Clean water as a transformative force

14 Nov 2023

At Normec, we know what the impact of contaminated water can be. Toine Ramaker, director of the Water for Life Foundation, knows all about it. He is passionate about making the world aware that clean water is at the basis of, well... everything!

Toine, first of all: what exactly does Water for Life do?

‘Water for Life works on access to clean drinking water and a toilet for low-income countries, increasing their prospects for a better life.’

What distinguishes Water for Life from other charities for the same target group?

‘A lot of aspects. For a start, we supervise processes from A to Z and not just parts of them. We only work with local water companies, contractors and construction companies that we have known for years. This gives us sustainable expertise for good project design, implementation and monitoring of the infrastructure after project completion. For the project design, together with the local water company, we approach tribal elders and community representatives and thus creating a lasting basis of trust. Thanks to our clear defined criteria, we only realise projects that truly help the poorest of the poor. But perhaps most importantly, clean water transforms lives and communities. SDG 6 Clean water and sanitation is therefore a catalyst for at least five other SDGs.’

Can you explain that?

‘Lack of clean drinking water and sanitation has much more negative impact than just poor health. So does the turnaround that occurs because of clean drinking water! For example, clean drinking water gives a boost to economic activity, something that Normec with all its water entities realises like no other. Spot the link with SDG 1 No poverty. That SDG 3 Good health and well being is linked to clean drinking water and sanitation is obvious. Perhaps less obvious is how SDG 4 Quality education is linked to clean drinking water. Healthy children are less often absent from school and thus increase their chances of getting a diploma. Girls who menstruate can continue to attend school because of improved sanitary conditions there. This then impacts on SDG 5 Gender equality, as girls and women can participate fully and can also use the time they normally spend on fetching water more usefully. And what about SDG 13 Climate action. Polluted water has a huge CO2 footprint because of all the wood that is collected and then stoked to boil the water for use. While forest is so important for keeping rural areas livable, fertile and erosion control.’

Why is it attractive for organisations to donate to Water for Life?

‘As one of the few foundations in the Netherlands, we guarantee that every donated euro goes 100% to projects. This is because Water for Life’s overhead is covered by other projects. But much more importantly, we can accurately show the exact impact of the donation. Take Normec’s contribution in 2022: from that, over two kilometres of water mains were laid, providing 65 homes and two public water points with clean drinking water. This has improved the quality of life of 1012 citizens in the Mudada district in Chibuto, Mozambique in an unprecedented way. For 2023, Normec has even expressed a commitment that the number of citizens whose lives are positively affected by a donation should equal the number of Normec employees. With this number in mind, we started looking for a suitable project. We found it in the Philippines, in a region hit hard by typhoon Odette in December 2021. By 2023, thanks to Normec’s donation, 3,500 citizens in Carcar will have access to clean water and sanitation (again). That’s a huge impact!’

How else can organisations support Water for Life besides making a donation?

‘By organising actions around (sports) events or donating via Christmas gifts, for example. Because besides fundraising, that is the other main goal of the foundation: making people aware that in large parts of the world, clean water is not a matter of course. Creating that awareness can also be done by having your employees visit a project in progress or a completed project. If I am not mistaken, that is also what Normec wants to do. Depending on their expertise, they could, for example, help think about a project design or participate in a project evaluation. Most importantly, those employees would then return inspired and take their experiences with them in conversations with colleagues, family, friends. And thus help spread the message: clean drinking water transforms lives.’

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