THUNDER BAY — For the fourth consecutive year, a Thunder Bay-based charity that works to provide safe water supplies in third world communities has won national recognition.
Charity Intelligence Canada has again named Lifewater Canada one of the country's 10 most impactful charities.
The rating is based on numerous criteria including demonstrated impact, financial transparency, and funding need.
Lifewater Canada teaches and equips local teams in Africa and Haiti to drill new wells, fix broken wells, repair pumps, build washrooms and provide health and hygiene training.
Hydrogeologist Jim Gehrels of Thunder Bay helped to found it in 1995.
After he passed away in 2020, his wife Lynda Gehrels took over the leadership of the organization with the aim of retaining the grassroots service model that has worked so well for so long.
"True to his vision, we decided that it's a good working model. We train and equip local people. We work with local partners, and we support them with whatever they need," she told TBnewswatch in an interview.
To date, Lifewater has drilled 2,131 new wells, upgraded nearly 5,800 other wells, installed 437 rainwater harvesting and storage systems, built 149 community toilets and handwashing stations, and provided health and hygiene training to tens of thousands of people in Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria and Haiti.
"Lifewater continues to demonstrate that it does not take a large charity to create significant impact for its clients," Charity Intelligence research director Greg Thompson said, adding that it has managed to create "one of the highest returns we have seen of all Canadian charities."
Data collected by Charity Intelligence shows that Lifewater and the other top 10 performing charities deliver average returns of almost $7 for every $1 donated, making them "a breed apart" from the over 800 Canadian charities that it rates.
Receiving the award for the fourth straight year "is incredibly encouraging for us," Gehrels said.
"I often quip that we are small but mighty."
She recently returned from Africa where one of Lifewater's current projects is in an extremely dry region of Kenya.
"It's incredibly arid, and there's no water support at all. I just got word Sunday that our team there finished their first well with a new rig and truck. So that's extremely exciting."
Gehrels said that to date Lifewater has provided safe water to more than 4.4 million people, including almost one million in the past year alone.
Each project that it completes is posted on the organization's website with photos, GPS coordinates, information about the benefiting community, and comments from community leaders.