By Alex Place, Health to Know Co-Founder and Director.
Social impact and effective solutions to empower marginalized populations in order to level the playing field is my life’s purpose. Having worked in Guatemala in sustainable development, micro-finance, women’s entrepreneurship and rural solar energy, and starting a health company in Mexico that supports access to health services for manufacturing plant employees—I have seen many value models that can serve individuals and communities. But additionally I am sensitive to the blind spots and unintended consequences. When a gringo donates a cement floor for a room in a dirt house, it may seem like a gift; however, that family will not use that room anymore except for special occasions, so they end up having less space and worse living conditions.
One of the most powerful experiences of my life was living in Guatemalan communities while conducting social impact statements and metrics on the benefits of solar energy. The solar kits cut the cost of candles and cell phone charges in half and the quality of living increased tremendously without the burdens of walking miles for a cell phone charge or paying for insufficient candle lighting. The feeling of burning wax going onto my hand while doing homework with my host family’s daughters was memorable and stays with me. It's one of the many moments of social inequality that have stoked my fire.
Coming back to Boston in order to ensure that water access is mainstream here in the United States just feels right. I always feel a bit uneasy that the most brilliant minds today seem to be advancing technologies of financial algorithms and new weapons or space travel when I see that people don't have access to clean water and don’t drink it due to valid concerns: cleanliness, taste, functionality, quality.
The Flint, Michigan water crisis in which children are stunningly being moved from honors classes to special needs is heart-breaking. We are losing so many beautiful young people and their brilliance and capacity to change the world. It’s heart breaking to understand that this happened and unfortunately could be the tip of the ice-berg.
Access to high-quality, free water is a human right. This is a guiding principle for H2knO. Health to Know mission is championing water water access with hydration stations in schools and communities and empowering water champions with the tools to be social change-makers in their communities.