For years now we Bliss boys have taken an intentional approach to finding and living a balanced life. Part of that balance is giving back to those who, for some reason, have missed the developed world simply by their birth location. Last week I, Steve, traveled to the Republic of Panama to install a clean water system to a small village on an island in the Caribbean. An organization named Give and Surf connected us to this village and their needs. I evaluated the village a couple months ago and spoke with the village leaders. (As a quick aside, it was on this trip that I developed the idea which is now the Panachete. It’s an over the top amazing machete that is unlike any other. You can check it out here.) The village is occupied by 100 plus adults and children. Unlike all of us, they have never had clean drinking water accessible to them at their homes or even close to their homes.
Ten years ago this particular village had sold off the bulk of their land for a minimal price and the promise from the new owners that they would provide them with clean water and electricity. Ten years later, two months ago, I was discussing this in the village with frustrated villagers who assumed I was just another gringo making empty promises. Sad to say, broken promises come far to often from us affluent. I suppose we all need the reminder once in a while to guard our words and make sure they count.
I’m affiliated with an organization called Basic Needs, Simple Solutions Inc. We focus on, as the name says, the basics. Food, water, air and health. Basic human rights. In addition to my love for making amazing knives, BNSS is a vehicle that allows me to fill another love of mine, that of being a beneficial human helping humanity. I find it helps me to keep perspective in my life. I know how good we have it and I never want to take that for granted. If you get a chance and wouldn’t mind, like us on facebook and tell your friends to do the same. You can see our facebook page here. We depend on donations as any not for profit however, currently, we take no salaries from the organization so all proceeds go to making high impact life changes to those who could use a leg up. If you’d ever like to volunteer with us let us know.
This was a straight forward project. They had a source of clean water defined and all we needed to do was connect the dots. There were three volunteers, including myself, Ed and Nic, which isn’t much but this was because we had decided to employ the locals to assist us. The rational was simple; 1, they have a vested interest and 2, if they build the system they will not only know all the moving parts and their locations but also learn how to maintain the system. I prefer to empower people rather than give hand outs.
Thanks to Emily, of Give and Surf, the bulk of the materials were already on site so we could hit the ground running. The first day we began building an addition on the local school which will be used as a cafeteria. Our volunteer Ed and I got the wood structure up and the rest of the week the local help finished the sheet metal and cement work while Ed and I laid out the water system. The water system required us to install a holding tank on a high hill where the water source would flow and fill. The tank acts as a reserve. From there we ran a two inch main line down the hill to the village. The tank elevation was about 100 feet above sea level and the village homes were at sea level. A quick rule of thumb for water pressure is for every 1 foot of drop you gain about 1/2 pound of pressure thanks to gravity. The locals ended up with about 50 pounds of pressure at their homes and, if they’re like me, I’m sure they want good water pressure for their showers. Nothing worse than taking a shower with a dribble of water pressure. Oh wait, lest we forget, there are no showers here and we are only providing a tap for drinking water. I guess there is something worse than low water pressure in the shower…
The main line had multiple shut of valves installed before each cluster of homes. This way if/when there are maintenance needs the line segments can be isolated and not everyone loses water. From the main we ran a feed line to each house. Now they can fill their buckets right outside their doors rather than a long way off.
We did this project really fast. We had great help from the locals and great support from Give and Surf. I found working with the locals created a great sense of comradery as we had a common goal. I truly enjoyed this experience. I think we’ll use this approach in the future. For a volunteer it makes the experience more intimate as they work hand and hand with someone who has a very different life experience.
In the end, it gives you a great feeling of satisfaction seeing the people turning on their water tap and having water right there in front of them that they can drink. Their happiness is abundant. As my friends at Panama Joe’s Coffee always say, “Happiness is a commodity” and on this trip we were able to pass that commodity around to others.
I wouldn’t be a real not for profit if I didn’t close with this; if you want to be a part of our work please like us on facebook, check out or site and donate/volunteer if you have time and resources. Together we can make the world a better place. Here are some pics of the trip below.