MIAMI (CBSMiami) — More than 660 million people around the world lack access to clean water but the South Florida non-profit organization, BLUE Missions, is working to change that and make clean water access available to everyone.
Danny Rodriguez is a CEO focused on H20. As a college student, he founded BLUE Missions, a not-for-profit organization that brings clean water to remote villages in the Caribbean and Latin America.
“I was 19 at the time, my sister was 21, and we were just looking for ways to travel during the summer, have fun and most importantly give back,” recalls Rodriguez. “On that first project we constructed a gravity fed water system for a community of about 100 families.”
Life without clean water takes a toll on a community.
“These children can’t go to school every day. When they are drinking dirty water they are getting sick and the families are spending a lot of their income on medication for these diseases that come from consuming dirty water,” said Rodriguez.
The program harnesses the power of high school and college students looking to complete service projects. Each participating volunteer pays their travel expenses as well as a contribution to the project cost to spend a week in the Dominican Republic building water or sanitation systems from start to finish.
Chloe Labrada is a student at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, and has been on two missions to the Dominican Republic.
“It’s a lot of work! When I first learned how to mix cement by myself with a shovel my back was on fire, and you learn how to nail a nail without hitting your thumb real quick,” she said.
Volunteers work closely with the community, or campesinos, who have been preparing a year in advance of the service trip’s arrival. Working together, playing together, is a win-win for culture exchange.
“We are working in their front yard, their back yard, the little kids will be helping, handing you nails or working with you,” she said.
Max Abadin is another Missions volunteer; he is a junior at Christopher Columbus High School.
“The things that these kids do and the things that they appreciate and the things that we appreciate and take for granted is completely different,” he said.
Experiencing the living conditions and witnessing the impact of simply turning on a faucet resonates with the volunteers.
“Some kids over there they don’t get educated because they have to help their moms or their families get water every day,” said Abadin.
Many volunteers have come back thirsting for more service, so BLUE Missions started a program called “REACH” for high school students to meet monthly and tackle global issues on a local level.
“We want to solve all the global issues but our focus is water, and through that vehicle we help connect other volunteers to their purpose so they can go out change what they are passionate about,” said Rodriguez.
BLUE Missions recently celebrated completing their 100th project and has goals to deploy 3,000 volunteers each summer in the next few years.