By Jon Kaufman
From 2 to 8 July, I led my club’s second H2OpenDoors expedition to central Mexico. The three-year-old Rotary project provides SunSpring water purification systems for poor villages and schools and allows the villages to sell the surplus water from the systems.
The project touches on several of Rotary’s areas of focus: providing clean water, building peace (by combating poverty), and educating youth.
We bring along a dozen or so students, as well as a few teachers, so they can see how a simple idea can become a project and benefit thousands of people. We hope the students return to their schools empowered to make a difference.
Last year, we were able to visit with former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who pledged to partner with us on future efforts.
This year’s trip included 24 Rotary members, friends, family, students, and teachers. We installed a solar-powered SunSpring water purification system in San Miguel de Allende. The plant will bottle water into 10-liter reusable jugs and sell it to the public at a third the cost of other water. Even so, it will raise close to $200,000 a year for CRISMA, a rehabilitation center for disabled children and adults with cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Fox and his wife support the center through their foundation.
The implications of this project are huge. All over the developing world, social services like these close for lack of funding or government support. At CRISMA, mothers and their disabled children travel for up to three days by bus for therapy sessions vital to the children’s growth and recovery.
A thirst for change
Mexico is the world’s No. 1 consumer, per capita, of bottled water. The vast majority of sales are by four multinational companies. By launching a new water-bottling enterprise whose sole purpose is to support services for the poor, we our creating a model others can follow.
During our trip, students spent time painting, planting, and helping with aqua-therapy classes. One of our teachers noted that the trip was a once-in-a lifetime experience. We spent the final three days of the six-day trip at Centro Fox, the presidential library and international conference center named for the former president. Fox told us he enjoyed hosting the students as an opportunity to help them develop a purpose in life and learn leadership skills
My day job is running KL&P Marketing in San Carlos, California, and our largest client, AT&T, is running a college promotional campaign that will raise $100,000 for H2OpenDoors. When the campaign ends in October, 10 college students from all over the country will be chosen to join a team to install water systems at two villages in Guanajuato State in central Mexico. We also have expeditions planned for Nepal, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Cuba.
About the author: Jon Kaufman owns KL&P Marketing, a large agency in the Silicon Valley. He has been a member of the Peninsula Sunrise Rotary Club in Redwood City, California, since 2012. Jon started H2openDoors as a Rotary project to provide drinking water technology to the poorest villages and schools who spend up to a third of their daily income on bottled water.