The most interesting voices in and around the wastewater industry all in one place! The Making Waves Podcast hosted by The WWETT Show is about real, insightful conversation with brilliant individuals in our space. 

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Episode 1: Operators Without Borders: Bringing Water to Those In Need

Here at WWETT, we’ve launched a new podcast—designed to give wastewater and environmental service professionals (like you!) a glimpse into the latest news, insights and the real people who are making waves in the industry. It’s called “Making Waves,” and we have a great first episode.

We invite you to meet Valerie Jenkinson, CEO of World Water & Wastewater Solutions; (WWWS) her company is a leader in capacity building for water, wastewater and solid waste utilities. She is also the Founding Director of Operators Without Borders, which assists utilities in developing countries build capacity and recover from disaster situations.

In this episode, we spoke with Jenkinson about the power of providing skills-based training, how access to water empowers women and families, efforts to assist Ukrainians, her organization’s exciting pilot program in Africa, and more.

Here is a sneak peek into the discussion:

WWETT: Could you share with us about Operators Without Borders and how it came to be?

Jenkinson: It goes back to 2017. I had been working in the Caribbean for approximately ten years with WWWS; we were doing some training and climate-change work. And then Hurricanes Maria and Irma hit, and they devastated many islands. A lot of the islands had help from their governments or from Britain, but Dominica was rather on their own, and the whole island was hit badly.I was at the Caribbean Water & Wastewater conference in Trinidad and the keynote speaker was the general manager of the national water and wastewater utility in Dominica. He was talking about the trauma his people had been through, and the utility lost so much. I went up to him after the talk and asked what he needed. He said, “You know what we could use is some people to help us rebuild.” I was on my way to the Canadian Water & Wastewater Conference, so I said, “Let me see if there’s anything I can do.”This wasn’t designed to be an organization. I called up the Executive Director of the Canadian Water & Wastewater Association, and he said, “Absolutely, I’ll give you some time in the plenary, and we’ll do some fundraising for you.” So I made a speech; we passed around the hat; we auctioned off prizes from exhibitors and raised about $2,500. With that we were able to send three people to Dominica for two weeks. And, in those two weeks, they almost created miracles.For instance, the wastewater treatment plant had been down for two-and-a-half months; they managed to get that fixed and up and running, and give training to the people who ran it. The people were so grateful, and we had more people interested involunteering, so I thought why don’t we set up an organization just to help utilities?

WWETT: That’s wonderful. So how did you actually get the organization set up?

Jenkinson: We put together two mandates. The first is just helping utilities rebuild. The second is…because we had so many people that volunteered and so much talent...let’s give free capacity building; let’s do training for free. I knew from working in the Caribbean so long that there was a tremendous lack of training. We got a Board of Directors and in 2018 became a non-profit. The next year we achieved our charitable status. I sometimes have to pinch myself, [seeing how much we’ve accomplished].

WWETT: Do you have any advice for people who really want to make a difference—like you do—but feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start?

Jenkinson: It’s the Nike slogan, “Just do it!” You know, you go in, and you don’t quite know where you’re going, you might fumble your way around a bit, but get a good bunch of people around you.

Listen to the full episode here.

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