Water Team International
George Lewis is the founder and president of Water Team International, which matches local Rotary clubs to provide safe and healthy drinking water to the less fortunate members of communities around the world, literally.
“Just before I was to become President of my club I heard of a program at my Rotary Club about the Stove Program in Guatemala. After the program my 82 year old friend said “let’s go on this trip.” So in January, 2006 we packed and went to install stoves in the remote villages in the poor mountainous areas. It was very hard work but we both agreed that this was a life changing experience made available through Rotary.
While I was in Guatemala I met the Guatemalan Rotarian, Juan Carlos Cheves, who was a member of the Host Rotary Club. I told him that I was about to become President and I wanted my club to be the lead sponsor on a WCS project. I asked him what I could do for his country. His immediate response was that we should help supply clean drinking water to the less fortunate people. Polluted drinking water is a major problem and he had a simple solution. A in house filter system that cost $50 and would supply clean drinking water to a family of 8 for about two years under normal use.
When I got back to Florence, Oregon I called my mentor. I told him what I was going to do and he asked me how large a Grant I would apply for. I had no idea. Our club had only sponsored one WCS project and that was a long time ago. I thought big and said $10,000. He started to laugh and said the minimum should be $25,000. I said Ok, but I was really frightened because I hadn’t the slightest clue how to apply for a Grant and get the needed donations. He told me to just ask, which I did via e-mails to the District Club Presidents. I begged and begged and then the pledges started to come in and the project was funded. The filters were delivered and the Grant closed very fast. I said that was easy so I went in for a $50,000 Grant and started the process all over again. Slam dunk. The funds came in, filters delivered and Grant closed in probably a record time. To make a long story short we helped to apply for 10 Rotary Matching Grants, mostly in the $50,000 area, in the first two years, which will help over 80,000 people have clean drinking water. Clubs from many different Districts have become Primary Sponsors and so far 10 of the 24 Rotary Clubs in Guatemala are acting as Host Sponsors. We had a note card fundraiser and sold almost $10,000 worth, mostly to my club members. My feeling is that most people, especially Rotarians, just love to help the needy.
I think every Rotarian should think about doing something like this because it just feels so good. You can do it, just try. I also think that every Rotarian should go on at least one humanitarian trip during their lifetime. Why, because it can become a life changing event.
I am also looking for clubs to be the lead sponsors of their own Water Project. Let me know.
We want to help every less fortunate person in the world to have clean drinking water. More than one billion people lack this most basic commodity. Having safe drinking water helps to liberate people so they can live healthier, fuller, and more productive lives. 6,000 children die every day from water borne diseases. We want to help solve this problem and lessen the suffering.
We will help find International and Host Rotary Partners so they can do Water Projects in developing counties. Through our fundraising efforts we expect to support these Projects financially. It is our goal to make more people aware of this tremendous worldwide problem.”George also advised us that he was president of the Rotary Club of Florence, Oregon of District 5110 when he first became involved in these projects in 2006. Since then he has relocated to Sarasota, Florida and is now a member of the Rotary club of Lakewood Ranch in District 6960.
George also reports that since then “I have switched focus. I now try to find good Water Projects from around the world and then find International Rotary Club Partners.
In just a few years I have helped put together nearly 80 Rotary Water Grants totaling almost $2,500,000 which will help almost 400,000 less fortunate people to have clean drinking water.
I now give talks at District Conferences and PETS so I can spread the word about WATER and hopefully motivate some Rotarians to step up and do a Water Grant. I also have a Water Newsletter that is sent to Rotarians who have an interest in Water. I will travel anywhere in the world to talk about doing a Water Grant. It is my PASSION in life to help the needy and Rotary is so great because it gives me and others the opportunity.”
Acknowledgements to Water Team International.