Operators Without Borders: Bringing Water To Those In Need (Transcript)

[00:00:00] Liz: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Making Waves with WWETT podcast. In every episode, you'll get a glimpse into the latest news, insights, and the real people who are making waves in the wastewater industry. Plus, you'll hear the stories and some of the behind-the-scenes secrets about how WWETT comes together. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode. Well, welcome, Valerie, I know you're CEO of World Water and Waste Water Solutions and the founding director of Operators Without Borders. Thanks for talking with me today.
 
[00:00:37] Valerie Jenkinson: I'm absolutely delighted to be here, Liz.
 
[00:00:39] Liz: I mentioned you're the founding director of Operators Without Borders. Could you share more about the origin story of this important organization?
 
[00:00:48] Valerie: Absolutely. It goes back to 2017. I had been working in the Caribbean for approximately 10 years with my private company, World Water and Wastewater Solutions. We were doing some training down in the Caribbean and climate change work. Then the hurricanes Maria and Irma hit and they devastated not just one island, but 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 and Wastewater Conference in Trinidad, and the keynote speaker at the plenary was a fellow called Bernard Ettinoffe, who was the general manager of DOWASCO, the National Water and Wastewater body facility utility in Dominica. He talked about how when he got back to Dominica, because he was away during the hurricane and his family was there and he was trying desperately to get back to Dominica, and there was no flights. He thought they had a private flight, but that got canceled.
 
He and three other fellows rented a boat, and he said that they took this photo. He said they thought they were going to die because it was so rough, but they finally got into the harbor in Dominica in Roseau. He said, he literally cried. He said, he'd never seen such destruction, and I have incredible pictures of that time. He described the trauma that his people had been through. There really was not one house or structure on the island that had not been damaged in some way. Many of them completely destroyed, but lots and lots of places with no roofs.
 
For the utility, they lost so much and one of the things that happens sometimes after these events, as you would know from the United States, is looting and their stores got looted. They had nothing left. They had nothing to fix things. After he gave this talk, I went up to him and I said, "What do you need, Bernard?" I've known him for 10 years, he said, "We need everything," he said, "But what we could use is some people to help us rebuild." I said, "Well, I'm on my way to the Canadian Water and Wastewater Conference. Let me see if there's anything I can do." This wasn't designed to be an organization.
 
I called up the executive director, Robert Haller, of the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, and he said, "Absolutely, I'll give you some time in the plenary that you can talk to people and we'll do some fundraising for you." I made a speech. We passed around the hat. Robert asked the exhibitors to bring a prize, and we auctioned those off and we raised, oh, about $2,500. With that, I had enough with some little bits of extras that we managed to get to send three people to Dominica, and they went for two weeks.
 
The water in the organization at that time, it was just us trying to do some good. In two weeks, they almost created miracles. The wastewater treatment plant was down. It had been down for two and a half months. They managed to get that fixed and up and running in two and a half weeks and give training to the people who ran the plant as the how to do the operations and maintenance to keep it running well.
 
Then the other volunteers, we had went up to three little villages and before Christmas, right, like a great Christmas present, they managed to restore the water to these three places. They were carrying, oh, big pipes over all these rocky boulders that had all come down. One of my volunteers said, "I was so unfit at the beginning of it, I didn't think I was, but trying to haul this stuff." He said, "At the end of two weeks, I was hopping over them like the natives were all the people in the country." Each of them said it was an eye-opening experience. One of it changed their lives in many ways, seeing the devastation and how people were so grateful for what was done.
 
That's when I thought, "Well, we've got volunteers. We've had other people that volunteered but couldn't go at that particular time. Why don't we set up an organization and do this just to help utilities because there isn't that organization." There's many, many NGOs that do incredible first response work where they go in where there's no water, everything's collapsed, and they bring in water, they bring in shelter, they bring in food. That is what our mandate is.
 
We put together two mandates when we became Operators Without Borders. First, was just helping utilities rebuild. The second, because we had so many people that volunteered, and I thought, "Well, we've got all this talent there." Level three, level four utility managers, why waste this incredible pool of talent? I know from working down in the Caribbean for so long, there is a tremendous lack of training. It's expensive because people coming from different islands. They get some money from a funder, they send one person in from each island, and it doesn't make a huge difference.
 
We said, "Well, let's give free capacity building, let's do training for free," so that's the origins. We got a board of directors. We, in 2018, became an NGO, a nonprofit registered in Canada, and then the next year, we actually achieved our charitable status, so that was the origins. That's how we started. I sometimes have to pinch myself as how much has happened since that date has been wonderful.
 
[00:06:47] Liz: Oh, that is wonderful, and just you doing it from the goodness of your heart, seeing that there was a need and then taking each step to do it. That's really an incredible story. I love that.
 
[00:06:59] Valerie: You get back so much more than you put in. I mean all the things I've done in my life, this is absolutely been the most rewarding. I think anybody who's volunteered with us and we've had lots of people going to disasters and doing training, they'll tell you the same thing. It's not what you give, it's what you get back. Just the feelings that you get from doing this, it's quite incredible.
 
[00:07:24] Liz: Oh, I bet it is. You've been on the ground yourself, right? I saw you went to Haiti and you spend a lot of time in the Caribbean, in general, but really describe that feeling, and once you make an impact, say day one versus week two or three?
 
[00:07:40] Valerie: Well, let me describe Abaco for you. When we reached Abaco in the Grand Bahamas, it had been destroyed. The whole town, the main town had in this little island on the Bahamas had to be bulldozed. There was nothing left. Not only did the hurricanes sit there, but they got cyclones. It was just picking up sea cans and tossing them around. I've got a video of boats half a mile in. The seawater, 25 feet of seawater came right over the island and they were on whale. Everything was desalinated so there was no water in those areas.
 
You arrive and you look at this and think, "Oh, wow, what can we do?" Then you get to work and we work alongside the utilities and in Abaco, we'd go past people, we'd be driving past going somewhere, and people would be sitting on a pile of rubble. It used to be their house, and they'd wave at you and smile, and they'd come and thank you for being there and these are people with nothing. I vividly remember being, waiting for a boat to take us to a little key. There was a lady there eating some lunch that had been providing for, by World Kitchen, who do an absolutely fabulous job, and she was sitting there.
 
I started talking to her and I said, "Did you live in this community?" She said, "Yes." She said, "but I am blessed. She said, "I have a newer house and my walls and the foundation are still intact." She didn't have a roof. She had no windows. Everything in the house had been destroyed but she was telling me she was blessed. She pointed to another, literally a pile of rubble that used to be a house. She said, "That's my parents' house." I said, "Did you all manage to evacuate safely?" She said, "My husband and I took our two children and with our parents, we went to Freeport and we managed to stay there so we were safe."
 
She said, "My brother had just started a business and he was really afraid that he would lose everything from his business so he and his family stayed, and both he and his wide, and his two children perished in the storm. Here's this lady sitting there and telling me that she is blessed. It is just an overwhelming experience when we think of how much we have and how blessed we are.
 
Certainly in North America, we do have disasters. One of my volunteers is managing right now as an incident commander, one of the largest infrastructure destructions we've ever had in the interior of British Columbia. We do have those, but we have the resources to fix those things. We have the money to do that. Many of these islands absolutely don't have. It's just wonderful to be going in there and being able to bring the expertise that we have.

[00:10:47] Liz: It really is. Just the fact that perspective, I'm sure it's life-changing for everyone who is part of that and to see that.

[00:10:56] Valerie: One of my volunteers was in this little village and the kids come and follow you around a bit and there was these two little kids, he must have been maybe seven or eight years old and his sister was probably about five. With their bare feet and bare hands, they were picking rubble from their grandparents' house and trying to get the rubble outside. Jason gave them some gloves. You see people with no safety equipment, no PPE that are working on these. We usually try and take down some supplies, some gloves and PPE, and things like that. He gave this little boy some gloves to delight that this little boy had. He wanted the best and he wanted the hard helmet. Jason said, "No, I need that. I'm afraid, might be a bit big for you as well." He was just so delighted and they smile and they have nothing. Absolutely nothing left. It just makes your heart pound in your chest.

[00:11:58] Liz: It does. Oh gosh. That's so heartwarming and wonderful. I know the work that you're doing like you're talking about, helps families but specifically and you've mentioned this previously, but empowering women because once they don't need to worry about clean and reliable water access anymore they can focus on other things. Can you talk a little bit about how this can empower women within their families and it lifts everyone up?

[00:12:24] Valerie: Yes. Generally speaking, you talk about this type of thing in places like Africa where there is no water in a town, and the great work that NGOs do bringing water wells into a town, because over there, what will happen is the women and the children are responsible for going for the water. They might walk miles to get watered often not particularly clean or sanitary, and they bring it back. Unfortunately, there's a path that they take which is well known. Often, they will get raped on that pulled off the path while they're collecting water in lake.
 
Also, because they're going for so many hours a day to just get water for their families, they can't contribute economically. When those wells are put in by other NGOs, they can then have water and they can have little cottage industries. It lifts everybody out. Even in the Caribbean, very often water is not available 24/7. I talk to people who are going especially after an event, a tropical storm or a hurricane or something like that, they're walking to the river. Now in Dominica, the sewage lines had broken. There was sewage going into the river and yet people were bathing in there. Sometimes that was the only water right at the very, very beginning that they could get.
 
The risk of disease is tremendous and it is generally speaking the women who are going and searching for the water and bringing that water back. It's great that the NGOs can go in and bring in bottled water and do reverse osmosis but the faster we can get back the utility to full operations, the better it's going to be for everybody. The women are the ones most impacted when it comes to the lack of water in the home. It does have an impact. Children can't go to school when there's no water. There's a whole impact to society and the best way that we can help is by focusing on what our guys do best. That's running utilities, fixing damage, and getting those utilities back and running as quickly as possible.

[00:14:36] Liz: Definitely. Then I know a piece of this like you mentioned is actually training people on the ground and within the communities. How important is that piece of it?

[00:14:45] Valerie: I think it's vital. So much in developing countries, there is no money. The rates and tariffs that they do have often 14 years old. The governments don't like to increase rates because they might lose boats. It's a very difficult, they're not very often financially sustainable. When you have a big event like this, it's critical that there is help there. Training is in any country, in any organization often the first thing that goes when money is short. Providing free training, we can look at operations and maintenance. I remember I was in Haiti and I was with my partner and we were looking at this generator. They had a brand new generator and my partner said, "That would be worth probably $250,000." He called me over and he showed me in the corner, it was an old rusted out dusty, absolutely crapped out old generator that they'd just replaced. It had 2,500 hours on it. He said to me, "In my utility, that would be considered pretty well brand new, but nobody knew how to operate it. Nobody knew how to maintain it."
 
This is one of the problems is they get money very often with a grant to get a piece of equipment could be a whole treatment plant, and they build it, and then it isn't maintained because they don't have the training sometimes to do that. By providing this training, if we can do that, it has a huge economic impact on the utility because equipment, plants, et cetera, are going to last that much longer.
 
This is one of the things that when I talk to the funders like International Development Bank, World Bank, I say, "You must put in money for capacity building when you're doing new equipment. You train new plants because otherwise, they're going to be back to you in 70 years asking for more money for the same thing." With us being able to go in and deliver training and also to certify operators so that we have the same standards in these developing countries as we do in North America, that is really going to make a huge impact and a huge difference.
 
The Caribbean has always had this same certification as we have in Canada and in many places in the United States with WPI, Water Professionals International, that used to be ABC, they've had a name change. They are already on that path but they didn't have that many people trained. In the last few months, we have been doing a massive amount of certification training and certifying operators and we now have a grant from the International Development Bank and oh, sorry, the UN through the Caribbean Regional Environmental Wastewater Program to do training in four different countries on wastewater certification both treatment and collection.
 
By giving these people the training, it just lifts everything up and makes the utility much more sustainable at a rate that can be afford. We are just starting our first pilot in Africa on certification training. We're working with the poor Bishop and his crew at WPI and we are going in November. We are sending an instructor over for two to three weeks to do certification training in both water and wastewater. They will get a week's training on wastewater, a week's training in water, and then they'll be either able to sit their level one exam. If they're not up to the standard of level one, we can still get them operator in training and start building on that.
 
This is a very, very exciting pilot. If this goes well. We have the support of the UN and the Global Wastewater Initiative that's actually headquartered in Nairobi. If this goes well, it will then start spreading across Africa. Very exciting time coming up for us.

[00:18:46] Liz: Oh, you'll have to keep us posted on that pilot. That sounds wonderful.

[00:18:49] Valerie: Then the other thing that we are doing a massive amount of training in is incident command system. You'll probably be well aware of incident command systems because it's a standard used by the EPA in the United States and also in Canada. We all follow this incident command system training. This year, we trained well over 300 people at level 100 in the Caribbean. We have a grant from the International Development Bank to take three countries up to level 300. We were just finishing up the training in the 200. Then we are going to be training in January at the level 300 because they have a incidents every year somewhere there's usually a hurricane or a disaster.
 
This training is really critical because it brings a process that's going to get things organized. We also have done this in Ukraine. It's one of the first things we did in Ukraine is working with the Polish Water Association and their executive director, Klara Ramm. We put on an incident command level 100. We now are working, I've spent two months in the summer working out of Poland on putting plans together for Ukraine and talking to a lot of people bringing them into this consortium so that we can actually help Ukraine in this disaster.
 
We have this consortium, we've got a proposal together that we are trying to get funding for now to be able to go to level 400 in the incident command system training and then also bring a whole bunch of other type of training. Poland is going to lead this, it's interesting when I was there. I think they're absolutely right, they said, "The Poles really need to lead this help for Ukraine," because we understand the Russian mentality. We've dealt with the Russians for so long, we understand it. It's sort of East and West, the West thinks that at some point, we can negotiate with Putin and he will negotiate in good faith, the Poles know he won't.
 
We should lead this because we understand this Russian mentality so we are working with a group of utilities headquartered out of Gdańsk who recently went to Ukraine and did a whole assessment across water utilities. Operators Without Borders is a big part of that, I've helped them write the proposal. We're doing a lot of speaking engagements to try and get support for this. We cannot send anybody into danger in Operators Without Borders, we are not a first responder. We don't have paid staff who we can send to these places. Safety of our operators is our number one focus, but we will be sending teams to Ukraine to help rebuild once it is safe to do so whether that's six months or six years. I used to say and it may be never if Russia prevails, but the wonderful news, of course, out of Ukraine this week is they are making huge advances and taking back territories. We're very hopeful that at some point in the not-too-distant future, we will have a piece there that we can go in and rebuild which is going to be a massive, massive undertaking.

[00:22:05] Liz: I was going to say it is massive and I was going to ask how you help in a war-torn country like that because I know safety is of the utmost importance. It makes sense that you're putting the planning in place now so that when you can go you'll be ready.

[00:22:20] Valerie: We are also doing stuff now, we are part of the WASH Ukraine Group, the water, and sanitation, hygiene. I sit on their steering committee or I attend all their meetings which is once a week. Then every other week, we have a water quality technical committee. One of my volunteers who's a compliance manager with the region of Durham in Canada, he not only sits on that committee, he is leading one of the subcommittees in taking a look at water quality in war situations. Because obviously, the standards are going to drop somewhat, but we still want to make sure that we are not putting out water that's going to cause disease so what should the standards be?
 
He's writing a paper on that and working with the Ukrainians on that. We are also working with him to do some fundraising. There was a need for a truck that was completely destroyed in the war and they had no truck in one of the water utilities, we raised $7,500 and sent a truck to them. The Ukrainians are really already rebuilding even though some of what they are rebuilding gets bombed again, they are rebuilding, they are extraordinarily resilient, but they're also in a war situation.
 
One of the utility managers that our team met from Poland when they went to Ukraine, great guy, but he's now been sent to the Donbas to fight. Unfortunately, the casualties are really high there so we are praying for his safety and the safety of all those that are involved in this conflict. It's not that we are waiting until the war to end to start, we're putting this consortium one, we're going to do the ICS training. We're going to be bringing people in from Ukraine into Poland. Now, we can't bring any man in from 18 to 60 years old, but a lot of utility managers and senior managers are 60 years old so they're allowed to come out of Ukraine.
 
There are a lot of women working in the utilities they're allowed out so we can bring these people into Poland and we can provide training in Poland for the Ukrainians. One of the things that the Poles have said is that when they joined the EU 20, 25 years ago they got an enormous amount of money from the EU and so they were able to rebuild their water networks and their plants. They said they made a lot of mistakes, but they've learned from those lessons. One of the things that we want to do is take a look at what are the European and worldwide standards on water and wastewater. How can we best bring those to the Ukraine when they build back?
 
A lot of their infrastructure was very old in Ukraine, it was not great before the war, we now have a chance to build back better. As the director of UN-Habitat said, when I met with him in Bonn on my recent trip, we want to do it right, very often we go goal plated when we get money, and then it's not sustainable. He asked if Operators Without Borders would be willing to be part of the assessment team to say, "What does this utility really need to provide sanitation and water to their population without going overboard and building something that's the goal plated palace," so we are going to be happy to work with him on that.
 
We've been approached by the Red Cross to work with them so Operators Without Borders was very, very well known in the Caribbean. I think everybody knows that Operators Without Borders now, but we are now getting really known around the world and have made some wonderful contacts in the past.

[00:26:15] Liz: In a short period of time, you're talking a span of four to five years, right?

[00:26:21] Valerie: Yes.

[00:26:21] Liz: Incredible, Valerie. That's incredible.

[00:26:25] Valerie: I was invited by the director of the UN-Habitat to go to the World Urban Forum in Katowice in Poland, and it was an absolutely amazing, amazing conference. I attended a session that the acting director of GWOPA which is the Global Water Operators' Partnership, out of their headquartered in Bonn, Germany. After she had made her talk, I went up and I introduced myself and I said, "I'm with Operators Without Borders," she said, "Oh yes, I know all about you." She said, "You're working with so and so --" and I was absolutely amazed, here's the acting director of this huge organization that knows all about Operators Without Borders. It was a great moment.

[00:27:15] Liz: Oh, I bet, good for you, that's fabulous and it will continue.

[00:27:20] Valerie: Now one of the things is at some point, we will need to bring in an executive director, right now, we do all of this on a shoestring. When I'm talking to many of the other NGOs, they're talking in the millions and millions of dollars. We talk in at most tens of thousands I think we probably spent about $40,000 in Abaco, about $8,000 in Dominica because we all operate, I mean everybody volunteers their time so we have no paid staff. When I went to Poland and Germany this summer and I was gone for two and half months, but I paid my own way.
 
I didn't want anybody saying, "Oh, Valerie founded this and now she's trooping off around Europe." I said, "At this point in time, I will pay my own way," so we don't have anybody saying, "Oh, it's a conflict of interest or anything." At one point, we will need an executive director and so we need to find sustainable funding and work on that focus as well as doing the great work that the volunteers do.

[00:28:29] Liz: Well, good, and that comes with scaling and growing so you're on the right track. In general, it's remarkable how you saw a need, you started Operators Without Borders, but that really on the leadership side takes tenacity and real solutions-oriented mindset. Do you have any advice for people who look and they really want to help make change, but they feel like it's too overwhelming to even start or pursue it?

[00:28:57] Valerie: It's the Nike slogan "Just Do It." You go in and you don't quite know where you're going. You may fumble your way around a little bit, but I think we may have fumbled the ball, but we recaptured it. The thing is get a good bunch of people around you, my board of directors is superb. Carl Yates around Halifax Water, one of the leading utilities in Canada so he brings the technical expertise. Jason Mank, he's now on our board, but he is a team lead for deployment, he's been to all of the disasters that we've had as a volunteer. These people take their holidays, they're not paid to go, they take holidays away from work and volunteer their time.
 
Robert Haller is on our board of directors, the executive director of the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association. We have somebody from outside the industry who is our treasurer because she has an accounting background, Kathy Obad, and Madeleine Butschler, she was started as a secretary and now runs our governance committee and probably works almost full time as I do on Operators Without Borders. She's absolutely amazing and she is leading our charge in Haiti. We have an incredible program going in Haiti.
 
We are a partner with the Rotary International with their HANWASH program, and their goal is to bring water to the whole of Haiti within the next 30 years or 50 years. It's a billion-dollar project over decades. I'll be long gone and under the ground by the time this finishes. Having been in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 whenever the earthquake was in Haiti going back now but I wondered if anything could ever help that country. They're in a terrible situation right now. There's no fuel. What are you paying for gas in the United States right now?

[00:30:59] Liz: It just went down but it was more than $5 a gallon at one point but now, it's lower. It's around $4.

[00:31:06] Valerie: In Haiti, it's $30 US a gallon and there isn't any fuel. The fuel is being eked out. Other generators are failing. There's no electricity right now. The country is under lockdown because of the protests and some of the violence. I was talking to the head of Haiti Outreach, who is on the HANWASH and almost is one of our lead guys. I can say that without compromise in Haiti. He's lived there for decades. Has a Haitian family from Haiti. Incredible guy.
 
When I was on the phone with him on Monday, he just went rather white and he's looking at a screen and not paying attention to what I'm saying. He said that the person that they do banking with came out of the bank or was going into the bank, was held up by people trying to kidnap her, resisted, and was shot to death. This is a country that is so close to the United States. What he said, and this is amazing in the communes that where we are working like in Pignon and Ferrier, the water is still running. We have no electricity, but what we have done there is working, and people have water. This is just so incredible.
 
One of the goals we have is to reduce non-revenue water. Non-revenue water, when we started with Pignon was 90%, that's not 90%, it's 90. They had got it down to 80%. We did some training for them on district metered areas and they put this training. Now, we didn't go there. We did everything virtually. As I say, I can't send people into danger, but we did virtual training. We meet with them probably three times a week on our committees. I have, one of our technical experts is on their committee.
 
They have now reduced that water in July to 47%. This month it went down another 5% to 42%. That 42% for us would be non-acceptable, but our goal is to get it to 30%. When you're going from 90% to 30%, you've suddenly got money coming in and you've got something that's sustainable. Madeleine Butschler is the one who's leading the way she's working on their monitoring and evaluation committee. She works in community of practice and we are developing standard operating procedures for them.
 
These have to be in Creole. They have to be very, very simple because many of their operators do not have literary skills. They don't necessarily read and write. We have our pictures and videos. That's the capacity building that we are doing as Operators Without Borders to help in Haiti. Again, incredibly rewarding.

[00:34:13] Liz: I bet that's rewarding and sustainable and you're really thinking long term and that's fabulous. That's a big impact.

[00:34:22] Valerie: You talk about sustainability. That's one thing that's really critical to us. When our volunteers go in, they really make lifelong friends. When we went to Belize, we trained 120 operators in safety procedures, operators their safety committee their management. They'd had a trenching and excavating. It wasn't a disaster but it nearly was. They had a young man that got caught in his trenching collapse and very, very nearly died. The general manager said to me, he had the phone, the mother of this young fellow and she's screaming at him, "My son is dead. I know you're not telling me he's dead. He wasn't dead." He said, I never ever want to make that call again to somebody.
 
We went in, we did all of this training. We're still working with them. They had some trenching problems and some questions. It was very complex they had but we found answers for them. We have somebody from Belize going to be coming up to Canada and working with one of the guys in his utility in Durham that went down and did some of the assessment down there because we did an assessment and said, "Here's some things you might want to look at." We learn a lot too. Our guys came back and said, "We cannot believe some of the things that they managed to do, with the resources they have." They learned a lot.
 
It's a two-way street but we're going to have one of the utility managers come up and spend time in Canada and just tour all of our water and wastewater utilities. Our volunteer is putting him up in his house. They become very good friends. We know some of the birthdays. We have an ongoing relationship with the people where we go.

[00:36:09] Liz: Fabulous. Rewarding like you said.

[00:36:14] Valerie: We have the most incredible, I have to say that I've never known any group of people outside the water industry who are as generous with their time and their effort. It is incredible.

[00:36:30] Liz: It is incredible. The fact that to be able to do this in so many places for such just sustained period of time and we talked about think long term, it just speaks a lot about the industry.

[00:36:44] Valerie: One of the things that I would like to see happen, if I have my wish list. One, we have to secure funding and some of the associations can have helps us without asking for a donation at conferences from all of the volunteers. Would you give $2 or $5? Nobody misses that. It's less than a cup of coffee. For us, multiply by the number of people and it's immense, it would keep us going to disasters. The other thing is with our volunteers, they're so generous with their time. Now Canadians, I think had to have more holidays than some of our American counterparts. We're very lucky here. It would be really helpful if some of the utilities would match what their volunteers are doing, what their operators are doing. We always say, you've got to go for a minimum of two weeks because we are paying the airfares, we pay all the expenses. It would cost us double if we were sending somebody on the flights for one week rather than two. We say come for two weeks, but would a utility match a week and a week for somebody going to help in a disaster? That's something I put out there if utility managers are listing.

[00:38:00] Liz: Well, that's great. With that being said, how else can people help whether it's donating time, money, where can they go?

[00:38:09] Valerie: To our website, www.operatorswithoutborders.org. Just Google Operators Without Borders, it will get you there. Membership is $50 Canadian, which is $2 US I think for three years. About $13, $14 a year. That gets you onto our mailing list so you know what's happening. You are allowed to come to our AGM and vote to that AGM. Volunteer, there's a sign-up for volunteers. It's quite lengthy to fill out because we want to know where your qualifications are.
 
We are looking for trainers. We're going to be doing a lot more training than we did in the past as we go from just dealing with the Caribbean to different places in Asia and Africa. If you have training experience, we'd love to hear from you. You don't have to go away. You do have the opportunities to sometimes travel. Some places are rather nice to go to. If you can't, we have an SOP committee. We have developed 225 SOPs to give away to utilities because I know in the Caribbean and probably in many other parts of developing worlds, they don't have SOPs or they have very few of them.
 
We've developed this set of SOPs on wastewater treatment, wastewater collection, water distribution, water treatment, safety lab procedures. We're going to give them away. Then we have a committee that will help customize them for utility. Utility can come and say, 'Well, I would like to really want to start with these 15 SOPs, but it's not quite matching what we have on the ground." We can assign a committee member to that utility to help them customize the SOPs so there was many things and many opportunities that people can sign up for. It doesn't mean that everybody gets a chance.
 
We've got people who have volunteered and unfortunately, especially with COVID where we're being very, very limited on what we can do. We haven't been able to deploy people. We haven't been able to send all the volunteers to places or have them do things, but what happens when there is a disaster or when we have a need for say, the SOPs, I send out a mailer to our communications committee, to all of our members, all of our volunteers saying, "Look here is where the need is, if you're interested, sign-up."
 
We're taking a list of names of people who down the road might be prepared to go to Ukraine to help when it's safe to do so. We're trying to raise money now for that. We're trying to get a list of volunteers who are willing to go so that if we suddenly find we're in a peace situation, it's safe to go, we're not starting right at the beginning. We already have some things in place.

[00:41:06] Liz: Oh, that's good. That makes perfect sense. Will you be going to the WWETT Show in February?

[00:41:12] Valerie: I will be, absolutely, yes. WWETT has been more than generous and a shout-out to Dendra Best from WasteWater Education, who works out at Hawaii, who has been just a godsend to us. She is much more technically able than I am. She has helped us with our Zoom platform. She helps us with our online exams and so Dendra, if you're listening, thank you. You have been absolutely wonderful. She also has got to Zimbabwe WWETT, and I will be traveling probably from the wolves of the Caribbean to slightly cool [inaudible 00:41:49] Capitalism Indianapolis. Because WWETT has given us a speaking spot and also a booth, so I'll be very happy to talk to people in person at the WWETT Show.

[00:41:59] Liz: I love it, and I can't wait to meet you in person. Thank you for sharing your story, Valerie. It's inspirational and just so profound. I feel like you're doing so much good around the world, and we all learn a lot from that. Hopefully, everyone will listen and be able to give, donate, or even if it's in some other capacity. We wish you all the best.

[00:42:26] Valerie: Thank you. It's so easy when you listen to something like this, or you're at this conference, and we speak to just say, "Oh yes, that's nice," and then forget about it. I really urge you, if nothing else become a member. There's nobody I don't think in our industry that couldn't afford $14 a year, so become a member just so you know what's going on and then if there's opportunities you want later on. I would love to hear from people who are nearing retirement because they're going to have more time and many of those now don't want to retire. We want to reposition.
 
This is, as a way, that you can give back but also keep in touch with the industry. If you had been in retirement, come and join us.

[00:43:13] Liz: Oh, that's great. I'd love that hasted. There's the second wind right there for a lot of people.

[00:43:19] Valerie: Yes, absolutely. Liz, thank you so much for doing this. We're very grateful, and we always appreciate any opportunities we have to speak can connect to operators and water utilities, and as I say most appreciative of your time.

[00:43:36] Liz: Oh, well thank you, and I will find you at WWETT very soon, if we don't chat before then, thank you.

[00:43:43] Valerie: Okay.

[00:43:44] Liz: Okay, bye.

[00:43:45] Valerie: Keep safe.

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