You probably don’t give shoes a second thought. I know I usually don’t. I slip them on in the morning, walk around in them all day and shuffle them off by the door when I get home. I bet you do the same. Lace them up, stomp around the jobsite, kick off the dust and call it a day.
You probably don’t give shoes a second thought. I know I usually don’t.
I slip them on in the morning, walk around in them all day and shuffle them off by the door when I get home. I bet you do the same. Lace them up, stomp around the jobsite, kick off the dust and call it a day.
Many of us-yes, even water industry professionals-do the same with water. We assume there’s hot water for a shower. Turn on the tap and brush your teeth, fill up a pot for pasta or even water the lawn. We take it for granted, like it that way and can’t imagine it otherwise.
But not George Hutchings. He’s seen what not having shoes or access to fresh water can do to people. He’s seen kids bathing and drinking from the same water livestock bathes and drinks from. He’s spoken to villagers who walk barefoot for miles to make sure their families have potable water.
And he’s doing something about both problems-something novel. Hutchings collects donated shoes, millions to date. He sells them by the cartload to street vendors in developing countries. The money he receives goes into Shoeman Water Projects, the charity Hutchings founded to help solve water-access issues. It’s an elegant solution to both issues: People buy donated shoes for loose change, and those pennies add up, over time, to drill rigs and water purification systems.
Reporter Douglas D. Fisher spoke with Hutchings for this month’s cover story (page 18). “The Shoeman,” as Hutchings has come to be known, calls water “the source of life.” The World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund agree. Their Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) said last year that 783 million people, about 11 percent of the world population, lack access to fresh water. People in areas like rural Kenya and Haiti need water. If they don’t have fresh water, they use what they have. That often means unsanitary surface water. It’s not hard to imagine the consequences: preventable conditions like cholera and diarrhea.
Did you know that, globally, diarrhea ranks high as a leading cause of death? Neither did I. The JMP says that adequate water for drinking and hygiene could head off almost 90 percent of those deaths.
That’s where Hutchings and others like him come in. He’s not the only charity driller out there, and they all need our recognition, applause and encouragement. But, I do think he’s come up with a clever way to go about it. If you have an old pair of work boots or sneakers, visit www.shoemanwater.org to find a drop-off location. Many of those locations are in and around Missouri, so if there isn’t one nearby, you can donate cash or find out about hosting your own shoe drive.
Shoeman’s next goal involves buying a rig that can drill to 1,000 feet. He’ll send it to Kenya, where crews will put it to work on 30 to 50 wells a year. It will make a big difference in the lives of people living near those wells.
Hutchings describes people he’s met in rural Kenya as hardworking and friendly. I’d say the same of drillers I’ve met here in the United States. With so much in common, it’d be a shame to let access to fresh, sanitary water divide us.
In Other News
The Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources recently picked me for a reporting expedition to the Kalamazoo, Mich., area to tour the site of the Talmadge Creek oil spill. The July 2010 spill sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of heavy, tar-sand oil into the creek, which feeds the Kalamazoo River. Almost three years later, the area is still undergoing cleanup efforts. I plan to write about what I see and hear there, and explore the natural tension between wanting to preserve our freshwater resources, and wanting oil and all the benefits it provides. I think readers across all of National Driller’s markets can appreciate these issues. I plan to post early reporting to www.nationaldriller.com, and follow up with more in the June issue.
If you have questions, thoughts or ideas for fleshing out stories along those lines, send me an email at email@example.com.
One last item: I expect to attend the 2013 South Atlantic Jubilee next month. June will be a companion issue for the show so, if you go, grab a walking-around copy and show your National Driller pride. If you see me in Virginia Beach, tap me on the shoulder and say “hello.”
Stay safe out there, drillers.
Jeremy Verdusco, editor
Editor's Notes: Charity Turns Shoes into Water for Developing Countries
May 6, 2013