Good People, Cool Things
Good People, Cool Things

Episode 142 · 2 months ago

142: Clean Drinking Water for Everyone with Christoph Gorder

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Can you imagine having to walk miles just to get water to drink? Or you can't use whatever comes from the sink when you brush your teeth? For more than 700 million people worldwide, this is a reality. They don't have access to clean drinking water. 

Christoph Gorder is the Chief Global Water Officer of Charity Water, which seeks to provide clean drinking water for everyone. The nonprofit has already raised millions of dollars to help the cause, with additional projects in the works that will impact 50 million people across 21 countries.

We're chatting how Charity Water has raised money, why clean water is a solvable problem, and the importance of being genuine with your donors or customers.

This episode is presented by MyLifeInABook.com. They offer a super fun way to get to know your loved ones better, collect timeless memories for future generations, and bring the family together! Use code "GPCT" at checkout or click right here and save.

Think about what you do when you wake up in the morning. Do you go over, maybe wash your face a little bit, Maybe get a cup of water, a big, old giant bottle of water. If you're me, perhaps just filling it up in my we're usable water because you gotta you gotta get the measurements to make sure you're getting enough water throughout the day. Maybe you're brushing your teeth, so you put water on your toothbrush, throw some toothpaste on there, and go at it. That sounds violent, like you're just brush your teeth, don't like, you know, saw your gums off or anything like that. Maybe before bed you're doing the same type of thing. You're drinking some water, maybe making a little tea, brushing again before bed. For close to eight hundred million people across the world, these simple activities not easy to do without the risk of water borne illness because they don't have access to clean water. It's something we take for granted for sure, if you are living in somewhere where you can just drink water right out of the faucet, right out of the tap. But for so many people, it's a tough reality that they have to travel hours at a time time just to find somewhere that has clean water and then travel hours back to bring it back to their families. But the good news is that we do have the technology and the knowledge for how to solve the water crisis. It just takes a lot of resources and time to make it happen. But that's exactly what Charity Water is setting out to do. They've already helped more than a hundred a thousand different locations get access to clean water and maintain that access. And I'm chatting with Kristoph Gord, the Chief Global Water Officer of Charity Water, about how they've been doing it and what they have coming up. They have big aspirations for the coming year. With your help, they can get there. Kristof also shares why they've been able to have such successful relationships with their donors, and his tips are applicable for any business. So if you've got a brand that's maybe not a nonprofit, you'll still want to listen up because there's lots of goodies in here. And as always, if you enjoy the show, head over to pod Chaser or Apple Podcasts drop a five star review. I'll read some of my faith. It's on upcoming episodes because I...

...love hearing from you, but only if it's five stars. If it's one star, I don't want to hear that. Check that over to Joe Rogan or something else. I'm Joey Held. This is good people, cool things, and here's Kristoph Gorder with Charity Water to kick things off. Can you give us your name and your elevator pitch, but also the type of elevator that we're writing on. Alright, So I'm Christoph Gorder. I'm the chief Global Water Officer at Charity Water. We're a nonprofit organization that's dedicated to providing clean and safe drinking water to people around the world. We are on a very fast elevator, so we got a really big problem out there around the world. There's seven seventy million people who need our help who don't have access to clean water, so they're drinking from rivers and swamps and streams every day and it is a huge cause of human suffering and death around the world. So um, there's a lot of urgency. And Charity Water was born about sixteen years ago out of nothing. Our founder was a guy named Scott Harrison. He started it on a couch in soho in New York City with with no money, and we reached over fifteen million people in the last sixteen years. And so um, we've grown really quickly, but the problem is big and we need to grow faster to help more people. Awesome, And how did you get involved personally? There's there's sort of two answers to this question. I'd spent fifteen years before coming to charity Water working in a very similar type of work. So I worked for a nonprofit organization. We worked on disaster response around the world, particularly in healthcare, in the healthcare setting, so we were getting hospitals and clinics up and going after big disasters around the world earthquake in Haiti or the war in Kosovo, or tsunami in Indonesia. And you know what I was seeing My experience in that was that, you know a lot of the patients that were coming in were necessarily coming in from direct injuries from the from the disaster, but from water borne diseases because they...

...didn't have access to clean water. So that you know, we get them into the hospital, they the doctor's patrim up, they'd send him back home and they'd be back, you know, a month later or six, you know, six weeks later with you know again sick from from dysenterry or typhoid or you know, any of these diarrhea, any of these terrible diseases you get from dirty water. And so for me, it was a big you know, I was working in the similar environments that I work in today, but you know, moving into clean water, I was able to move into like one of the root root causes of you know, so much of the suffering that I had, I had seen in in my previous career. So I did that for fifteen years. Then I came over to Charity Water as we were kind of building it. We've we've built it up a lot over these ten years. So that's that's like the LinkedIn version of how did I get here? Um, the the Instagram version, which would be like what's my personal story? Is that I grew up in West Africa. So my parents were Lutheran missionaries in the Central After Republic and in Nigeria, and I lived my whole life there until I finished high school. So I grew up in the environments that I work in today, which I think, you know, has really equipped me uniquely to do my job in two ways. One is, um, it just it's real, man, Like I grew up with this, like I you know, it was stressful. You know, you couldn't when I was a kid, You couldn't go to I couldn't go to my friend's house and drink water, Like I hadn't only drink water in my house. We had a filter in my house, but my friends did. Um. So, so I have a lot of motivation, like these people were neighbors and friends, and you know, except for it's it's I've seen it directly. Um. The other thing is, you know, just I just grew up in this environment. So I feel very comfortable in being in very unusual environments or or environments that other people feel very uncomfortable. So it's really helped me. And you know, the last twenty five years of my career, you know, kind of land someplace and work well with lots of different kind of people just because of the way I was raised. So those are the kind of two answers to one question there. Yeah, absolutely, And I think that's a really good point of having lived it. Um.

And I know we've talking. We're both big travelers as well, and I think you know people who who maybe don't travel as much, sometimes it can be hard to kind of almost hammer home like why this is such an issue across the world. And I think when you do travel and you see other countries that it's like, yeah, you can't just turn on a faucet and get water unless you you know, you want to risk a disease. And we take it for granted, you know, you take Yeah, it's it's the first thing you do in the morning, you get up, you're you don't even think about it. You use the you use the toilet and flush it, and then you get a drink of water and brush your I mean, you don't even think. It's the last thing you do at night. You brush your teeth and dig a drink of water. Um. It's it's and you know, as you said, like you know, the first time you go into a developing country and you're in your hotel and you're like, you know, I'm again I brush my teeth with and stuff, and that's yeah, that's nothing compared to what these people have with you know, Like these these people, you know, they're walking hours every day, um to go to some stream someplace with poisonous water, and then they're walking back home and it's it's the women and girls that really suffer the most, um because traditionally in many societies, they're the ones who are tasked with going to fetch the water. And so these young girls, like I have a you know it really things things really hit home from me in a different way when I had kids. You know, my my eldest is is uh is a girl, and you know, being out in these communities and seeing kids, you know, my daughter's age thirteen fourteen years old, and you know, they weren't going to school, they weren't chilling out with their friends, you know, being creative, like they were just walking for hours like every day. It's it's really, it's really terrible, and it's an experience that's you know, inconceivable for us today in modern America. Right, And it wasn't you know. The amazing thing is um we solved it here, like this is a solvable salute, it's solvable problem, right, so you know if you you don't have to look very far back in the United States to find...

...these kinds of situations in our own country and um and and we we've been able to solve it. So so the thing about water, the really satisfying thing about working in water is like we know how to solve this problem. Like we've solved it in a lot of places. There's still a lot of places that need our help. But like it's not like some of the other problems in the world, you know, climate change, How do we how do we solve that? I don't know, you have opinion and I have opinioned social equality, um, you know, in any of the big world problems are you know, are really thorny problems to solve? Where's this? Like there's a solution, we know how to do it. We just need to get mobilized to do it. And so what are some of the things that you've done are ready to help with that? So you know, we we work across twenty one countries in Africa and Asia. They're really diverse, and so the solutions need to be really diverse to um. You know, we're working in the deserts of Moli and Niger in West Africa. We work in Cambodia where you you know, you think about like rice patties and a lot of surface water and um and and rivers. We work in jungles and you know, high mountains areas and so you know, the interesting thing about water is you really the solutions really need to be local and um and they need to be engineered to be local. And so in some cases like Cambodia, they would be household filtration devices because there's water kind of everywhere. You just dig a hole, you know, ten feet deep in your backyard and you have a well, and there's plenty of water there, but it's dirty. So what you need is a filtration device UM. In you know, other places, more arid places like northern Kenya in an area called Turkana, you know, one of the harshest environments out there. You know, you've got to do a very deep borehole UM with a solar pump. You bring the water up to an elevated tank and then it uses gravity to feed it out through a network of pipes to you know, little community taps in different parts of the community. So you know, really the technologies very quite significantly, the cost very quite significantly based on where you are. But the average...

...project for us, when we look at sort of the middle of the bell curve, it's about about a ten thousand dollar undertaking, and it helps, it'll it'll solve the issue for a village of about two d fifty to three hundred people, So you know, in those places. What's what's amazing about this is in many of these places, people have been living on top of all the clean what like clean water is like a hundred fifty feet below them, Like for hundreds of years, they've been living a hundred and fifty feet away from all the clean water they would ever need. And what's separating them is that hundred fifty feet and about ten thousand dollars of you know, technical knowledge and drilling rigs and diesel and some pipes and whatnot. And they're like, they're so close, they're so close and um and we can bridge that gap for them. So you know, I would say, yes, the solutions are very diverse, but but an average project would cost about ten grand and solve the problem for about two amazing And has there been I know, I know we've talked a little bit about how like we know how to solve this, but has there been anything that's surprised to you, Whether it's like in some of the technology that you've implemented, or just like going to one of these countries, are one of these villages and just seeing you know, like workarounds that people have come up with. Yeah, I mean, so there's a I would have a bunch of answers to that. For first of all, it's like what a big difference water, clean access to clean water makes. I mean it it really touches all aspects of life and so and it's almost important. It's almost impossible to imagine any human development, any progress if you don't have clean water. Right, So, if you don't have clean water, you're spending hours a day going to fetch water. So you're using your time and your energy, you know, just in this revolving circle, you're getting sick. So any extra money you have you're using on medicine or going to the doctor. Um, the girls aren't going to school because when they reach puberty and start to have their period, there sanitary facilities and...

...water at school, So they stopped going to school. I mean, And it's just like it's just it's it really it's impossible to think about moving forward when when when when communities get clean water. Man, it's just like all of a sudden, that flywheel just starts. So you imagine like if somebody gave you back two or three hours in the day where you were just doing completely unproductive, horrible like work that didn't amount to anything. If somebody just gave you two or three act like what would you do with that man? You would like you would far more. You'd come up with like ideas for businesses. You would spend time with your kids. You'd make sure they were like clean and well fed and doing their school work. You know, So like you imagine you imagine what that means in sort of practical terms that we know from from research that a dollar invested in clean water and sanitation produces for to twelve dollars return and investment in terms of economic benefits to a community. So you know, when you're talking about people who are making a dollar a day, we're living on a dollar a day, like every penny counts and we can add a lot to it. So to see the difference between a community that got clean water five you know they've had clean water for five years or ten years. You know that women are running little businesses, the kids are clean, schools are full, um, they're they're lobbying their local government to get electricity, and it just it's a completely different kind of environment and um, So that you know that that's surprising. You know. It's like you imagine it makes it a big difference, but then you see it and it's like wow. I think. The the other thing that's been surprising for me and just like a huge challenge for for us and for everybody else is just how how difficult it is to keep clean water flowing. So it's hard to build a water project. You gotta raise the money, you've got to find the water, you've gotta do the political process, you've got to figure out like there's a lot that goes into building a project and building it in a sustainable way, and then that project has to last, you know, and twenty thirty years and over the course of time, you know, I...

...you know, making sure that communities are able to keep their clean water flowing is is incredibly complicated because these are places are in the middle of nowhere. All sorts of stuff comes up. You know. You have you have social conflict, people don't get along and so they don't repair it. You have like supply chain breakdown, you've got floods. You know, any sort of thing can go wrong. And so we've worked really hard on on that aspect and that that's something that you know toss doesn't. It's not it's not that it costs so much money. It's just it's really complicated, and that that's been that's been a surprise for me. Yeah, it's I mean, this is on a much smaller scale. But I feel like most things, like maybe and maybe this is just like the weight of the pandemic weighing down too. But I feel like most new projects I've tried to undertake in the past two and a half years, it's like, Okay, this should be a quick like the shouldn't They shouldn't take a lot of time. This should be pretty simple. That it's hours later and I'm just banying my head against the wall. Yeah, and you know this this makes sense. But I think you know, when you go into it, it's easy to be a little naive about like, you know, how quick and easy this is gonna be, right, um, And so you know we've learned. We've learned that over time, and so it's really helped us. I think, you know, instead of thinking, oh, we'll go in and you know, we'll build a water project this community, it will take a couple of months and we'll be done and we'll move on, and you know that'll be it really think about, like, Okay, yes, it will take u a couple of months to build a projects here, but we're gonna want to keep in touch with these guys at some level for the next ten years just to make sure everything's going right and they are able to fix the vast majority of the issues that they come against come up against. But if they see if they run into some problem that they can't fix themselves, like, we're gonna still be in touch and they can call us and we can help them and and keeping. So you know, we've we've built or funded a hundred thousand pro...

...jects around the world in the fourteen years. A hundred thousand locations in the middle of nowhere. I mean like this is like you know, you fly to the capital city in Africa, then you fly to like a regional town and then you get in a truck and you drive like four hours out like that's where these things are located. So a hundred and a hundred thousand little dots in the map, keeping track of those is a major undertaking. So, you know, a huge shift for us was going was was kind of that a ham moment years ago, and we're like Oh, it doesn't just end like you don't just like you know, like you don't just like build a project and walk away from it. Um, it's gonna need a little bit of help. Uh. And that that that that's really complicated, that's been surprising, that keeps me, that takes me challenged every day. It's nice to be and be kept on your tails. I think today's sponsor is my Life in a Book dot Com and it's a really special one for me because we don't often get to off for a truly unique, meaningful, and life changing gift to our loved ones. We're usually getting something symbolic, like, you know, a chocolate that someone really likes, or a material objects like Boggle or coup I mean, ku is a great game Boggle. I could take it or leave it. But I know some people Peggy Hill, she loves some Boggle. Those gifts, sure, they're great, but they don't truly build a legacy for our loved ones. With My Life in a Book dot Com, you can give any close family member of your choice the opportunity to write their own life story for future generations. You get to learn everything about that their biggest childhood challenge For me it was pull ups. When we had to do pull ups in gym class. I'd watch my other classmates, who maybe weren't chunky kids. They do ten fifteen pull ups like it ain't no thing. I couldn't even get one. Today. You give me a pull up bar, I still probably can't get one. They're very hard. I don't like pull ups. The craziest thing they've ever done as young adults probably a volunteer trip I went on to the Dominican Republic while I was...

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...especially and again in a time of time of the world where I, at least in the U. S. The you know, inflation rates are going up, it seems like everything's more expensive than it used to be. I know, some of my favorite restaurants, I'm just like, I used to tell you to the scent what this could cost, and now it's more than that. But I'll st delete it because it's great. So I guess it's it's kind of a two part question. How have you work to educate people and and you know, spread the word about what you're doing? And have you found that that strategy has had to shift over the past few years since maybe people are a little more careful with money or at least more aware of like what they're spending it on. You know, when we started the organization and we thought about what what are our biggest challenges? Um you know, if you're thinking about you might think, oh, well, it's you know that we're working in like far off places that might be corrupt, there might be wars there. How do you find the water like you might drill and not find like Actually those are sort of secondary problems. The big problem that we were facing when when we we thought that we believe we faces an organization is that, you know, people don't trust charities, and um, so if you're in my position and the our ability to accomplish our mission to give people access to clean water, realize, you know, totally on you trusting me and you giving me some donation that I and that I'm going to use that well. So so you know when you read about this, like there's a study done this of Americans don't trust charities, wow, um, and se of Americans think the charities spend their money poorly or very poorly. So you're in my position and you're like, oh, man, like I have to give people to trust me before you know, before we can even start to face those other problems of like difficult working environments. So at the very beginning, we set up the organization a very unique way. We said, Okay, of your donation is going to go to the field. Um, we're not gonna use any of it for our overhead, for our salaries, for like managing any of that. All of that money we still like I still need to make a salary, I still need to fly out there and...

...make sure that the project was done right. All of that's going to be paid for by separate group of donors. So there's like a hundred and thirty or so individuals or families who specifically opt in to just cover like salary, so none of their money goes to Africa ration. All of their money stays here and pays for, you know, all of our expenses. So that was kind of the first step for us, and we really set up this unique model and that allows us then to really, um, you know, give people a lot of confidence that their money is going is not getting like spent on something that they didn't expect to get spent on. Um, it's getting spent in the field. And that's really helped us a lot. You know that along with transparency that we have of you know, proving every single project, mapping every single project and publishing it them so that that's created kind of like a I think a unique relationship with the people who give to us, and that means that they people have been have felt like they really understand what their impact is and how important their impact is, and UM and and you know what their money is actually what their money is actually doing because we can quantify it pretty well. Um, the last few years have been really interesting. Um my experience is that and and we've seen this through COVID when you know their results, you know, big downturn, a lot of people lost their jobs. Now there's an inflation and a lot of uncertainty. It's interesting because I think when people go through difficult times like this, and when they see their family members or neighbors or friends going through this, they become more empathetic. And we've seen people really step up in this time to say like, um, you know wow, like yeah, if it's if it's if it's tough for me, imagine how tough it is for somebody out there. Because inflation is global. You know the price of food and fuel is high here and it's high in Ethiopia, you know, so you imagine you're trying to raise a family on you know, a dollar or two a day, and you know the price of oil or flour you know, raises. This is like, you know, it's huge, Like you know, I kind of like paying more for for for for for for gas at the pump,...

...but at the ultimately at the at the end of the day, I can get that done and I have to sucked by something that that I'm not done. So we've found that people actually become very empathetic and in difficult times and uh, it's really inspiring. It's it's amazing. That's humans are amazing, like and Americans particularly are the most generous people in the world. Like, that's just that's not me saying it, that's just like the data. So you know, we're we're lucky to be um, you know, in the environment we are in and to have the amazing support that we that we get. Well, maybe that's like ways nicely then into a question you wish you were asked more frequently, which is someone coming up to you and being like, what can I do to help? Yeah, I mean I think, um, we all are, um, very busy with our lives. Life is life is generally overwhelming for all of us. Right, We've got jobs and loved ones and kids and aspirations and hobbies and like, you know, there's just never enough hours in the day. And I think, um, you know, to stop, stop what you're doing and ask anybody like what what can I what can I do to help, you know, whether it's your spouse or your kid, or your neighbor or the local charity or your p T A or whatever like. Um. You know, generosity is is one of our values at charity Water. UM. And you know if everybody we're able to dial up their willingness to help and just a little bit, a little, a little bit, um, it could change the world. And you know that's um. You know we see we see it around it all the time. So when people come to me and say, you know, what can I do to help? I'm like, oh, you know, like wow, this is great, Like like we we are built to put that energy to work for what is actually just a very small amount of effort in the grand scheme of things. Um, you can make it...

...an you can make a huge difference. So for us, for example, it costs on an average about forty dollars to give one person access to clean water. I mean for many many people, that is well within their their their ability. And you know, you the these people are on the other side of the world. They can't advocate in front of you. UM. They really need they need us to kind of take a step forward and and say yeah, like like what can I what can I do to help? Because they they're they're far away and voiceless, and so that's that's the question. Like when somebody says, what can I do to help? Oh man, that's great, Like you're you're given and not taking and it's an amazing thing. Can you give us just a quick I guess I'll look ahead probably three since where somehow almost at the end of the year. Right, It's still baffles me every time. But some of the projects that you're working on, so we are, um, you know, we're engaged in m you know, pretty significant projects across twenty one countries UM. In each one of those countries, we have identified a particular region or county or district that we are you know, we started working diligently towards getting to a full coverage and you know, reaching reaching everybody in that district with access to clean water. And so you know, we've got a pretty ambitious um plan for the next five years to try to reach another fifteen million people with access to clean water and then keep water flowing for all of those fifteen million people, plus all of the water projects in the areas where we're working that might have been built by other organizations, so running you know, large maintenance programs. So we think we'll we'll will you know, with with the support of many, many people, we we we hope we'll be able to provide clean water for the first time to fifteen million people and then keep water flowing and run maintenance programs, sustainability programs for probably another forty million people. So we were gonna try...

...to help fifty million people in the next five years. Um, but that's not gonna happen by itself. Like we've we've we've got the way to do it. We we we can, we can execute on the ground, but it takes an enormous amount of resources. So um, you know, we need we need every every bit that that we can and every every every little bit helps helps one person. Amazing. All right, well, Christoff, you're almost off the hook. Care But we always like to wrap up with a top three And when we were talking to beforehand, this might be the hardest question of all here, but your top three ways to spend a day off anywhere in the world, Well, I uh, it's it's a hard question. Um, it's a hard question. For the second to the first one is I've my favorite way to spend spend uh the office with my family. Um So I'm I've been married my wife for twenty two years and I have two great kids, and um, that's it doesn't really matter where we are like, um so, like that would be my my number one choice. But then number two and number three are really hard because I'm like, Okay, well, and where would we do that. I've been in ninety two countries and I've been to a lot of really really really amazing places. Um and so as I was thinking about this, I think I think I might go to Jackson Hall, Wyoming. It's like number one because I just love the mountains, and I think that the Titons, the Grand Tetons are just you know, it's one of the most spectacular views in the world, just absolutely beautiful, and I would, uh, I would go there and go for a walk in the Grand te Town National Park. And uh, I really like the outdoors. So my answers are are our outdoors the answers. And I think the other spectacular, spectacular place that I if I could just transport myself, I would go to to the Serengetti Um, which is just the most beautiful, great plains full of animals and like looks like, um, it looks like the Garden of Eden. It's just absolutely unbelievable and...

...and uh and feels like paradise on Earth. That's so I would spend a day with my family anywhere in the world doing whatever UM and then if I could, I'd go to Jackson and jump on my time machine and fly very fast through the serengetti. Amazing. This is a just a tangent. But I used to do. I guess I still do, but less frequently. But UM voice over work and the very first project I ever worked on was for an event that was at Jackson Hole UM in Wyoming, and I was like, I've never been there, but it was just promoting this this UM. I think it's some sort of like Cowboy event or something that they do. I don't know if it's an annual thing or it's just, you know, some some sort of thing, but basically like a hype video, like a hype audience for a minute or two I and then I was like, it sounds awesome. I want to get. If you haven't been there, you should put it on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed. Excellent. It's on there it's on there. Well, if people want to help, like like we talked about, if they want to get involved to learn more about Charity Water, where can they find you? Um, jump on our website charity water dot org or you know, follow us on Instagram or Facebook. You know, I think the first thing is just check it out, like, learn about it. We've got a lot of great, awesome videos and stories on there. Um it's um, you know, we we're excited about our work. We're inspired by the work that we get involved in. We're not giving anybody a guilt trip like come along for the ride, like like this is um, this is inspiring, fun work and um, there's no contribution. This too small. I mean you know if you think, like if you give ten bucks, like we'll get three other people to give ten bucks and we'll help. We'll help one person like solve their problem, uh in in a profound way. So um, you know, jump online, learn about it, and just just join us. Man, this is like, this is um. We'd love to have you. I...

...love it. Chris stop, thanks so much again. This is great, awesome thanks. It was great chatting with you Joe. Likewise, and of course we got to end with a corny joke, as we always do. Why did the ocean break up with the pond? She thought he was too shallow? Good After Today People, Good People, Cool Things is produced in Austin, Texas. If you were a fan of this episode, go ahead and hit that follow button that helps more people here the show. You can send me a message Joey at Good People, Cool Things dot com. Thank you to all of the guests who have been on Good People, Cool Things, and check out all the old episodes via Good People, Cool Things dot com. As always, thank you for listening and have a wonderful day.

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