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John & Stacey Travis

John and Stacey Travis started Drop in the Bucket to finance the wells for clean water in Africa. They've expanded from just building wells to educating populations about sanitation and hygiene, and helping villages finance and maintain their projects.

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John and Stacey Travis
“I don’t think we ever intended it to be as big as it is.”

John Travis and his wife Stacey didn’t expect to be building wells in Africa. He produced records and she produced television shows, not sustainable sanitation infrastructure. Over six years ago, Stacey heard from some doctors doing aid work in Africa. They were frustrated by returning to find the children they'd treated on previous trips sick again because of failures in basic sanitation. The couple decided the best thing they could do was build a few wells, and provide clean water to a couple of communities. After tricking friends into attending a party that was actually a fundraiser, they raised enough money to build the wells. This one-off project has since taken on a life of its own, in the form of an organization called Drop in the Bucket.

“I don’t think we ever intended it to be as big as it is,” says John. Today, the organization has built over 160 wells in six countries, runs education campaigns, promotes gender equality, and sets up community funds for the continued maintenance of their projects.

The key to Drop in the Bucket’s approach is working with rather than just for communities. The goal is to avoid what John calls “the cycle of dependency.” To this end, every one of their projects begins with understanding the needs of the community it’s serving. “Different things work in different communities,” says John. Explaining the basics of sanitation are one thing for a community in Uganda that has basic knowledge of toilets, and another in Sudan where open defecation is the norm. To help know which communities need what, Stacey spends half the year in Africa. “We’re there,” says John “they see us.”

Starting with water, Drop in the Bucket is focused on developing communities, without the condescension or pity that charity can entail. “They’re not victims, they’re not sad,” John says of the people Drop in the Bucket works with, ”they’re people living their lives.”