This is a guest post written by Rahul Gupta, an Omaha entrepreneur, erstwhile actor and recent addition to the team at the Planet Water Foundation. (Photo by Serge Wilson.) In his role with the Planet Water Foundation, Mr. Gupta will be responsible for the organization’s technology initiatives. He is currently in the process of transitioning from traditional corporate ventures to the non-profit and social entrepreneurship arena.
This post was inspired by Blog Action Day, an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. The 2010 issue is “water.”
Scott Harrison of charity: water spoke at Big Omaha on May 15, 2010. Photo by Malone & Company.
A lot can happen in five months.
I recently tweeted that Scott Harrison’s talk about charity: water at Big Omaha 2010 “literally changed the trajectory of my life.” That was no hyperbole. That talk, at that event, conspired with that moment to force me to reassess the focus of my work.
For those of you who weren’t at Big Omaha or aren’t familiar with the water-centric challenges facing our global population, some information to consider:
- Globally, nearly 1 billion people lack access to clean and healthy drinking water
- 50% of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people with easily preventable waterborne diseases
- Each day, 4,000 children die from water related illnesses
Scott’s talk was about his personal journey, the solutions and successes of charity: water, and an effective and inspired invitation to support his organization and its cause. For me, it was more. It provoked an epiphany, a realization that I needed to shift my focus away from traditional entrepreneurship and point myself towards a life in the non-profit and social entrepreneurship worlds. The “Saving the World” space, as I like to put it.
At the time, I had imagined that it would be at least a year before I’d have a reason to write a post like this. Further, it wasn’t specifically water I was interested in, but simply making sure I was pointed in the right direction.
As I said: a lot can happen in five months.
Less than a month after Big Omaha, I was relating the impact of Scott’s presentation to some friends over dinner at La Buvette, when I said “charity: water” nearly simultaneously with a man at an adjacent table. Intrigued and surprised, our table turned as a group and we struck up a conversation.
The Planet Water Foundation is a startup, Omaha-based non-profit organization dedicated to solving the world’s drinking water and basic sanitation problems by providing water filtration systems coupled with strong education and sustainability programs. Its bold goal is to provide clean water for 10 million people by 2015.
Already, Planet Water has put water filtration systems in place to help tens of thousands of people in communities across Southern and Southeast Asia, including relief efforts in Pakistan, and just in the last two weeks, new systems in Cambodia, India and the Philippines. Each filtration system can be purchased and installed (in one day!) for $8,500 and provides enough water for 1,000 people for 7 to 10 years.
Here’s a brief video from Planet Water’s recent trip to Cambodia of girls experiencing clean, purified water for the first time:
Following that serendipitous dinner encounter, Mark and I met several more times and agreed that I was a good fit for the organization; I’m happy to report that I’ve officially started with the Planet Water Foundation this month.
My part in the water story begins here. I’ll have the privilege of using my high-tech entrepreneurial background to help grow a young, global non-profit organization, dealing with a major global issue couched right here in the Midwest.
In the months ahead, the Planet Water Foundation is going to work with businesses in the Omaha community to roll out a new identity, website and giving platform while continuing to fundraise and set up filtration systems. The organization is intent on using local partnerships (including initiatives in development with University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska–Lincoln) to broaden its base and magnify its impact potential.
The water problem is a big one. Help us out. Let’s see what we can do with the next five months.
Planet Water Foundation in Cambodia. Photo from Planet Water Foundation on Facebook.
P.S. While this post is partly personal reflection, it’s really part of something bigger. Today, October 15th, is Blog Action Day 2010, an initiative to encourage the global blogging community to discuss the same issue on the same day. This year, the topic is “water.” I hope that you’ll visit some of the other blogs participating in the event or, if so inspired, raise your voice and do some writing of your own. Of course, if you feel you’re at a loss, you can always donate, we’ll carry some of the load for you.