Haiti, Kenya, and Indonesia. This is an amazing hands-on experience where students get to experience the feeling of giving back. Students who participate, come back transformed and become a newly engaged philanthropic citizen.
The Hands4Others donation drive is this Saturday, November 15, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Bring new to gently used items with a minimum resale value of $50, such as old cell phones, iPads, iPods, surfboards, bikes, cameras, jewelry, tools, and the like. See hands4others.org.