03/22/2011 12:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Dignity, Self-Sufficiency and Potable Water This World Water Day

"I would visit rural Africa, and in every village, someone could point me in the direction of the nearest broken well," explains Becky Straw, founder of the Adventure Project.

With 1.1 billion people -- roughly one sixth of the world's population -- lacking access to safe water, and an estimated one-third of all drinking wells built in the last 20 years broken, the issue of clean drinking water is one that plagues the developing world.

Many water aid projects are well-intentioned, but often fail to incentivize aid recipients to maintain the donated infrastructure. Other times, parts and skills required to fix broken wells just are not available in the region at all.

After working in charity and aid business for years, Becky knew that she wanted to change the rules of the game by promoting entrepreneurship, sustainability, and ultimately dignity in international development projects.

Today, World Water Day marks the Adventure Project's first major push around its water campaign, "Keep It Clean," an initiative that supports global NGO WaterAid.
WaterAid trains and equips villagers to repair their region's water wells. Perhaps most remarkable about the campaign is its focus on empowering women to become independent economic actors through the well repair businesses. Ram Rati is one mechanic in the rural village near Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh, who has used the WaterAid model as a means to challenge stereotypes by removing her veil and recruiting other women to work for her well mechanic business.

After fellow villagers got over their initial shock of her uncovered head and her bike riding from village to village fixing wells, Ram Rati shrugs her shoulders at the success her business has had. When asked what the villagers say about her now, she laughed and said, "hand pump mechanic please come, you do very good repairs, so please come."

The Adventure Project embodies the youthful spirit of the social enterprise movement, but is quickly making its mark with established funders like The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF). With values of "Dignity - Peace - Prosperity" and a focus on providing the essential needs of food, water, and peace, TPRF was immediately drawn to Straw's ethos of dignity in development. TPRF may be of a more traditional cadre of funders, but the message is the same, emphasizing empowerment, rather than dependency in aid programs.

Explains founder and global peace activist, Prem Rawat, "Given a chance, people who so deeply value their dignity and ability to be self-reliant, have begun to turn their lives around." That message has been central to the work of TPRF, evident in its groundbreaking projects that have alleviated poverty by involving locals in project design and implementation. One of its most successful projects is "Food for People," pioneered in India and Nepal, and co-created by the foundation and village elders. The program's innovative approach to engaging communities and their leaders in aid delivery has undoubtedly contributed to the success of its projects and attracted accolades from global health leaders such as the World Health Organization.

Together, TPRF and the Adventure Project aim to raise $20,000 in one day to support WaterAid's well mechanic trainings through The Adventure Project's Keep It Clean campaign. By engaging 100 bloggers in the TypeTAP campaign, TPRF and the Adventure project are hoping that each blogger will be able to convince just 10 readers to donate $20 to the campaign, with TPRF matching donations.

I am so proud not only to be writing about this project, but also to be a part of it as the Adventure Project Social Enterprise Advisor. Please contribute your $20 today by visiting the Adventure Project's World Water Day Campaign Page.

Watch the video below about Ram Rati and her well repair business and prepare to be inspired!