Water for Life Voices

Voices from Civil Society Organisations

Ken Surritte
Founder, WATERisLIFE

Ken Surritte

"I am optimistic about the future. Groups are learning we all have to work together. UN-Water, NGOs, governments, other groups and organizations, we all want the same thing. It’s not about taking credit; it’s about making the maximum impact on people in need.

WATERisLIFE is about transformation through water, sanitation and hygiene. It’s about the being able to personally connect with communities and villages. There are a lot of organizations that are "one and done". They come in do a project and then they never come back. At WATERisLIFE we build long-term relationships. We’re designing long-term solutions. For example, we have a solar and wind powered centralized water processing plant now that processes 5,000 gallons a day – enough water for a couple of villages and the quality is better than we get from the tap in the US.

We first listen to communities and their needs wherever we go. Too many come in with a predetermined plan. They don’t listen. We don’t try to implement cookie-cutter solutions; we’re looking for buy-in from the community. It’s not just about providing technology; people need to be educated to move from Open Defecation to latrines to what we call VIP latrines which also trap flies. Without adequate sanitation, the richest guy in town is still eating the poop of the poorest guy because it’s being transported into his food.

For us it is about transforming villages, getting them clean water and improving their sanitation practices. We’ve seen it happen time and again. WATERisLIFE brings transformation. I often think of the story of the little boy on the beach after a storm. There were thousands of starfish washed up on the beach. The little boy picks starfish up one by one and throws them back into the sea. An old man watching this tells the boy: "Don’t you know you will never make a difference? There are too many starfish." The little boy reaches down, picks up another starfish and tosses it into the sea: "It made a difference to that one." That’s it for us. It’s all about the lives we touch. But ultimately we’d like to see the crisis ahead solved."

Dispersion: Thoughts on the Decade

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>> Voices from the field: case studies

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>> Decade’s achievements. From MDGs to SDGs
>> Five years of UN-Water "Water for Life" Awards 2011-2015PDF document
>> Water for Life VoicesPDF document