Dallas Nonprofit: Ten For 10 Water For Africa

By Common Desk - August 18th, 2015

We hear from Ten for 10, a Dallas nonprofit, to hear about how they’re impacting those in need of clean water.

Who are you and what are you up to?

Ten for 10 | Water for Africa (T4T) is an all-volunteer Dallas based non-profit that helps fund comprehensive water projects in sub-Saharan Africa & raises awareness locally about the World Water Crisis. Since 2010 we’ve concentrated our efforts in Rwanda.

Our projects include clean water, safe restrooms and sanitation education. We work with other NGOs, the Rwandan government and the local people to make this happen.

We don’t have any paid staff so this is truly our passion project we do in addition to working full time. We have a Board, Advisory Board and Volunteers that keep things flowing. (That was a water joke…and a pretty bad one. Sorry about that.)

What’s your story?

We started T4T in 2008, officially started fundraising in 2009. We started doing “pop-up” dinners in our dining room with some of our local chef friends. Only 10 people could fit around the table and the idea was each person would give someone clean water. That’s how we came up with the name Ten for 10!

Growing up I was fortunate to travel a lot. My family went into communities where people were barely getting by. That created a desire to help others from a very early age, but I didn’t know exactly how to do it.

I took an African Studies class in college and became interested in learning more about that part of the world. A few years later I saw a documentary called FLOW: For Love of Water. It was about the World Water Crisis. The stats were mind-blowing. But it inspired me to start researching realistic ways to provide clean drinking water. Soon after, Ten for 10 I Water for Africa was born.

Since the pay sucked (there was and is no pay) wine is how I recruited my husband, Bryan, and my friend, Pam, to help start T4T. Even now, when I open a bottle of wine they both ask what I’m trying to talk them into this time.

What sets you apart from others in your industry?

Our model is different. We require participation from the Rwandan communities and governments. Local people contribute in the form of materials, labor and/or a small monetary contribution.

What also sets us apart is we’re not aid givers, we’re social investors. We refer to our donors, volunteers and partners as “Water Warriors”. It’s not about becoming perpetual aid givers. It’s about providing greater access to a basic need, water that will create more opportunities.

In addition, the issue of water disproportionately affects women and children. So it’s about organically building up a more vulnerable sector of the Rwandan population so that they can have a better future through education and/or economic activities that they would otherwise not have time to participate in.

How is it going?

Estimates are that we’ve saved the equivalent of 629,310 hours, 26,221 days, 3,746 weeks or 72 years of time that would have been spent EACH YEAR on water collection. Since our projects are monitored and designed to last for at least 10 years that means we are on track to give 720 years of time back to the people of Rwanda. Pretty amazing.

Another unintended consequence of our water projects is that 54% of the community water sellers that monitor and collect a small fee for the drinkable water are women. (They are community elected positions so this is really an amazing and unexpected outcome.)

What are your biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenge is telling our story in a way that engages people and makes them want to help. Also, time: We all have full time jobs so finding the time to make things happen can be challenging.

What are the two most valuable things you have learned since starting T4T?

  1. If you want to go quick, go it alone. If you want to go far, collaborate.
  2. That it’s harder than you could ever imagine, but also more rewarding.

What’s your favorite part of your work?

Helping give people the opportunity for a better future.

Water has a ripple effect like nothing else. If you increase access to water, and people take advantage of it, it creates increased opportunity to grow better food, enjoy better health and get a better education.

What is the most time-consuming part of your work?

Figuring out how to connect what we’re doing halfway around the world with people stateside, and showing why it matters.

Also admin work. It’s a crusher.

Do you get much free time? How do you spend it?

Not at all! Between my full-time job and T4T I don’t get much downtime. (Working on it, but it’s something that definitely doesn’t come naturally.)

I love to travel, so I do that as often as I can. For quick relaxation, a glass of wine and a magazine is my “go to”. Also, spending time with anyone who makes me laugh is one of my favorite things.

In the morning I do try to carve out a few minutes to be thankful. That’s been a game changer for me.

Where are you going from here?

Currently we’re committed to seeing full water coverage in two Rwandan districts, Rulindo and Kicukiro. That should be complete by 2018. After that, who knows!

We may go into Latin America. We may continue in another African country. We’ve talked about creating a “phase two” that includes options of microloans, trading, e-commerce, leadership, skills training, etc.

Whatever we do, it will be a social investment and not a perpetual aid model. It’s about creating something that allows people to grow and care for themselves.

In regards to growing our ability to give, expanding requires significant funding and the ability to grab the attention of potential donors. (If you have any good ideas on that, please let me know!)

Are you thinking about expanding your team?

We’re always looking for volunteers and corporate partners. I’m happy to talk to anyone about how to get more involved with what we do. Drop me a line sheryl@tenfor10.org. (Currently all of our opportunities are local.)

What is the impact of your business/ industry on your local community? On society?

Our goal is to raise awareness about the World Water Crisis and what can be done about it. The numbers and stats make it seem like one person can’t make a difference. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

At the end of the day, we’re advocating for people investing in other people.

Why did you decide to office at Common desk?

We needed to evolve from our dining room table and we wanted to be part of a like-minded community, not a stuffy office space.

Common Desk worked with us a few years ago during North Texas Giving Day and it was a great experience. Members seem to be socially conscious and interested in making an impact. It was just the right fit, and now the right time.

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Slack & Twitter

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Twisted Root & Local

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