When Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, 155 mph winds threw power lines in a game of pick-up sticks and cut the public off from clean drinking water like the island had never before seen. Water treatment plants were downed and access to clean water was limited due to a damaged electrical grid.
The simple luxury of clean drinking water literally blew away with the wind.
Help arrived shortly after, but not how one may typically think. Yes, the Red Cross and FEMA were there, but there was another welcomed guest that delivered like never before: the everyday man and woman who took to Amazon and GoFundMe to offer a bit of help.
Individuals took it upon themselves to help bring clean and safe drinking water to those in need. They hopped on Amazon and shipped the Lifestraw, a simple straw-like filter that easily turns dirty water into safe and viable drinking water, to those in need.
Oklahoma native, Charles Timms, raised enough funds through his GoFundMe to send 65 Lifestraws to Puerto Rico (that’s 65,000 liters of clean water).
In Connecticut, Maria Ruiz Good put together a similar GoFundMe with the goal of raising 5k for families in need. To date, she has raised just over $4100.
Was the product designed for this type of use? Not necessarily. The Lifestraw was designed for avid hikers and world-travelers looking for an on-the-go water filter. But it works just the same for one who needs clean water in the home.
Amazon couldn’t keep up with the demand: “Amazon sold out of [Lifestraw] products for individuals that were purchasing them and shipping them or bringing them down [to Puerto Rico] themselves,” says Allison Hill, managing director for Lifestraw.
Other people donated directly to Lifestraw’s Safe Water Fund which brings large-scale filters to communities in need like the one seen below.
When Hurricane Maria made landfall and the severity of the storm surfaced on social media, Lifestraw re-directed their entire Safe Water Fund to supply community-sized water filters to provide neighborhoods with safe water to drink.
Within ten days of the disaster, more than 4000 Lifestraw products were sent down to Puerto Rico just from the Safe Water Fund only, and more than 26,000 people were then able to again have access to clean drinking water, says Allison Hill.
There’s still plenty of work to be done, of course. As of this writing, many in Puerto Rico are still in need of safe drinking water let alone the 63 million Americans without access to safe drinking water in areas one would not typically consider at-risk, such as city dwellers in New York City and suburban homeowners in Michigan.
The world-wide water crisis still looms at large.
The fate of such circumstances, however, need not only rest in the hands of a large government organization or NGOs, as this story reminds us, but also in the power of one individual, drip by drip.
In Puerto Rico, the impact of one individual had seen a compounding effect. One person’s actions triggered others to do the same. It’s this simple reminder that shows us how one person truly can make a difference.