Saving the Rain with Charity Pot

On March 7, 2012 Erika, Karen and I embarked on a journey around the world and landed in Tanzania, Africa. Located in East Africa, Tanzania is home to a vast number of natural wonders including Mt. Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria, and the Serengeti. Almost a year earlier I had written down that I wanted to visit one of our Charity Pot partners, but I could never have anticipated the adventure it would be. I wanted to see the connection between a pot of lotion sold in North America, and the projects that the proceeds supported around the world.

There are things that I saw that no amount of LUSH can ever wash away, and there are moments that I never, ever want to forget.

We had prepared ourselves in all the ways we could – vaccinations (ouch!), medications, and packing our gear, but the moment we stepped off the plane after 30 hours of travel, it was all worth it. So what led us to Tanzania? We had the amazing opportunity to visit Save the Rain who graciously hosted us for two weeks, and allowed us to join in their work with rain catchment systems and the communities they support. We were warmly greeted by Kelly, the Executive Director and from there we were part of the amazing Save the Rain team which included Dylan, Anna, Joseph, Lukas, and Susan.

There are more than 4 billion people worldwide without access to water, claiming 14000 lives each day. Every 15 seconds someone dies because of this water crisis.

Save the Rain works to end the water crisis through rain water harvesting, one village at a time. Rainwater harvesting is simple – it’s an electricity-free process to catch, store, clean and use the rain as a sustainable water supply. Sustainability is the key. All of the systems are built using local materials and local labor. That way the communities are fully capable to build, maintain, and fix their systems, and to teach the methods to others. The village elects a committee to oversee the care and sustainability of the project. Donors fund the projects, but the community owns the water resource and decides how to use the resource to best serve the people.

In order to create a baseline to study the impact of rain catchment systems, we travelled to two communities where the tanks were newly installed (and funded by our customers through Charity Pot), and performed the initial assessment tests on the children who will be followed for five years. This was one of my favorite activities of the trip. Time and time again, I was overwhelmed with the sincerity, kindness and joy of everyone we met. These kids were no exception. Once our cameras came out they were little hams, happy to pose and even more delighted when we showed them their images afterwards. And yet, this experience was the most sobering. Measuring height and weight, and temperatures was a startling reality check. Many of them did not have shoes, and their uniforms were barely able to stay on their tiny frames. Regardless of what possessions they did or did not have, the facts were undeniable – they were missing school due to illness, many of them had fevers indicating they were currently sick, and almost all of them were grossly underweight.

I didn’t want them to see me cry. I didn’t want them to feel shame. It was only by chance that we were born in North America, and not in their communities where access to water can be a matter of life and death.

In addition to visiting the programs that Charity Pot funded, we also spent time planting Moringa seeds (2600 in total!), which is a new phase of the program. Called a “miracle tree,” Moringa trees are drought and flood resistant, and the entire tree is usable from food to medicine. Communities who receive catchment systems now also receive seedlings to help counter the soil depravation, and to help with the nutritional needs of the students who often have little to nothing to eat.

What’s one of the most significant memories I have from this journey? The people we got to meet; so beautiful inside and out. In our visits to the schools and villages who received a rain catchment system through funding from Charity Pot, it was overwhelming to see the gratitude for something we take for granted. The two weeks we spent in Tanzania were transformative. I’m so thankful for the adventure, the new friendships that were formed, and I can’t wait to return again. Through working directly with Save the Rain we got to see why they are so effective at what they do, and the results they have achieved are phenomenal. In their last project assessment they found over 90% improvement in general health, attendance in school, and in students passing the exams required to move on to secondary school. And there was 0% contamination in the water.

Simple, basic solutions can alter lives. But it’s not just about the function of an organization or the fulfilling of needs; it’s the human connection to who you’re working with and why. Because of this I have no doubt that Save the Rain will continue to be successful, and it’s clear to see that Charity Pot funds are helping to make a world of difference.