Conversations with Extraordinary Everyday People, excerpt from the book
“Tuesday Morning Love: 52 Commentaries and Weekly Affirmations to Honor the Soul Within the Souldier”
April – Week 15: A Sustainable Stance
Rochelle Soetan: How do you view the world?
Kimberley Fogg: Evolving.
RS: You went to Tanzania in January 2010 for vacation or leisure?
KF: I was invited to go and grieve the death of my father who passed away in September. It was kind of like a soul-searching voyage.
RS: At what point did you consider Global Sustainable Partnerships (GSP)? Was this trip the inspiration that led to its development?
KF: Yes, it was. I was actually on a safari in the middle of the Serengeti. I witnessed the great migration of the wilder-beasts, zebras, and gazelles. I saw cheetahs, leopards, and lions. We were going to another area of the park and I saw five little kids with a ton of oxen.
I said to my driver, “We are in the middle of the Serengeti. Where are these children going?”
He started laughing and said, “They’re messiah children and they’re going to water their oxen and gather the water for their households for the day.” And I said, “Where? We’re in the middle of nowhere.” He responded, “Yes, sometimes they travel 20 to 25 miles a trip. A lot of times these kids don’t even make it because the water is so contaminated. They get so sick and dehydrated and they just die of dehydration within 24 hours.”
I looked at him, “You mean to tell me children are still dying of contaminated water IN THIS DAY AND AGE!” That’s when I had the epiphany. My Dad was in heaven guiding me – that’s why I knew I had to do something about it.
RS: How does the development of GSP coalesce with who you are as a person?
KF: I have always been a philanthropist and humanitarian. I grew up being that person but I’ve always worked for somebody else doing it and on a much smaller scale. When you’ve worked on the domestic side opposed to the international side, I guess it’s something that’s always in you. You can either act on it – or ignore the calling.
I call it a “God thing” and I don’t even go to church. I basically started with nothing. In less than two years we set up our first installation in October 2011 and then our second in October 2012. We placed filters in almost 50 schools, three orphanages, one Girls center, and one community center, which impacted about 30,000 plus kids and their teachers.
RS: That was as of November 2012 correct?
KF: Yes. We installed filters in 10 schools our very first year and then 40 schools in the second year. We are looking to installing filters in an additional 82 schools. Working in Africa is not easy — I had a major breakdown with the government. They were trying to charge me 54% tax to bring our filters into the country, so our filters were stuck in Kenya for 75 days. It was a major mess. I fought and fought with the government until they ended up paying for the taxes.
What would have taken a few days, took a few months. Instead of doing 50 schools I did 22 schools. Brenda, our one staff person worked with the educational officers and they gave us three additional staff members (which I trained) to finish the installations.
RS: When you started out there you knew you wanted to bring about a change. Did you know how to go about getting what you needed?
KF: I didn’t have any insight at all. I just figured out what it meant to provide access to clean water for children. I had to do research.
RS: Was that the starting point?
KF: Yes. I used all available technology and resources that were at my disposal, including the researching of organizations that were doing work specifically in the water world. I had no clue how it was going to happen. It took me about a year to do the research and to get up and running.
RS: How much time did you spend in Tanzania during the January trip?
KF: About one month. It’s funny because I was there for two weeks when I started noticing the women at water puddles with pales and it struck me as odd – but I didn’t really pay attention to it because it was raining. When I got back, I realized that they were trying to get water from the puddles so they could take that water and use it. That’s how I found out what they were doing in the villages, because they had no water sources.
RS: When was your second trip back to Tanzania?
KF: My second trip back to Tanzania was the following January, when I got the opportunity to do my first demonstration in front of the regional commissioner and his stakeholders. I’d met the ambassador in June of that year and asked him if he could get me an audience. Six months later he did.
RS: From January 2010 to January 2011, you were gone for a period of about five months, while doing research in the United States before returning to Africa. Then you returned in January 2011. How much time did you spend at that point?
KF: About a month.
RS: Did you go anywhere else outside of Tanzania?
KF: I visited Kenya.
RS: Your focal point of this trip was the villages in Tanzania?
RS: When you returned to the U.S., how did Tanzania change your perspective on life?
KF: It gave me a greater appreciation of how good we have it which made me want to get our American children involved, working with their African brothers and sisters. I believe that so many kids do not understand the dynamics of the real world. I wanted to try somehow to open up the eyes of the children and get them involved. My goal was to create global citizens to prepare them to take the rein for the next generation.
RS: What was most impactful?
KF: Being an African American working in Africa.
RS: When you looked into the eyes of the children in Tanzania, what did you see?
KF: The eyes of the children are not different because they’re children. They don’t know much better but when I look into the faces of the women, there is no light and that bothers me. They work so hard for so little and unfortunately in Africa, the women carry the burden of the entire family.
RS: Our eyes are the windows to our soul. They tell us things that we can never speak.
KF: It really resonates with me. Part of this mission was to begin an initiative with the women in Tanzania and to empower them to take better control of the overall health of their families. One of the major problems is if a child gets sick, the mother has to stay home which means she can’t work and make money to feed her family. It’s just a vicious cycle of perpetuated poverty. With the filters, we can provide clean water at school and at home, which will cut down on re-contamination and will revolutionize women’s lives.
“If the millions of women who haul water long distances had a faucet by their door, whole societies could be transformed.”– National Geographic, April 2010
RS: What will phase two entail and how will you go about empowering these women?
KF: A friend of mine introduced me to a pastor. There was a group of about 18 women- villagers who are the leaders in their villages. They had a conference of which he allowed me to come and speak with them. I advised them that I would like to come to their homes and conduct a survey on how they get their water. I surveyed about 100 households while I was there. I talked directly to the women about their daily tasks and responsibilities. The responses to gain access to clean water were overwhelming because typhoid and cholera run rapid in their communities.
RS: On September 23rd of 2012, there was a challenge with one of the agents showing up at the borders with the clean filters. What was your greatest challenge of faith that day?
RS: You had to have enough faith know that things would come together. At what age were you when you realized you were a philanthropist?
KF: All of my life.
RS: Are there any other states you have traveled to raise awareness about the lack of clean water worldwide?
KF: Michigan, District of Columbia, and Maryland.
RS: Do you have any other places that you’d like to go to raise the initiative?
KF: I’d like to make GSP an international charity.
RS: How did you meet your co-founder Mary Barth?
KF: We connected at a May Day party.
RS: How long have you two been friends?
KF: We’ve been friends for 25 years. I think the biggest thing now is that we’re actually saving lives.
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Kimberly Fogg is the founder of Global Sustainable Partnerships, Inc. and Mary Barth is the co-founder.Through an increasing amount of global efforts, fundraisers, initiatives, education, training, construction, and support, G.S.P. continues to thrive to attain the overall education of health, sanitation, and hygiene practices for children in primary and secondary schools and their families in developing countries. For more information and to provide continued support for clean water, please visit www.gspartnerships.org.