Australian, Matt Henricks has transformed the lives of 42,000 people in Africa, by providing them with the incredible gift of clean water.
Matt organises team building activities, all over the world, where everyday people build something literally life-saving for others. In just a couple of hours participants get to build a water filtration system that will protect an entire household of around 10 people from avoidable water-borne diseases that kill people every day around the world.
"Our research shows that with the systems that have already been donated we have prevented at least 1,500 instances of water-borne diseases to date. That number will continue to climb the longer each system that's been donated remains operational.
"Unfortunately 5,000 children under the age of five die each day and half of hospital beds world-wide are taken up by people suffering from avoidable water-borne diseases. We're thrilled to be making a small tangible difference in our own way", said Matt Henricks, Founder, Water Works Program.
The Water Works Program is a corporate team building activity where employees get to assemble emergency water systems. In groups of three and in just two hours, people get to build a water filtration system that is then given to refugee camps in Uganda. The emergency water systems are very portable and ready for immediate operation once they arrive in Uganda.
"Our systems filter 99% of bacteria, cysts and parasites out of the water and also provide a safe and hygienic storage solution for people to keep clean water close-by where they are likely to need it", said Henricks.
Matt founded the Water Works Program in 2015 in Australia but the initiative has since spread to seven other countries across Europe, North America and Asia, truly making it a global project.
"We've had over 12,000 participants from all over the world get involved so far. So not only have we donated over 4,000 life-saving water filtration systems but we've spread the word far and wide about this critical problem. We like to think that the ripple effect of this project is even bigger than the direct impact that we have had so far. We can't wait to see what the future holds for our project", concluded Henricks.
Matt will be travelling to Uganda on 31 March, 2019 to visit two separate refugee camps that they have helped. Opportunities to join in Uganda will be available.
Question: What is the Water Works Program?
Matt Henricks: Water Works is a team-building corporate training exercise where we build clean water filtration systems to be donated to refugee camps in Uganda.
Question: What inspired you to create the Water Works Program?
Matt Henricks: The Water Works project is very close to my heart as I have been to Uganda and can really see the massive difference that these clean water filtration systems make.
We had played in the space a little bit prior and were prompted to combine corporate training and charity – we chose to tackle what we think is the biggest problem in the world: access to clean water.
Question: Can you tell us about the Water Works Program team building activities?
Matt Henricks: Effectively we come to your workplace with the materials and employees physically assemble a life-changing clean water filtration system in a workshop which is then donated to a Refugee Camp in Northern Uganda. This camp is located in a reasonably volatile humanitarian emergency-zone which grows in numbers, every day. It is important that the systems we donate are already assembled and ready to use.
Water Works sponsor another water system where at a workshop the employees can create an artwork that decorates the second system that Water Works donates on behalf of the company. This system is donated to a grateful family, on the other side of the world.
Question: How do the families benefit from the systems assembled in Water Works workshop?
Matt Henricks: Every household in Africa is a lot bigger, in comparison to Australia, on average each household homes ten people; due to AIDS and other disease people often have to look after their nieces and nephews. Water Works has already donated over 4,000 systems to help over 40,000 people.
It's fair to say that water borne diseases are one of the world's biggest causes of death; half of all hospitals beds, worldwide, are taken up from completely avoidable water borne diseases and half a billion school days are lost, yearly, to water borne diseases. The households that receive a system are protected from these water borne diseases and the associated problems.
In terms of gender, the women benefit indirectly from these systems as typically the women do all the household work and unfortunately when a woman visits an inconveniently placed well, often they become a magnet for crime. Repeatedly women will refuse to visit the local water well due to being assaulted when they were there last. These water filtration systems equip and empower women to get water from wherever is safest whilst providing a sanitary storage system, within their home. We have found that well water is not always 100% healthy and clean but also it can be easily contaminated during transport.
It is confronting visiting these locations especially seeing how poorly women are treated and how much they hold the families, together in a meaningful way. We aim to raise women up with our projects as we can't change the way these societies work but we can ensure our locally setup committees, that role out the systems, employee equal gender representation. Often we spend time with the whole family to ensure they understand how to use the system as often the men will attend the ceremony but won't do the work in the home.
Question: How can Australians support the Water Works Program?
Matt Henricks: Australians can let their workplace and employer know of the Water Works Program as we know clean water is the biggest problem in the world and we encourage you to get involved in any of the projects. We want our niche to work with corporations and workplaces to give staff the ability to make a practical difference.
I like to think these workshops create value, in a very short period of timing making the world a slightly better place.
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Interview by Brooke Hunter