2011 Acumen Fund Fellow, Brenda Williams, alongside a schoolteacher and community health educator
Behind every brilliant market-based solution is a team of unsung heroes, working to help the idea permeate on the ground. I had the privilege of meeting a couple of these individuals during a series of site visits to WaterHealth International’s WaterHealth Centers in Andhra Pradesh, India.
In my current position as an Acumen Fund Fellow with WaterHealth International (WHI), I am closely aligned with the Marketing Department to lead a Market Research Study on Consumer Segmentation. WHI wishes to understand the purchase behaviors of consumers and to understand how they can better serve the end-user, and more of them!
In India alone, WHI has set up approximately 300 WaterHealth Centers (WHCs). WHI is rapidly expanding to double its numbers in the coming year. These sites are proving that rural consumers are willing to pay for access to lifesaving, clean water.
My first week on the job, I traveled to several rural villages and met with consumers to understand what access to clean drinking water meant to them and their families. One consumer in particular was the woman pictured above, a school teacher in the village of Nutthaki, who purchases 40 liters of water daily for her home and classroom. She provides the water to her students because she knows the impact that clean drinking water has on their daily life. She educates her students about the benefits of safe drinking water and diseases related to drinking contaminated water: dysentery, diarrhea, and micro-organisms. She has seen many of her students, a few pictured here at the WaterHealth Center, fall sick with diarrhea quite frequently due to the unclean water they drink at home. Since providing clean water in her classroom, she has seen attendance increase and performance improve. Students now have less issues with gastric intestinal problems, intestinal parasites and diarrhea.
Another example is Gvenkateswararao, the gentleman pictured to the right. Gvenkateswararao is a physiotherapist and health educator in his community, Gannavaram village. Since the WaterHealth Center was built in his town four years ago, he has been purchasing 40 liters daily for himself and his family. He understands the importance of educating the community about healthy drinking water and is an advocate government programs for teaching water health and the ills of water-borne diseases in the schools and the community at large.
These consumers are some of the foot soldiers helping WHI’s model penetrate deep into markets here in Andhra Pradesh, India. I am looking forward to meeting many more of their kind throughout the coming year and marching alongside with them, telling their stories…
“Find the smaller stories that tell the larger story of your movement, and always begin with them!” (advice from Bill Ayers, Professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago) — Acts of Faith by Eboo Patel
Brenda Williams is an Acumen Fund Fellow from the Class of 2011. Follow her personal blog here.
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