After a long career that saw him design water systems for Department of Water and Power of the City of Los Angeles and head a lawfirm in Beverly Hills for 20 years, Averill Strasser followed his dream and founded Water Charity in 2008.
With a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MS in Systems Engineering from UCLA Averill has always had a passion for water. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia from 1966 to 1968. During that time, he led numerous development projects into the interior of Bolivia, building water systems and sanitary facilities using student and community resources.
With Water Charity, Averill could go back to field of implementing meaningful water projects with immediate and substantial value to people and communities in need.
High-impact and low-cost
The philosophy with Water Charity was to ensure water projects got implemented without wasting funds on administration and time on bureaucratic decision making.
– We have developed a model that is immediately successful, scaleable, and sustainable. Our projects are all high-impact and low-cost, and use appropriate technology. They start at once and are completed very quickly. Successes are replicated and follow-up projects lend continuity, says Averill.
To achieve this Averill utilized his experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer and works with the Peace Corps Volunteer organization. This gives Water Charity access to over 9,000 Peace Corps Volunteers globally that are willing to implement meaningful project.
So far Water Charity has implemented over 900 projects in 60 countries worldwide. Water Charities work took properly off in 2008 when Averill introduced the concept of Appropriate Projects, which quickly became their most successful model compromising for 90% of their projects.
With a maximum of USD 555 per project, each project need to use the simples and least expensive method to bring clean and safe water to the community.
– As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I knew that very meaningful projects could be carried out by a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) with a small amount of money. PCVs are sent to villages with no resources, with their main goals to teach and assist. However, the ability to implement tangible physical projects makes them much more effective in their work, and they are very grateful for our financial assistance, says Averill.
One dollar per person
This methodology has proven extremely successful as Peace Corps Volunteers are on the ground to identify possible projects, can apply to Water Charity for funds and gets and answer immediately with funds ready for disposal.
– Appropriate Projects was designed to cut through all of the red tape. The application is simple to complete and is reviewed at once. Projects are pre-funded, and the PCV often has the money to start his project in hand within a week after applying. Projects are of manageable size, and are completed quickly, says Averill.
Whereas the industry average is USD 20 per person helped Water Charity are able to help people at as little as USD 1 per person.
– We receive the benefit of educated and skilled personnel to implement and manage projects at no cost. PCVs ensure community participation, both in labor and financial contributions, and control the funds so there is no waste. They evaluate the effectiveness and replicate successes. We offer complete transparency, so the donor knows precisely what is being done with his money. When the project is finished, the donor sees the report and pictures, leading to donor satisfaction, says Averill.
The Soneva SLOW LIFE Trust
Another factor that played an important role in Water Charity’s success was funding from The Soneva SLOW LIFE Trust and their Clean Water Fund. 390 projects in 50 countries have been implemented helping around 530,000 people get access to either clean drinking water or basic sanitation.
– The contribution of The Soneva SLOW LIFE Trust has been essential to our success. Soneva remains our number one partner, says Averill.
He is hopeful for the future development of Water Charity.
– In simple terms, I see Water Charity multiplying at least ten-fold in the next few of years. Our model was designed so that with the addition of a small amount for overhead and fundraising, we can scale up very quickly, says Averill.
– Water Charity has a formula for implementing projects that is unmatched by any other organization working on water and sanitation. We are not dependent on any new technologies, products, or discoveries. With increased financial resources, we intend to have a big impact on reducing the number of people in the world living without safe water or proper sanitation facilities.