33 Buckets is a nonprofit organization that provides access to clean water. So far it has reached over 6,700 people in Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, and Peru.
Over 844 million people worldwide lack access to clean water. This is a staggering number. My colleagues and I from Arizona State University’s Community Service Program were determined to make a difference.
Paul Strong and Mark Huerta, our two co-founders, and I were assigned to a project whose goal was to develop a solution that would provide clean water access for a community in Bangladesh. This venture was the seed for our company, 33 Buckets.
It started back in 2015, when we were challenged to address the problem of the water in Bangladesh being contaminated with arsenic. Drinking it had dire consequences for the health of the locals. And children were at even greater risk than adults for waterborne diseases because their digestive systems had not yet acclimated to the bacteria and chemicals in the water.
When we set up our first water filtration system, we were surprised to see people scooping the clean water with dirty hands and pouring it into unclean containers. We realized that providing clean water wasn’t enough. We also needed to educate locals on sanitation and hygiene. That work encouraged us to continue our work in other regions besides Bangladesh that face similar issues. Ultimately our goal is to make an impact on the lives of as many people as possible.
One of our biggest challenges is that a cookie-cutter approach to a filtration system doesn’t work. Every community with water contamination issues is unique in their needs. Each situation needs customization for there to be measurable results. Gathering and maintaining impact metrics has proven to be difficult. We’re not on the ground all of the time, and most of the communities we work with are rural and do not keep detailed records of things that we care about.
We’ve addressed this problem by partnering with institutions in nearby cities that are invested in rural community development. Our local partners visit our communities and monitor the health of our solutions on our behalf. This allows us to re-address communities that aren’t seeing improvement, and also to identify gaps in our approach so that we continue to learn and improve our solution design.
We are excited by our progress and are proud of the recognition 33 Buckets has gained thus far. In 2017, Arizona State University bought a local, state-only Super Bowl commercial, as part of an aggressive ad campaign to raise awareness for the school. The creative mission of the TV spot was to feature an impactful student-led project, and we were honored that the University chose us. They hired a film production company, and flew us and a film crew out to Peru to shoot a commercial about 33 Buckets and our important work. We are proud of this, but we know we have more work to do to reach our goal of impacting as many people as possible.