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Ken's Story

Founder of WATERisLIFE

In February of 2007, I embarked on my first trip to Africa. My destination was the Northern Kenya and South Sudan regions, native to the Turkana people.

My group traveled on dusty roads toward a remote village. Our trucks were loaded with hoards of supplies and clean water. Children begged on the side of the road, holding up their empty water bottles and motioning to their parched mouths. Every mile we stopped to give a new group of kids water. As they ran back to their little huts, they cradled the water like it was gold. I was beginning to understand the real gravity of the water crisis.

We arrived at the village made of sticks and trash thrown out along the road. We were treated like kings. Most of the village had never seen foreigners before. We were introduced to everyone and the children were so excited, especially to taste the different fruits we brought with us. The village leaders slaughtered a goat and graciously prepared it for us. We sat around the fire listening to stories of life in Africa. I really expected more stories of hardship and struggles, but was surprised at how their stories were about family and faith, so full of hope. Songs and stories filled the night sky.

Throughout my stay I learned many stories about life in the desert. Indelibly etched into my memory is one mother who spoke with me through an interpreter. She had the cutest little boy. He was about one-year-old. Naturally, I asked the mother what the baby’s name was. I didn’t think this was unreasonable. She responded with a look of shock, as though she had never heard such a question before. I learned that the baby had no name; they just called him “boy” or “blessing”. He didn’t have a name because he would probably die. Many villages in Africa don’t name their babies until they are two years or older. The reality of 1 in 5 children dying before the age of five is a norm for families in that village, and across the world.  Water borne disease is the leading cause of these early deaths.

There was just too much to process: thirsty children begging for life’s most important element, babies dying from waterborne disease, and a whole village burning up surrounding trees just to make a bit of charcoal to sell and to survive another day. 

I returned to Nairobi with a heavy heart and mind. I was looking forward to my first shower in weeks. As I waited for the shower to warm my eyes fixated on the water spiraling the drain and it hit me, my “A-ha! moment”. WATERisLIFE here, I thought, the people I just spent weeks with would do anything for this water going straight down the drain!  At that moment my life was changed.  I knew I had to do something.  If not me, then who? If not now, then when?

Just a few months later I dug my first well in Kisumu, Kenya at an orphanage we helped start. Since then WATERisLIFE has become expert in water filtration, turning back-packer knowledge into a water filter straw for children, amongst other feats.

Today WATERisLIFE continues to deploy state-of-the-art technology around the world to solve the World Water Crisis, including small portable straw filters kids can take to school, home systems using NanoTube technology, solar and wind-powered community systems, drilling, and rainwater catchment systems.

Of the 10,000 people that die each day due to water-related illness, 90% are children. WATERisLIFE is devoted to undoing that daunting statistic with technologies that already exist. I am excited to solve the World Water Crisis with you. Thank you for your help!

Ken's "Aha Moment" TedX talk here.