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The “Friend” in “Friendly Water”

Published: Aug. 27, 2021


The “Friend” in “Friendly” – Working Toward Our Common Transformation

At our founding meeting on January 1st, 2010, we adopted the name “Friendly Water for the World”. The “Friendly” part conveys three meanings. Through our work, we hoped water would become more “friendly”, people less likely to experience death and disease from waterborne illness, and making it possible for families and communities to plan for their futures. Secondly, we hoped to make friends, common cause between people living in places where clean water is taken for granted and people for whom clean water is a scarce commodity. Finally, Friendly Water for the World was founded by Quakers, known more formally as the “Religious Society of Friends”. We began as a joint project by members of North Pacific Yearly Meeting and Northwest Yearly Meeting.

Friendly Water for the World is incorporated as a secular organization, but one established on Quaker principles. We welcome people of all races and creeds, nationalities, colors and ethnicities, gender and sexual orientations, classes and castes, ages and disabilities. We are committed to the shared Quaker testimonies, and work to ensure their incorporation in our work.

Friends are perhaps best known for our collective commitment to peace, for which Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947. Many Friendly Water for the World projects have been collaborative efforts with other peace initiatives. Our very first project was with the Quaker-based African Great Lakes Initiative in Mutaho, Burundi, a center of the Burundian genocide. Following extended workshops in peace and reconciliation, Friendly Water for the World’s project successfully brought together former militia, women widowed in the genocide, and refugees in the internally displaced refugee camp for a joint program to improve their water quality. As important as the water quality improvements are, what was of equal importance were the gains made in trust toward rebuilding their torn community.

Friendly Water for the World has also worked with the Quaker-based CPGRBC (The Peace Center for Healing and Reconstruction), which primarily serves women who are wartime rape survivors in Congo-DRC; and other Friends-based programs in Rwanda, Uganda, India, Bolivia, and in Kenya with Transforming Communities for Social Change. Friendly Water for the World’s first Africa staffperson – programs manager Eric Lung’aho Lijodi – is former clerk of Young Friends of Kenya, and presiding clerk of Kakamega Yearly Meeting in western Kenya. One of our most significant recent programs is a joint effort among Friendly Water for the World, Zambia Women and Girls Foundation, and Friends of Monze, a long-standing Quaker support organization from Wales.

In keeping with our commitment to equality, Friendly Water for the World has worked with a range of marginalized and dispossessed communities. These include: disabled women; war orphans and former child soldiers; Batwa/Pygmy people; people with albinism; and Maasai and Samburu tribespeople. In India, we have worked with Rohingya Muslim refugees, survivors of sex trafficking, and Dalits (so-called “untouchables”) and adivasis (“forest people”). In doing so, we have entered into partnerships with and receive ongoing support from more than two dozen Quaker meetings and churches, from yearly meetings and Friends organizations in Ireland, Aotearoa New Zealand, and the Netherlands, and from hundreds of Friends around the world, for which we are very grateful.

Simplicity plays a major role in the choice of technologies that make up the Friendly Water for the World platform. Technologies should where possible employ locally available materials and can be implemented on the ground. Communities should be able to make any necessary repairs or restorations locally. Implementation should lead to local employment opportunities. And, in keeping with Friends’ focus on continuing revelation, we seek to learn from our partners and friends as we seek to improve our practices.

As our work has matured, Friendly Water for the World, in keeping with our Quaker ethos, has put a heavier stress on community. Through our commitment to asset-based community development and appreciative inquiry, we have learned more about and have become more appreciative of what communities themselves bring to our common goals and processes. While communities may be lacking in material resources, once unfettered they contribute huge stores of intelligence, drive, creativity, problem-solving skills, resilience, and compassion. We work hard to communicate this to our donors and supporters in joining Friendly Water for the World in a circle of empowerment and transformation. 

Friendly Water for the World also seeks to address the needs of communities here. In these dangerous and often frustrating times, people experience feelings of hopelessness and disempowerment; a lack of connection with people around the world; a lack of opportunity to contribute in a personally meaningful way; and general cynicism. Built on an optimistic and positive view of human nature, which is rooted firmly in Quaker tradition, we stand firm in the knowledge that, joining and working together, there are few limits to what we can achieve.

“I believe that helping people to help themselves with their basic survival needs, as Friendly Water for the World does, speaks to Quaker ministry by spreading Friends’ message of love to those in need.

All people deserve to live a healthy life and it is especially hard on families when children are sick from unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene. It makes it hard for a child to learn when they are too sick to attend and even when they can attend, learning is stymied. Parents cannot work with sick children. The whole community suffers. Improving people’s health not only improves the quality of life, but also allows spiritual growth.

“For when I was hungry, you gave me food; when thirsty, you gave me drink; when I was a stranger you took me into your home, when naked you clothed me; when I was ill you came to my help, when in prison you visited me” (Matthew 25.35–6)”

– John Bailey, Hamilton (NY) Friends Meeting


“Friendly Water is a brilliant example of an organization that began with Quaker support but has grown and expanded to encompass a much wider audience.  However, Friendly Water still deserves the attention and support of Quakers more than ever.  I encourage our 'Friendly' involvement, whether it be through financial support or by attending one of their terrific training sessions. My grandson and I thoroughly enjoyed a session, and look forward to traveling to a site overseas when times are right”

– Doug Smith, Reno (NV) Friends Meeting, and Clerk, Right Sharing of World Resources


"The only way we can attempt to right the wrongs of inequality is through the practice of justice in our laws and in our lives. Friendly Water for the World opens the doors to right relationships with each other.”

– Anne Nash, Wellesley (MA) Friends Meeting


“Friendly Water for the World works with many of the poorest of the poor in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, enabling them to live better, more productive, and less disease-ridden lives. The Bible calls us to be Good Samaritans, to help the beggar at our gate, to give the widows, orphans, strangers, and children a hand up in the world. Friendly Water for the World does it.”

– Chris Roesel, Penn Valley (Kansas City, MO) Friends


“Friendly Water for the World first excited me because it was empowering people to “overcome their undeserved difficulties by offering a technology which met the desperate need for clean water, and the making of which was in the people's own hands.  Following ongoing developments, I honour the trust and humility shown as the organisers learn from experience, and grow the scope of the work through community engagement.  Quakers in Asia West Pacific have recently held an online gathering, on the theme 'Being a neighbour'.  Jesus's call to "love your neighbour as yourself" is the essence of living in accordance with Quaker faith and principles, and is exactly what Friendly Water for the World is doing.”

– Elizabeth Duke, Dunedin Monthly Meeting, Yearly Meeting of Aotearoa New Zealand


I have been involved with Friendly Water for the World since its inception and have been a Board member for the past five years.  As a Quaker, I find the mission and values of Friendly Water align very well with the Quaker Testimonies of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship.  The work of Friendly Water is life-saving, empowering, and community building.  It provides funding for training and support of a variety of community-based health-saving projects such as BioSand Water Filters, rainwater catchment tanks, soil-based interlocking bricks, soapmaking, and Micro-Flush toilets. I am very pleased to be a Board member of and donor to this worthy, innovative organization.

– Kathleen O’Shaunessy, Olympia (WA) Friends Meeting


For more information, visit www.friendlywater.org

Or write me at david-AT-friendlywater-DOT-org

from David H. Albert, Friendly Water for the World (8/24/2021)