Interesting math, right? Read on, I promise that will make all the sense in the world.
On October 21, 2020 I l left Europe for an epic trip to Africa. At that time, Europe was deep into the pandemic that ravaged the world in 2020. The trip seemed impossible: PCR tests required everywhere, border closures, tight restrictions. I planned on a month-long trip, to install water systems in Zambia, distribute mosquito nets to children in 3 countries and deliver life-saving seeds to villages that were in danger of starvation.
As we were flying from Europe, the European Union set a ban on Canadian travelers wanting to visit the continent, possibly in response to Canada and North America setting the same ban for European travelers.
After a month in Africa, realizing I cannot fly back to Europe due to my Canadian passport, I was faced with a difficult decision: to apply for a Romanian passport (I have dual citizenship) at the embassy in Pretoria and wait for up to 6 months for it (South Africa had its borders closed at that time and the new variant was coming fast, so all processes would be extended even longer, should I decided to go this way.
The other option seemed the only viable one, albeit an extremely challenging one, especially in these times: to drive from Namibia to Egypt, crossing 9 countries and from Egypt to cross the Mediterranean Sea by ship into Turkey, from where I could actually enter Europe with my Romanian ID.
This whole situation caught everyone by surprise; from family to friends, everyone was shocked and advised against it. Not just the idea that I was now in the position to plan a 3 month-long trip in less than 1 week, but the navigation of all the changing policies regarding the pandemic, the misinterpretation of rules and regulations and the immense corruption that this opened up to the already corrupt governments in Africa, made this an impossible task. However, it was the fastest way to return home.
On top of all the challenges, my team and I decided to make this trip bound by a higher purpose: not just drive across Africa but go to isolated villages and remote communities to document the incredible thirst of the children of the continent and try to change their lives by giving them water. This implied a huge research on areas that were suffering from thirst, creating a database of suppliers, transport solutions and, of course, funding.
On December 8, 2020 we had a car, fully equipped for the trip. We named her Bella Bella: she was in for an adventure that none of us imagined.
Yesterday, February 21, 2021, we arrived in Europe, exactly 4 months after our departure. Bella Bella did almost 9000 km through the worst terrain possible. By lake Manyara, Tanzania, the road was so broken and bumpy, we lost 18 bolts that were holding the body of the car to the chassis, and was holding only on 2 bolts. The diff pin came out from the shaft and every 5 km we had to knock it back in with a hammer. Oil and grease were spitting out of the wheel like an artesian fountain. At one point the diesel pump stopped working and the car would not get enough gas. Spent 2 days in a village waiting for a pump. When it finally arrived and replace the old one, we started to have a diesel leak from the tank, and we drove almost 1000 km in that condition until we fixed it. Rained on, beaten by bad roads and full of mud, Bella Bella and the team pushed on.
When we reached Kenya, we got arrested for not wearing our masks in a park, outside, by corrupt police who confiscated our passports and would only return them if we paid them 800 US dollars. The police lady accompanied me to the ATM machine holding her AK47 machine gun, just to make sure I don’t run away. After extorting the money from me, she asked me to marry her… All this was happening in downtown Nairobi, in front of everyone passing by.
Everywhere we turned there were challenges, but we also had magical moments: villages receiving water, children sent to school, communities that received food supplies, incredible landscapes and best of all, the incredible local people we met and became friends with. We now have a large network of people stretching from South Africa all the way to Egypt; leaders of communities, pump dealers, solar panel distributors and all the tribes we visited and encountered.
Once in Kenya, as we were planning to head north, we found out that only a day or two before, Ethiopia closed all land borders. They have been struggling with the Tigray rebels in the north of the country and more factions were starting trouble in other parts of the country. This was our only way up: Somalia is impossible to cross, South Sudan is a lawless country with no protection from the law, Congo, Cameroon, Mali, all in civil unrest and mass killings. The entire north was shut down.
I even attempted to ship the car from Mombasa to Sudan or Egypt, to bypass the trouble zones. It was not allowed, I was told by authorities at the port in Mombasa, unless I have a carnet de passage (which I didn’t). Or, for a nominal fee of 10.000 US dollars, they could forget about the requirements and ship the car anyway…
We were therefore forced to drive back down into Tanzania. Bella Bella is currently in Arusha, in the care of a good friend of mine, waiting her next adventure. We managed to fly out of Tanzania into Egypt, where we found a flight to Europe that allowed me to board with my Canadian passport.
At the end of this epic trip, we discovered and documented villages without water with very large population of people. A single Masai village in Manyara region has 6000 people, 3000 children and over 30.000 heads of cattle. All with no water. They walk about 28 km twice a week to transport the water they need for their village. Datoga and Hadzabe tribes of Tanzania drink water by digging in a dry riverbed and extract muddy water from it. In Central Kenya there are thousands of people without a drop of water, forced to walk long distances just to quench their thirst.
We have now a grand scale project on our hands, spanning the continent of Africa, attempting to change the destinies of thousands of dying children: in the next 10 years, I want to install 200 water systems powered by solar technology in 10 most desperate countries in Africa to the remote communities in the deserts and dry places.
20 systems per country, 20 systems a year, giving water for 20 years to more than 1 million children.
Total expense? 2 million dollars. A bit too steep? Let’s do a real math: 1 million children, drinking fresh, clean water from a renewable source, powered by sun for 20 years. This comes to 2 dollars per child to have clean water for 2 decades, giving them strength to fight disease and grow to a ripe old age. I cannot think of any better ROI (Return on Investment) than this one. I’ll give you some examples:
I know of a church in California who spent 2 million dollars on a tennis court, adjacent to the church property, so the members can ‘relax’ during the week.
I know of a certain person, 1 man, who spent 2 million dollars to win a personalized car license plate for his Rolls Royce, in an auction.
I know of another certain person who spent 1 million English pounds on champagne in 1 night, to fill his bathtub with the French drink.
I can keep going, but what’s the point? From lavish churches, with grand structures to impress God and the world to useless fetishes or futile endeavors to tickle the pride of the rich, the examples are endless.
This is my dream, my passion and my idea of spending 2 million dollars.
It is truly an idea that will change the world. How do I know that? Because I have already installed 140 systems with solar power in the last 12 years. I have seen with my eyes how the infant mortality changed from as high as 80% in children under 5 to under 15%, only because we gave them clean water. Therefore, it is not only possible, it is proven already.
Join me on this journey, leave something behind you that will change the face of suffering of the children of Africa. Whether you want to be the sole sponsor for a system, or encourage your family and friends to sponsor a system, or just sending small amounts that will go towards the common fund for these 200 systems, you have plenty of choice, according to your possibilities. Please share this article far and wide, it will help raise the needed awareness for this incredible project.
‘What you do for yourself dies with you when you leave this world, what you do for others lives on forever.’ – Ken Robinson