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One volunteer: Thommas Andersen, Manager, Online Marketing, Xylem, Sweden

“People must help each other and collaborate to make the world a better place.”

“We, the volunteers, were split into three groups where one group assembled the tower structure, one the fittings and faucets, and the last group helped the teacher when she explained the importance of good hygiene to the school teachers and then the children,” Thommas recalled. “The single most valuable moment from the trip was the hand washing ceremony after the towers were built. The happy faces of children were absolutely fantastic to see, and it was very emotional for us too. It was a very warm feeling to know that my work contributed to a better life for 2.000 people.”

Short description of your / your company’s main area of work, your years in the industry, any awards or major projects or achievements you’d like to share.

Xylem is a leading company in the water industry, working in the whole cycle of water. We solve water problems, meaning we transport, treat and analyse water from collection point via treatment, using point, wastewater treatment and back to the recipient.

How did you get to know about Waterdrop?

I’m part of the team behind Waterdrop, so I’ve been on board from start in the Waterdrop project.

Why did you choose to participate?

I chose to participate because of several reasons. The first one is that I truly believe that people must help each other and collaborate to make the world a better place. These are big words, but if we all do small little things, it will make a difference because we are so many. I live in Sweden where we don’t have any problems with water scarcity or bad water quality. There’s plenty of clean, safe water and all we have to do to get is open a tap. Today one billion people don’t have this luxury and we can change that. Waterdrop is a good example of the little things. The idea is to fund water towers that turn dirty water into clean, safe water and the small scale solution is sustainable, it will work for decades with minimum of maintenance. Every tower gives 1.000 people access to clean safe water, so even if it means we need to build one million towers to solve the whole problem it still means that every tower built is one little step closer to having solved the problem. And every tower makes a life changing difference for the 1.000 people that have access to the safe, clean water.

The second reason is that I believe in the Waterdrop program. This is a way for Xylem to incorporate the efforts of the Xylem Watermark philanthropy program in the business and that is a good way of expanding it so we’re able to help more people solving their water issues.

As we now are going to promote the program, it’s most valuable to have an own experience to share. That will make our argumentation for Waterdrop much more convincing. The program is very good as it doesn’t really require a lot of extra work for the participants or cost them anything. By simply doing their daily work, they collect water drops that means Xylem donates money to Watermark. The water drops collected will then be in a draw where the winners go on a volunteer trip and build the water towers Xylem donated money for. These trips will be similar to the one we made to the Philippines this year.

What did you expect to experience before the trip started? And what was your first impression when you finally arrived? How did you feel?

My first impression of the Philippines was that it was one of the poorest countries I’ve been to. Already outside the airport a lot of people lived in sheds and it was quite common around in the Manilla area. Out in the country side it seemed a little better with less sheds. But still about half of the population has to live on less than 2 USD per day.

Building water towers in elementary schools: Tell us a little bit about your experience – both building the towers and working with the children.

It was overwhelming to build the towers in elementary schools. The children were in the school and bid us welcome when we arrived. It was a lot of smiling faces and singing. I was no way prepared for this, so it became very emotional. We (the volunteers) were split in three groups where one group was assembling the tower structure, one the fittings and faucets and the last group helped the teacher when she explained the importance of good hygiene to the school teachers and later on a group of the children. The tower was not so complicated to build and put in place. We had good guidance from the local Planet Water team. Some of the work was already prepared when we came to the schools and some was carried out by the local Planet Water team. I would appreciate if they let the volunteer team work a bit harder. After the tower was finalized, there was a handover from us to the local community and the first hand wash in clean water for the children. The little village where we built the first tower lived from grooving mango fruits and as a thank you gift from them; we received a whole sack of mangos.

What were the major challenges you encountered and overcame during the trip? (i.e., heat, sanitary conditions, tiredness, etc.)

Of course there were challenges, but I didn’t really experience any major ones. One challenge was the weather. It was hot and humid (around 35OC during the day), but I knew that before I came, so it wasn’t a surprise. We stayed in a nice, air conditioned hotel, so sanitary conditions and get out of the heat and humidity was well provided for. After the trip most of us had stomach issues for a week or two.

What’s your single most valuable moment or experience from the trip?

The single most valuable moment from the trip was the hand washing ceremony after the towers were built. The happy faces of the children were absolutely fantastic to see and it was very emotional for us too. It was a very warm feeling to know that my work contributed to a better life for in all 2.000 persons and the children won’t get sick because of bad water anymore. Now they can get a better education by simply be more in school and that is the first step out of poverty. The trip also really made me think how I take clean water for granted.

The whole trip was a fantastic experience that I will remember and come back to in my mind very often. It’s a rare thing to be able to make a difference and also get the immediate feedback in the happy faces of the children when they washed their hands and drank clean water for the first time.

How was the relationship building and teamwork with the other participants – both from your country and from the other countries?

It was interesting to see how people from different countries that didn’t really have a common language after the first tower building day really tried to mix much more. We were all there to work and thereby having a common goal, building a water tower, really help the team building aspect.

Now that some time has passed since your Waterdrop volunteer trip, has anything changed in your life? What is your favourite memory?

The thing that has changed in my life is that I now know that we all can make a difference, so I’ve become more aware of the importance of doing that. This was a once in a lifetime experience and there are many memories that will follow me in my life. Especially from the hand washing ceremony with all the smiling children.

Would you recommend this Volunteer Trips to your colleagues or do such a trip again?

I absolutely recommend people to go on a volunteer trip. This specific trip was fantastic and much more exciting than I could imagine before I went, but I think any volunteer trip makes a difference somewhere and will give a similar experience. Especially if it involves that you see the change and get immediate feedback from your work.

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