John’s Story

“For things to really function, they have to be based on the local economy. They have to actually fit into real life or it's just something that's propped up and as soon as you take your sticks away, the thing falls down.” - John Campbell

John Campbell and his wife Kaysie were looking for an opportunity to make a difference and found that opportunity in Sierra Leone. They moved there in 2006, three years after getting married, and have been there ever since.

“It’s a really amazing country, a lot of challenges, but, being an engineer, I love challenges,” said John. “It’s just a lot of opportunity for amazing things to happen.

John and Kaysie were partnering with the government on a water treatment facility and soon realized they could shrink down the scale, making it more accessible to people of all economic situations. Around the same time, Water4 was experimenting with a new approach to achieve sustainability by selling water at affordable rates from water vending stations in densely populated communities.

In every community where Water4 was working, even the poorest communities, people were already paying something for water. They were either paying to purchase bottled water or they were paying for medicine and healthcare to treat the negative effects from drinking unsafe water.

Water4 realized a network of safe water vending stations could eventually stand on its own without the need for ongoing support from the outside if the operating costs of the network could be sustained through small payments from community members. The Campbell’s approach, which focused on the cost per person and generating profit to cover operational costs through small amounts of resources that were being overlooked, was the key to sustainability.

“Safe water organizations having been overlooking these small amounts of resources for decades,” said Water4 CEO, Matt Hangen. “People are paying for dirty water, so they’re using their hard-earned dollars to pay for water that’s making them sick. It’s costing them lost wages and unneeded suffering.”

Water4 teamed up with John to create an affordable solution to safe water access that also supported local economies by creating jobs for the vending station operators, and in 2016, the Campbell’s opened the first Water4 water vending station in Waterloo.

“I think the question of charging money to poor people for water is a question we always get, but anywhere in the world you go, if you want to have services, they have to be paid for, and that’s because services cost money to operate,” said John.

As it turns out, consistent reliable access to safe water actually ends up costing less than what people are used to paying here and there for access to water of questionable quality.

“There have been so many changes to our community and the new price of water has helped our finances. The old cost of water was very high, this water costs much less,” said Itujelo, Waterloo Community Member.

Because most people’s water containers are contaminated, a low dose chlorinator is used to keep the water safe even when it’s carried in a container that’s not clean.

“The taste is very, very good,” said Lucinda, Waterloo Community Member. “No odor. Tasteless. No color. There is no water in this area as pure as this water.”

Water4 challenged John’s team to expand this model to the entire district of Waterloo, around 120,000 people.

“With these micro-utilities, we can come into a place like Waterloo and build 20-25 of these micro utilities and have complete coverage. Everybody can be within 300 meters walking distance of one of these kiosks,” said John.

As the water points become sustainable and generate income, the goal is to see profits fund other water projects and church planting efforts in Sierra Leone.

John’s story is just one of the many miraculous stories Water4 has had the privilege of being part of over the past 10 years.

We hope you’ll join us in celebration of all that God has done in the past 10 years, and help us cast a vision for the next 10 years at the 2018 Water4 Reflection Gala. All proceeds from the Gala will go directly toward funding our projects. Last year, you helped us blow past our goal of raising $633,396 for safe water, and we hope you’ll join us in making an even bigger impact this year!