By Matt Nespoli, WfW Founder and President
Three days after I graduated from college in 2004, while many of my friends were in the midst of moving to new cities and starting new jobs, I was on a plane to Nicaragua. I had boldly pledged to everyone I knew that I was going to be spending the next 12 months starting a successful new non-profit organization called Water for Waslala, which would provide everyone living in Waslala, Nicaragua with safe drinking water for a lifetime.
Interestingly, I had no experience building water systems, no fundraising knowledge, and no capabilities for building a functional organization…but no matter! I had heart! Passion! Ambition! Those things were just as important as real experience and knowledge, right? Right, I would have thought back then.
Then suddenly, I landed in Nicaragua. The days of talking, of romanticizing about what I was going to do, were over. It was time to figure out how to actually do it.
And, somehow, over the last eight years, with the help of an amazing Board of Directors, talented staff in Waslala, and countless donors and supporters here in US, I did. Well, sort of…but more on that later.
Today I find myself back where I started. It’s the middle of September, and most of my classmates from the MIT Sloan MBA graduating class of 2012 have moved and started new jobs…while I’m about to board a plane for Nicaragua.
You see, I’ve decided to delay starting my full-time job until January and spend the next four months working for Water for Waslala. My goal is the same as it was in 2004: create a brand new organization called Water for Waslala. Let me explain.
Over the last eight years, we’ve managed to raise $546,000, and today roughly 2,500 Waslalans can turn on a faucet at school or home and have a constant supply of clean drinking water. While we’re proud of these accomplishments, they pale in comparison to what’s needed.
For example, there are 56,000 people currently living in Waslala, and so far we’ve only helped 4.5% of them gain access to safe drinking water. Moreover, given the $100+ marginal cost of supplying each additional Waslalan with clean water, we estimate that we’ll need over $6 million to finish the job, of which we’ve raised less than 10%.
If we continue raising the same amount of money in the future as we do now, it will take 62 more years for us to finish our work. At that point, I’ll be waddling around at the ripe old age of 92, and will probably be too senile to remember what Waslala even is (a fruit, perhaps?). Not acceptable!
So, in short, the scale of our solutions does not match the scale of the problem. Which is why, over the next four months, I intend to put together, with the help of our Board of Directors, a new strategy for rebuilding our organization from the bottom up. Luckily, today, unlike eight years ago, I’ve got plenty of non-profit experience and a freshly minted MBA – not to mention the intellectual firepower of the rest of the Board – to help me find a way to propel WfW forward.
So…here we go again. Time to board that plane for Nicaragua. Time to stop talking about what needs to be done, and actually do it. Time to build a new Water for Waslala. Onward!