This life was never easy, but by 2002 the country faced increasing political turmoil and violence. Then, in 2003, the CAR experienced a violent coup, and the mission evacuated all of its American staff and the mission organization Jim worked with chose to put their work on hold. He had to come back to the U.S. even while his heart remained with the people and the country where he’d grown up.[/icon_timeline_item][/icon_timeline]
He had seen too much over the years — people’s basic physical needs were unmet, AIDS was ravaging the region, and the realities of poverty and war were creating hopelessness. Jim wanted to help address these needs and build something with the people of CAR that would be sustainable and could withstand political upheaval.
Little did he know that just a few months later, a good friend would offer to sell his well-drilling business to Jim if Jim would run it as a non-profit. This offer seemingly came out of the blue, and Jim protested that he didn’t know the first thing about drilling wells, let alone how to start a nonprofit.
For most of the 4.7 million people who live in the Central African Republic, collecting water means an hour-long walk hauling heavy 44-pound jugs of water from streams, rivers and seep holes — water that isn’t even sanitary. After visiting several villages in the CAR to assess their water retrieval methods, Jim was ready to act.
That act of obedience was the beginning of what Jim would eventually call “Water for Good.” There are many challenges to getting fresh water to remote villages in the CAR. Getting a well drilled is only the first step. Jim saw that many other clean water initiatives overlooked the fact that the well pumps would inevitably break and the village would be right back where it started: without safe drinking water. He knew that sustainability was key to the success of any well, and that locals could not depend on Westerners for well maintenance — that model was financially unsustainable.
From the beginning, Jim founded Water for Good to become a nonprofit that not only drills wells but does so relying on all local staff that provides regular well maintenance. The local staff build relationships with communities and work to start projects that will prosper and empower the community long-term. When people have power over their well and begin to assert that same power in their life choices, it’s transformative for a community.
Local Central Africans have drilled more than 680 new wells and are maintaining 1,800 water pumps in the CAR. Over half a million people are drinking water from these wells every day. People are staying healthy, they’re able to generate more income, and they’re making a difference in their communities —for good.