A little water filter (on the right) makes a big difference!
In 2013, in a small village of Sudan, I led a two-day training on how to build household water filters using rock and sand to purify the water for drinking. The purpose of the training was to hone the curriculum that IAS would use to apply for grant funds, so that we could start the program the following year.
The training participants were a group of Sudanese teachers, pastors, and friends of IAS. One participant, Wilson, an English teacher in a remote village in the eastern part of the country, made it a point to tell me how much he appreciated the concept and wished us the best in our grant application.
Several months later, I received a call from Wilson. He again thanked me for the training and then told me how much the people of his village appreciated the filters. What filters? I was confused. We hadn’t even made it past the first round of our grant application yet. I told him as much and started explaining our timeline, when he cut me off.
“I know the program hasn’t started,” he said. “But you showed us how to make the filters, so we went ahead and started making them.”
Wilson went on to explain that he had been so excited about the household filters that he showed some of his students how they would work. The students shared the information with their families, and they began pooling their money together for cement to begin building them. Word spread, and they were now starting to distribute the filters in nearby villages.
“I’m calling because the motorcycle we are using to travel to the next village has broken down,” Wilson said. “We’re wondering if you could send a spare part so that we can keep distributing the filters.”
“Well how many filters do you need to deliver?” I asked, still in disbelief.
“Fifty more,” he said.
Struggling to find safe water is daily, hard work. “Little Plans” with big actions are needed!
“IN ALL TOIL THERE IS PROFIT,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.”
PROVERBS 14:23 (NIV)
This story, to me, captures exactly why IAS exists and why our philosophy works. We offer a hand up, not a hand out, because the people we serve have very capable and willing hands to do the work themselves.
People like Wilson and his students aren’t just willing and capable; they’re thoughtful innovators. Here I was waiting to plan a program and solicit support from the large organizing bodies of the region. Meanwhile, Wilson had returned to his village and constructed over a hundred filters to provide clean water. And his efforts were already expanding to an adjacent community.
There are a lot of big problems in the world, and sometimes the problems seem so large that we think the only solution is to Think Big. But I have come to join the ranks of people who believe that the better approach is to Think Little.
The Think Big mentality typically leads to plans. Policy-makers love spending money on studying, organizing, and funding Big Thought and planning Big Plans, while little to nothing is actually being done. But do-able solutions present themselves to people who are prepared to Think Little and start with what they have.
In just over two years, Wilson helped construct 4,000 filters, supplying clean drinking water to over 40,000 people. He took the information we imparted in a training seminar, and he changed the lives of those in his community and beyond.
Your generous support helps IAS find and partner with those who Think Little to solve big problems.
President, IAS America