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Providing the 4th Billionth liter of Clean Water with CSDW in Thailand

Paweena Khoporn 2It’s very hard for me to believe that today we’re providing the 4 billionth liter of clean drinking water through the P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) Program.  It seems like only yesterday that we began this journey.  But in reality, it started 10 years ago.  For three years, P&G provide the water purification packets as a for-profit effort and we provided a total of 30 million liters of clean water.  In 2004, in order to expand the effort, we created the not-for-profit P&G CSDW Program as a signature program of P&G’s pro-social investments and we’ve been growing ever since by partnering with on-the-ground humanitarian groups that can reach people who are most vulnerable and have a critical need for safe water.

4 billionth liter with Dr Greg Paweena Yospong Chakarn Khoporn 2It took us from 2004 to 2008 to provide the first billionth liter of clean water by providing 100 million water purification packets.  At the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), as we were nearing that first billionth liter milestone, we committed to provide a cumulative 2 billion liters of clean drinking water by 2012. Then, almost unbelievably, we increased our commitment by 1 billion additional liters of clean drinking water at the next two CGI annual meetings for a total commitment of 4 billion liters.  Frankly, we were really sticking our necks out to deliver this huge amount of impact.  But, I had confidence that our model of working with external partners and finding the situations where the water purification packets are most needed would result in impressive growth to meet our goal of 4 billion liters.

Flooded car 2I’m in Thailand where they’ve experienced the worst floods in 50 years.  More than 500 people have perished from the floods and a staggering 3 million people have been displaced from their homes.  We started a CSDW program in Thailand earlier this year in collaboration with the Princess Pa Foundation and the Thai Red Cross.  In recognition of P&G’s 25 year presence in Thailand, we committed to provide 25 million liters of clean drinking water over a couple of years.

Flood in trees 2Boy, were we in the right place at the right time.  When we launched our program in June, there was already a need for our work in the south of Thailand because of flooding.  Then the flooding started in the north based on a series of typhoons accompanying the monsoon season.  This caused the massive floodwaters that traveled over a few months down to Bangkok and has caused flooding that has lasted more than 2 months. 

Kannika 2My P&G colleague, Kannika Jausuraisin, has led our efforts with CSDW in Thailand and has done a wonderful job.  On a previous visit, I helped Kannika as we trained Princess Pa and Thai Red Cross volunteers on proper use of the P&G water purification packets.  As the flood waters entered Bangkok, Kannika and her team provided the water purification packets in ways that we’ve never done before. 

Flooded house 2First, our own P&G employees had a need for the purification packets.  I met Nipon Asavakulpanus, one of our sales employees who joined P&G four years ago.  He’s one of the employees who’ve been using the P&G water purifier packets for his family.  Nipon goes by the nickname “A” and he told me that when the flood waters first entered Bangkok the municipal water supply became contaminated.  The water from his faucet was yellow and smelled of sewage.  So, having a way to purify his water was very useful, particularly as bottled water supplies became very limited and impossible to find in the stores.  P&G provided as much bottled water as they could to our employees, but there was quickly a national shortage as the bottling operations for the bottle water suppliers became contaminated. 

A 2“A” told me that the experience of the floods has made him even more proud to work for P&G.  He said he joined P&G because of our purpose to improve lives, but he never expected that he’d be one of those whose life would be impacted in this way.  He told me that he loves working for P&G and is so grateful that the P&G CSDW Program is now in Thailand.  He said the timing of bringing CSDW to Thailand was amazing given the flood.

Flood gates 2Kannika and I visit several of the large media outlets in Bangkok.  They’ve been important partners in helping build awareness of the CSDW Program and proper use of the packets.  Many of the employees of these media outlets have been impacted by the floods, so we make donations of the packets to them for their use and go on several of the television stations to conduct demonstrations. 

Finally, in another first, P&G is working with 4 of our retail customers, Tesco, 7-11, Tops, and The Mall to act as distribution centers for the packets.  The Princess Pa Foundation will train people and the stores in the flood areas will act as the distribution center for 2 million water purifier packets. 

Greg with Princess 2Because of our efforts in responding to the floods, P&G has been asked to attend a special ceremony with one of the most popular Princesses of Thailand who is the patron of the Princess Pa Foundation.  She’s regarded as one of Royals who is closest to the public because of her tireless efforts to help the people – and she’s really stepped up during the floods.  Kannika asks me to make the symbolic donation of our efforts to the Princess.  I joke that I’m not very good with my curtsey, and Kannika answers that I’ll be given many chances to practice.  Indeed, for almost an hour the royal protocol staff makes us rehearse the ceremony.  I have to bow three times, bend on one knee, present the symbolic gift on a gold platter, back-up with more bows, then scurry to her side for pictures that requires a low bow to the ground while somehow manipulating my legs to the side and behind me.  Wow, I should have taken yoga more seriously. 

Greg on stage with Princess 2I remember all the steps correctly when it finally comes time to do it for real.  Okay, maybe I wasn’t the most graceful with the legs behind me while bowing to the ground thing.  I learned why this Princess is the Princess of the people.  She’s very gracious and gives me a royal smile for my attempts and then addresses me in English.  I’m a bit astonished when she then extends her hand for a handshake instead of the traditional greeting of putting your hands together like you’re praying.  Kannika tells me that this is very unusual and we’re not surprised when it makes the national news later.

While I’m fascinated by the pageantry, I realize that I’ve been given a great honor of representing P&G at this event.  The royalty have a very special place in the heart of the Thai people and most people will never have the opportunity that I’ve been given today. 

Truck in water 2While the pomp and circumstance has been fun, I’m most excited about our visit to the flood areas to see the impact of the CSDW program and our partnership.  I’m not sure what I expected when thinking about the floods, but maybe a few areas with very high water.  What I see is that huge areas have been inundated with a few feet of water.  In some areas it’s up to 6 feet, but mostly it’s 1 to 3 feet deep but over miles, and miles and miles.

Police 2As we drive to the community we’ll visit today, we see that the elevated highways have become a safe haven for automobiles and in some cases for people’s temporary housing.  All the shoulders of the highway are now full unless they’re flooded with water. 

Greg in boots 2

 

After driving for a couple of hours and seeing water everywhere, we work our way through some police blockades to a small community.  We put on some rubber boots (luckily the Thai boots are able to stretch 3 sizes if you really cram your big feet into them) and walk through the water to a waiting boat.

Khun Thip 2Our host is Kamolthip Boonsup and we’re asked to call her “Khun-Thip”.  She lives in the community of Watkiasae in the province of Ayuttaya, one of the hardest hit areas north of Bangkok.  This community is in a low-lying area that was predominately rice paddies prior to the flood. 

Flood over rice 2

 

 

 

 

 

We spend almost an hour by boat going over the flooded rice paddies.  The shore birds that used to feed in the irrigation canals are now having a field day with massive areas to feed.  Khun-Thip tells me that 160 households in this area lost their home.  She’d already been a volunteer with the Princess Pa Foundation and when the flood hit she contacted the central office to let them know that this area needed help.  Khun-Thip is now the leader of the relief efforts here and her responsibilities include bringing food to the community and water, including the PUR packets.

Koon Thip at house 2We visit Khun-Thip’s house that is still partially flooded with water after more than two months.  When the flood first hit, they had to go to the upper floors of the house and hope that it didn’t keep rising above the roof.  Luckily, it stopped after flooding the first floor of her home.

Koon Thip demo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

We visit with several of the households including Khun-Thip’s extended family of about a dozen people.  Khun-Thip leads them through a demonstration with the P&G water purification packets to reinforce proper use before we provide more packets.  We ask one of the young mothers to help with the second demonstration. 

Paweena Demo 2

 

 

 

 

Paweena Khoporn grabs a bucket full of water from right off the front porch of the house.  She carefully repeats the same steps of using the packets that she observed from Khun-Thip while several of the children watch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paweena Yospong  Chnakarn Khoporn 2Paweena and her husband Yospeng are both 31 years old and they have a 6 year old daughter named Chnakarn.  We choose them as the recipients of the 4th billionth liter of clean water.  They’re thankful to have the packets because, as Yospeng explains, clean drinking water is one of the biggest needs of this community following the floods. 

 

 

 

 

 

Man on styrofoam 2Transportation is also a challenge now since you can only move from house to house using something that floats.  The market for boats has expanded greatly but we also see people using big pieces of Styrofoam as make-shift boats, surfboards, and canoes.

Colorful man in boat 2

 

Yospeng is a rice farmer and Paweena collects scrap to sell.  But with the high water, they can’t work.  They expect that it will be more than 3 months before they can get back to work. 

 

 

Elderly 2They’ve never seen anything like this flood and neither have any of the community members.  Officially, it’s the worst flood in 50 years but the elderly people tell us that they’ve never seen a flood that is so vast and persistent.  Unfortunately, with global climate change and the fact that Thailand is in a low lying area and acts as a drainage basin for this part of the world, it seems likely that they’ll have more of these types of floods in the future.  And, CSDW and our partners will be there to help.

Thai flags at sunset 2

 

 

We’re about to run out of day light and it’s not safe to cross over the big body of water at nighttime so we say our good-byes to Praveen and her family after drinking some clean water.  I’m struck by the positive spirit and happiness of everyone that we’ve met today.  Kannika has also noticed this and as we travel back she comments that the Thai people have a warmness and positive spirit that provides them with immunity against these bad times.  I’ve certainly been impressed.

In case you want to check it out, I recorded a short video about the 4th billionth liter and the growth of the CSDW Program in Asia (VIDEO LINK).  I also created a little photo montage of the visit (Download Thailand CSDW Flood Response).

Thanks to P&G Thailand, the Princess Pa Foundation, the Thai Red Cross, and the Princess for hosting my visit.  It’s been an amazing experience and a good way to celebrate the 4 billion liter milestone.  Now, we have our sites on growing the program that so we can provide 2 billion liters of clean water every year – in order to save one life every hour.  It will take us several years to grow the program to this level and thank you for being part of our journey.

Comments

As an undergraduate student and hopeful entrepreneur, the work that Dr. Allgood and his team have done over the years is truly inspiring. I too will be working in the corporate world in a few months, and this shows how a large company like P&G can have an incredible impact.

The most interesting part of this project is how it can save lives each and every hour. Knowing that over 1 billion people could one day be given free and clean water is truly amazing.

It would be great to track the lives of some of the recipients and see how successful they can truly become just with an essential resource. Without worrying about where the next glass of water is coming from, the people of these underprivileged nations and societies could help put their mark on the world in their own way.

It is inspiring that, despite the lack of initial commercial success, P&G invested in the opportunity to provide clean drinking water to developing countries. Allgood oversaw the CSDW program as it went from distributing 10 million liters as a for-profit venture to 4 billion liters as a not-for-profit. The success of the Allgood’s work is truly inspiring and should act as a template for companies wishing to enter not-for-profit ventures.

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