Get Involved Archives - WaterStep

8-year-old holds birthday party for water



A quick post to celebrate another one of our great volunteers. Jonah is an eight-year-old boy from Kentucky who decided to fundraise for safe water projects. For his eighth birthday, he sent out invitations to his birthday party requesting donations instead of presents. “My mom gave me $20 and then all of my friends and family gave me $20,” Jonah told me when I asked him how he did it. “The most exciting part was when I heard that I had $250. I thought I was going to raise $100!”

Thanks to his heart and compassion, Jonah will be supporting water projects around the world like our upcoming project in Uganda.

If you’re interested to hold a fundraiser for your birthday, wedding, or other special event, we have online tools and support to help you get started. Check out our Fundraising section for more information.



60,000 pounds of shoes means a well for a community in Uganda

Last month for World Water Day, we challenged the WaterStep community to collect a semi-truck full of shoes to help bring water to a village in Uganda – about 22,000 pounds of shoes.

We were blown away by the response. Schools, businesses, churches, and individuals donated their bags of used shoes by the dozens, collecting a total of not one, not two, but three semi-trucks of shoes.

That’s over 60,000 pounds of shoes.

People from around the country hosted shoes drive and participated in shoe challenges:


World Water Day KUNA shoes 2

Middle school and high school students from all over Kentucky brought their shoes to the YMCA Kentucky United Nations Assembly (KUNA) throughout the month of March.



World Water Day North Carolina shoe drive

Sandra Davis in North Carolina decided to lead a shoe drive inspired by the memory of her late husband, and ended up collecting half of a semi-truck of shoes.




World Water Day Delaware shoe drive

And 17-year-old Emma Rider in Delaware collected a full semi-truck of shoes, making this her fifth tractor trailer load since she started collecting shoes to support water projects when she was 12.




World Water Day Hite Elementary shoes

Fifth graders from Hite Elementary School came by our headquarters for a field trip to see what their shoes were doing to provide safe water to people that need it.

And so many more! For everyone who held shoe drives or who dropped off their shoes here in Louisville, thank you. Your shoes mean we will be able to dig a well for the small community of Kaabowa Village in Uganda. Thanks to your help, we’re starting the first phase of our project there, digging a well so that more of the community has nearby access to water.

After that, we’ll be installing household filters, setting up water purifiers, building latrines, and implementing a community health program for students and families. Learn more about the project and how you can help provide safe water to Kaabowa Village.


See the project

World Water Day Uganda well 3

World Water Day

World Water Day water and sustainability 2


This Sunday, March 22, is World Water Day. In honor of this year’s theme – Water and Sustainability – I wanted to share a photo that we’ve never shared before. This photo comes from a school in Costa Rica, where WaterStep has one of its longest-standing programs. School girls are brushing their teeth and washing their hands at a sink. When my team tested the water at their school in 2013, it turned black with fecal contamination. When we showed the water sample to the principal, his face turned white with surprise.


School staff, including the principal, were trained how to operate and maintain the system. This is always the most exciting part of an installation. After being trained, you turn the tables and ask the trainees to train the trainer. Their faces change as they become confident in their ability to operate the system and provide safe water for their students. They no longer have to depend on someone else.


The students at this school depend on water at school, not just for drinking, but for eating, brushing their teeth, and washing their hands. Before, all of the students knew the importance of hygiene, but they were performing basic hygiene practices with dirty water.  Now, trained staff members are able to continue to provide safe water every day for their students, so they can drink, eat, wash their hands, and brush their teeth with safe water. That’s a powerful thing, and it’s powerful because it’s sustainable.


The United Nations created World Water Day as an annual effort to call attention to the importance of safe drinking water. In Louisville, Kentucky, where I live, just one penny can provide 66 glasses of water from the faucet but around the world,  748 million people around the world lack access to safe drinking water – that’s more than 2 ½ times the population of the United States. World Water Day is a day to celebrate what we’ve accomplished, and to look forward to what still needs to be done. In the last ten years, we’ve come a long way to providing safe water the millions of people that don’t have it, but we still have work to. There are still schools like this one.


There’s a school just like this in the rural community of Kaabowa Village, Uganda, where we are working to build a program as sustainable as the one in Costa Rica. You can be a part of World Water Day by helping us reach our ambitious goal of 22,000 shoes by March 22 that will support the first phase of this project.


Are you local? Want to learn more about the importance of water in the world and how you can be a part? Join us this Sunday for World Water Day at the Louisville Water Tower for a day of educational talks, interactive activities, and family fun to celebrate the world’s most precious resource. Guests to the WaterWorks Museum will learn the value of drinking water in this community and worldwide by helping to create a “water main” that will stretch across the front of the Museum.  Guests can also donate spare change that will benefit drinking water efforts in other communities through the Louisville Water Foundation.

WHEN: Saturday, March 22nd, from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

WHERE: WaterWorks Museum at Louisville Water Tower Park, 3005 River Rd., Louisville, KY 40207


World Water Day water and sustainability 1

Manufacturing Safe Water Technology

Volunteer Dr. Joe Jacobi has been an integral part of WaterStep’s mission for years, leading the development and manufacturing of the M-100 Chlorine Generator. Below, he shares how he got involved with WaterStep and how volunteering has been important to him. Learn how you can get involved and save lives with safe water.

volunteer for louisville charities

A few years ago after selling my dental practice of 36 years, I did some investigating into local nonprofits trying to find one where I might contribute something of substance to them and I would find fulfilling for my needs as well.  My dear wife, Kathy, suggested I talk to Mark Hogg of WaterStep.  I had heard Mark speak and demonstrate the water purifier they use at the Festival of Faiths in Louisville a few years earlier and the purpose of the organization intrigued me. Mark and I arranged to meet for coffee and after drinking countless cupstogether, he invited me to come down and meet some of the people who worked there.

The more I understood their purpose and mission, the more I began to realize that they were not in the water business but the health care business:  Saving lives through safe water.  I found myself back in health care again but in a most basic way.

I was volunteering at WaterStep when Mark told me WaterStep was planning to develop their own chlorine generating device which is the heart of the water purification system. This would give them control of costs and availability of the equipment, and thereby increase the number of lives improved through safe water.  He asked me to join the group of volunteer engineers who were developing this vital piece of equipment.

I enjoyed working with the engineers to develop and test the new design.  While the process was not smooth or easy, we eventually developed working prototypes.  We tested them in the lab and out of the country to finalize the best design.  Mark asked me if I wanted to supervise the manufacture of the new M-100 Chlorine Generator.  With the help of the WaterStep staff, volunteer engineers and workers, we developed the organization and tools needed to produce the M-100 Chlorine Generator.

We have attracted an amazing group of people who volunteer on a regular basis to devote their time, talents and energy.  The men and women volunteer to carefully construct a simple-to-use device that can improve the quality of life of many people and save many lives through safe water on an easily sustainable basis.  Their suggestions for constant improvement have improved the reliability and durability of the M-100, and they proudly send a little of themselves around the world in each and every unit. Around our work tables, we like to say that we are following an old Kentucky tradition of building our machines handmade, high quality, in small batches, and enjoyed around the world!

It has been a real blessing for me personally to be involved at WaterStep on several levels.  On one level, building the M-100 gives satisfaction to my need to create and build something that will positively affect the lives of thousands worldwide. But more importantly it has given me the opportunity to work with a fine group of dedicated people who have somehow found their way to come together and work collectively for the good of others.  In these troubled times they restore faith in humanity.

Learn more about the M-100 in this assembly video:

How to Install a Water Purifier (M-100) from WaterStep on Vimeo.

Join us in saving lives in Costa Rica

WaterStep Director of Training and Trips Claudia Daniels shares the needs of a community in Costa Rica. You can join us on our next trip to the community where we are saving lives with safe water. Check out her story below and learn more about Claudia on our Staff page.


There is this small town in Costa Rica where a sweet lady named Cecilia lives. Her heart for the children in the neighboring slum is overflowing with love, and kids follow her in the streets like the pied piper. They come to her for safety, love and food.

Cecilia is not a woman of great means. In fact, at night she goes to her neighbor’s house asking for leftover rice and beans to feed the children the next day. She makes a meal for them in her house and carries the food to a small feeding center where the children line up for a hot lunch.

costa rica community

Cecilia knows the need for safe water in the community and knows that these kids are not only lacking in food but their health is suffering as well from contaminated water.

Our partner in Costa Rica, Ana, asked us if we could come and bring safe water to these children. A team of 12 from Cornell University traveled to Costa Rica, taught Health Education to the children and installed a purification unit in Cecilia’s son’s bodega (store). Here Cecilia set up a small business selling safe water for a couple of colonies, which is much cheaper than the bottled water people were buying. She supplied safe water for the children and cooked their meals with safe water and with the money she made, she was able to buy fresh food for the children.
Costa Rica safe water

Now, two years later, the feeding center needs to expand. This summer we will bring another team to help provide safe water to the new center where Cecilia will cook on site. Join us as we continue our work and build our relationship with this unbelievable lady and her the kids she loves.  Learn how you can  travel with WaterStep on an upcoming trip. Maybe even join the trip that brings safe water to Cecilia’s new feeding center.