Blood:Water Mission (An Overview) from Blood:Water Mission on Vimeo.
Blood:Water Mission’s goal is to empower communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa, and so far they have made enormous progress in these areas in a very short amount of time by inspiring people to do what they can in their own communities to contribute to their cause. Their philosophy is similar to that of Love + Water: a lot of a little adds up to a lot, fast. I spoke with Mike Lenda, director of U.S. programs, to learn more about how they achieve such amazing results.
Love + Water- How did Blood:Water Mission begin?
Mike Lenda- Blood:Water Mission is a grassroots organization based in Nashville, that was started about five years ago by the band Jars of Clay. The band took a trip to Africa on the advice of some local organizations here, since the mission of the band was to become a voice for local causes. They were familiar with the AIDS crisis at the time, but didn’t know the extent of the water crisis. It was when they were driving over dry riverbeds and saw people sticking their faces in the dirt. When they asked what they were doing, they were told the people were drinking. They began to see a link between the AIDS crisis and the water crisis, seeing how difficult it was for people to stay healthy while drinking contaminated, disease-ridden water. It was then that the vision for Blood:Water Mission was formed. They began to use their band as a platform to begin the organization. We now work to empower communities in both the U.S. and Africa to creatively come together and address the water and HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, and the way we do that is through creative social action, which is similar to what you’re doing with Love + Water Designs. The majority of our funding is raised through local grassroots teams. This includes groups holding a lemonade stand, running a 5K race with sponsors, and anything creative that people can think of.
L+W- How do you structure the funding for the work the organization does?
ML- The band learned quickly that solving the problem of AIDS and water was complicated- people have been trying to address it for decades, so they wanted to create a platform that people in the U.S. could relate to and want to help. As we started to look at all the potential projects we could begin in Africa, we quickly saw that donating $1.00 can provide one year of clean water. That became the band’s platform message; that our dollar can go far. They wanted to see 1,000 communities with safe drinking water in Sub-Saharan Africa when the organization began, and we are now close to having provided 900 communities with safe water. The fact that
we raised all of our funds through individuals has been an amazing part of that accomplishment.
L+W- What do you do in the communities that need help?
ML- We come into the community as partners with other local communities in Africa and work with them to create sustainable communities. Because of that it takes longer to accomplish our mission, but we also feel that the results are long-term and lasting, which makes it worth that time. We do build wells, but sometimes wells are too expensive for a certain community, and so a rain tank that gathers rain and has a filtering system can provide a community with water for a whole year. We get as creative a we need to in order to build the best system for each community. A bio-fan filter is another option we have used, which is similar to a home filter we use here in the U.S.
L+W- How can people get involved with their local contributions?
ML- We have some ideas on our site for people who want to join some of the campaigns we are holding. Right now we have a lemonade campaign, where families can hold a lemonade stand in their communities to raise money. There are also people who come to us with ideas as well, and we welcome those. One man is walking across Europe right now, and had people pledge him per mile. We’ve had fraternities do turkey-fries, people run races, biking riding, and many other unique events that help us raise the money we need to keep going.
L+W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far?
ML- I have three small children and to watch how my kids have caught onto the vision has been very moving to me. I’ll come home and my five year-old will say, “I want to have a lemonade stand.” That realization that they are developing a conscience about giving is really moving. We have also had kids come to our office with a mason jar full of change and say to us, “this is for Africa.” These are all very moving.