Nonprofit News

WaterStep Installs More Safe Water Systems in Puerto Rico, Thanks to Funding from Miami Dolphins Player Kiko Alonso

A team with Louisville-based WaterStep has just returned from Puerto Rico, where they worked with Global Empowerment Mission and Kiko Alonso of the Miami Dolphins to provide aid to remote areas of Puerto Rico that have been without electricity and safe water since Hurricane Maria hit the island last fall. The organizations worked together to provide safe water, soup and solar lights to communities in the areas of Lares, Manatí, Río Grande, Yabucoa, Manaubo and Orocovis. During the trip, the WaterStep team installed four safe water systems and trained locals on how to use the water systems so that they are now prepared to have safe water in the event of another natural disaster in the future.

The mission trip was coordinated by Third Wave Volunteers and funded by the Miami Dolphins Foundation and the Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso. Alonso’s father is Puerto Rican, and after the hurricanes hit last fall, Kiko started a YouCaring.com page to raise funds for the victims in Miami and Puerto Rico. He traveled to the island in January to deliver much-needed supplies to those hit hardest by the hurricane.                          

Over 100 of WaterStep’s disaster relief kits – which include water chlorination systems and bleach makers – have already been installed in Puerto Rico since October 2017. GE Appliance Park made the initial investment to get WaterStep on the ground where the organization worked with the National Puerto Rican Leadership Council Education Fund. The Fund received a $233,000 grant from United for Puerto Rico – a non-profit formed by the First Lady of Puerto Rico Beatriz Rosselló to aid those hit by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane María. Each water system also contains a portable bleach maker, which creates medical-strength disinfectant that can be used for sanitizing clothing, cooking areas, and household surfaces.

Last week while in Orocovis, the team from WaterStep celebrated a very significant milestone by installing the organization’s 1,000th M-100 chlorinator generator in the field. It was dedicated to Bill Parker, a longtime friend and ambassador of WaterStep who recently passed away. Having roamed the world with WaterStep and been on many water disaster missions, Bill was part of the WaterStep team who traveled to Puerto Rico last fall to provide the first distribution of disaster relief kits to the hurricane survivors.

The devastation from Hurricane Maria caused massive damage to the island’s electricity systems and water infrastructure, which will take months, if not years, to repair. WaterStep’s safe water systems have been used in many countries, and they are lightweight, solar powered, and easy to install and operate. Bottled water is heavy and difficult to distribute and is no longer a viable long-term solution to the dire situation facing Puerto Rico. To donate to WaterStep’s disaster relief fund, visit waterstep.org.

Arts-based Community Development Investment for Jackson, Kentucky

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced 60 awards totaling $4.1 million supporting projects across the nation through the NEA’s Our Town program. Creative Agents of Change Foundation, Inc. (a/k/a IDEAS xLab) is one of the recommended organizations for a grant of $150,000 to support Project HEAL Jackson in Breathitt County, Kentucky.

“The variety and quality of these Our Town projects speaks to the wealth of creativity and diversity in our country,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Through the work of organizations such as IDEAS xLab in Jackson, Kentucky, NEA funding invests in local communities, helping people celebrate the arts wherever they are.”

“We are honored to be recommended for NEA funding to support Project HEAL Jackson, which will explore new ways for artists and cultural producers to partner with businesses, entrepreneurs and healthcare providers here in Jackson, Kentucky,” said Angie Raleigh, director of the Breathitt Co. Health Department. “We believe arts and culture are an integral part of our community’s drive to better health outcomes, building on Jackson’s rich cultural history.”

“This has been my family’s home for many generations. I am grateful for Breathitt County,” said IDEAS xLab co-founder Theo Edmonds. “We know too well that our people’s stories were stolen and our mountains robbed. Today, many of our people feel invisible. This grant will help our young people understand that they are worthy of everything! Together with our many partners, we will explore ways to use the opportunity provided by the NEA to lift up Breathitt County heritage as part of the solution for cultivating a more just, creative and healthy future for our people and to establish the care and celebration of one another as the highest priority of the arts in Kentucky.”

Project HEAL Jackson is a program organized by IDEAS xLab in partnership with a number of Jackson-based community partners including Breathitt County Health Department, Academic Boosters, Juniper Health, Kentucky River Medical Center, City of Jackson elected officials, artist Rae Goodwin from the University of Kentucky School of Art & Visual Studies and special support will be provided by former Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon.

The project will engage many Jackson-based historians, artists, musicians, writers and cultural producers to increase public engagement in local health issues through arts and culture. Project HEAL Jackson will have a specific focus on reducing the negative impact of opioids and cancer. These two areas account for a large percentage of the total preventable health costs in Breathitt County.

Jackson, Kentucky, now joins a network of other Project HEAL (Health. Equity. Art. Learning) sites located in Louisville (KY), Natchez (MS), New Orleans (LA), and Asheville (NC).

For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at arts.gov.

To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please tag the NEA @NEAarts and use the hashtag #NEASpring18.

Learn more about IDEAS xLab by visiting www.IDEASxLab.com