The Transformative Power of Meditation

A former football player struggling with addiction found his way with meditation.

Forrest lived a conventional southern life in Mobile, Alabama…. until football broke his back, he was confined to his bed, and became addicted to painkillers. 

As if that wasn’t enough, while bed-bound, Forrest was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Adderall.  He quickly escalated to taking three doses a day. The combination of pain medication and stimulants trapped him in a constant drug-induced haze which soon became unmanageable. 

For the determined, hitting rock-bottom is an opportunity to grow: rather than relying on temporary fixes, Forrest began searching for more sustainable solutions to his health issues.

In his search, he eventually stumbled upon meditation. Curious about its benefits, Forrest started researching meditation practices, and decided to stop by the local Meditation Center of Alabama. Thanks to Dr. Nena Nimit, he was instantly hooked.

Dr. Nena Nimit was Forrest’s introduction to the Meditation Center. A psychiatrist by training, Dr. Nena was well-equipped to help Forrest in his attempts to wean himself off of his medication. Over time, she taught him simple meditation exercises that eventually gave him the same relief as any of his prescriptions.

After months of being bombarded with medications, Forrest no longer felt “chemically charged”. Meditation enabled Forrest to alter his conscious state without external stimulants. He eventually stopped taking his medications entirely, rejoicing in his newfound clarity and ability to navigate emotions. Previously overwhelming life problems became increasingly easy to solve; mindfulness was a natural byproduct of his consistent meditation practice.

Forrest and Nena practicing daily meditation at the Meditation Center of Alabama. Photo: Audrey Stewart

Taking control by sitting still

There are no mistakes, just happy accidents.

— Bob Ross

Like one of his idols, the painter Bob Ross, Forrest began viewing his life’s misfortunes as a series of happy accidents. Though breaking his back was beyond his control, it gave him the courage to question the reality he had previously accepted for himself without question. He was a product of his environment, but did that have to be the case?

His meditation practice deepened, and he journeyed further inward. Forrest realized he could be still, notice what was naturally arising within, and question why it was happening. Rather than accept reality without question, he could now look back at all the past events in his life that led to specific emotions in the present.

Forrest began meditating on the events that led to his life spiraling out of control, contemplating how people take cues from their environment. “We feel the only option is to keep up with the momentum at all costs,” he explained. “Because if we stop, then people will pass us, we will miss opportunities, and we will fail. This is what we’re told. Work harder than the next person.”

As the world moves ever faster, it might seem illogical to practice stillness, even if just for a few minutes. Doesn’t time spent doing nothing detract from time spent getting ahead?

Forrest doesn’t think so: he believes meditation is profound, and his experience demonstrated its power to radically change lives as much as any drug or fast-moving mindset. So strong is his belief in the power of meditation that he decided to dedicate his life to guiding others through similar meditative transformations.

Meditating in Noisy Area
Forrest Neal outside of the Meditation Center of Alabama meditating in a noisy median during rush hour traffic. Photo: Audrey Stewart

The simple success of good intentions

While training to become an instructor, Forrest found a new fascination: people who live life by simply allowing things to happen. 

American views of success are often married with money or power, but Forrest’s definition of success shifted as he observed people in Alabama’s meditation community. People like Dr. Nena had such honest intentions; every word she spoke in every moment of conversation had genuine, loving intention behind it . To Forrest, that is success. 

“I had never met anybody like that until I met Nena,” he recalled. “People like her possess a quality and perspective of life that is such a gift you just have to be around it. They are willing to sacrifice things that we are not willing to sacrifice so they can just be as helpful or good at what they are doing.”

The dedication and open-mindedness of others at the Meditation Center of Alabama were similarly inspiring. Although it’s a Buddhist organization, the purposefully open nature of the meditation center meant Forrest could explore Buddhist philosophy without being pressured to convert to a new religion. The center was Forrest’s first experience with non-Christian events, and he grew comfortable being around people of different religions. The community showed him there are individuals who care about one another despite any differing beliefs.

Eventually, one of those individuals changed Forrest’s life forever.

A glimpse of a different world

The Meditation Center of Alabama teaches the Middle Way Meditation Method, based on the teachings of the Dhammakaya Foundation in Thailand. Many ordained monks or laypeople from the Dhammakaya Temple donate their time to teach classes, retreats, and lead meditation sessions at the Meditation Center of Alabama. Venerable Dr. Nicholas Thanissaro was one such monk.

Originally from the UK, Venerable Nicholas was one of Dhammakaya’s head monks, and made regular visits to the Alabama Center. Intrigued by his story and encouraged by his welcoming nature, Forrest was compelled to learn more from Venerable Nicholas about the world of meditation and Buddhism.

Venerable Nicholas Thanissaro Giving Lecture
Venerable Dr. Nicholas Thanissaro during his presentation on meditation at the University of South Alabama. Photo: Audrey Stewart

Soon Forrest was invited to a retreat taught by Venerable Nicholas, giving him a chance to essentially live like a monk. This was a rare opportunity — Forrest could dip into the reality of life as a Buddhist monk without needing to fulfill requirements like shaving his head or changing his diet. Immeasurably grateful for the chance, Forrest immersed himself in the alternative existence, and Venerable Nicholas saw how persistent, transparent, and genuine he was. “I just wanted to know the answers,” Forrest recalled, “and he felt that.”

A few months later, Venerable Nicholas was scheduled to transfer to act as head monk in his monastery in Los Angeles. Five days before he was scheduled to leave, he offered Forrest the opportunity to drive him from Alabama to California: a big cross-country road trip, and an even bigger honor. 

Forrest had never been west of Louisiana nor north of South Carolina, but he jumped at the opportunity; he couldn’t wait to get on the road.

Forrest and Venerable Nicholas Thanissaro
Forrest Neal and Venerable Dr. Nicholas Thanissaro en route to Los Angeles. Photo: Forrest Neal

Road trip to a new life

It was a definitively spiritual journey.

Venerable Nicholas planned the whole trip, and his temple covered the bills. He showed Forrest places like Cadillac Ranch and the Grand Canyon, and took him to other parts of the U.S. Forrest never knew existed. Spectacular as the sights were, the true value of the trip came from traveling his country alongside someone so dedicated to their own inner journey.

Forrest had never met anyone so committed ,  someone who was willing to make monumental sacrifices in the modern world to focus on their own purpose. “To go on a journey with someone like that… it is hard to put into words. It changed the way I viewed my life and the world around me. The whole time we didn’t listen to any music or radio. Just silence, enjoying each other’s company or having a conversation. Anything else was a distraction.”

We can all recall moments when a teacher first told us we were talented, or a significant other made us finally feel heard and seen. Acknowledging someone’s innate gifts can have a profound impact on them; there was a reason why Venerable Nicholas chose Forrest to accompany him. “I was a new person to the temple,” Forrest explained, “I’m not a monk and I had not been practicing meditation for a long time. It seemed like he had seen a lot of potential in me.”

That road trip connected Forrest to Los Angeles. For a time, he regularly traveled to L.A. to become certified in mindful meditation. As he became more established, he began collaborating with medical professionals to ensure his teachings are scientifically sound. Soon, the University of Southern California invited him to speak… multiple times. 

Eventually, Forrest packed up his bags in Mobile, Alabama, and relocated to California for good.

Forrest giving lecture at University of Southern California
Forrest with the meditation club at the University of Southern California after a lecture he gave. Photo: Forrest Neal

Commitment to truth

It is easy for spiritual seekers to be drawn into a guru’s mystical promises of permanent bliss. Many modern gurus who preach new age doctrines lack integrity and succumb to dishonesty. The unfortunate truth only reinforces Forrest’s dedication to truth and ethics as he teaches others. 

His approach to meditation and spirituality is influenced by the core virtues of Buddhism: he’s committed to the accessibility of his instruction. Forrest wants to help people come into their own truth.

“I am in a position to help people who are teetering on the edge of wanting to have an experience in meditation, but don’t know how to articulate what they want to experience,” Forrest explained. “They may be in a spot where they are being enticed by new ageism — like looking at a new shiny object that inevitably catches their attention. The more I meditate, the more I realize my purpose for doing it. I gain insight into how to help those who are having trouble connecting with the practice.”

Meditation is very difficult for some people, he cautioned. The conditions we are born into, how we were raised, certain life experiences—all of these uncontrollable circumstances condition us and program us some extent. External environmental factors also play a key role: in this technological age, we’re glued to our screens and inundated with information. Our minds coexist with an unrelenting white noise, an incessant scramble of inner dialogue. But what if we could compartmentalize or remove this noise entirely?

“I am still a programmed person, even though I meditate regularly,” Forrest clarified, “The only difference is, now I have the tools to steer my programming in a more effective way.” 

Self-awareness through meditation gave Forrest the power to change his life. He uses his awareness to identify what he can control, then restructure his environment as needed. We can’t prevent our brains from processing information, he explained, but we can slow down momentarily, and drop into a space of limitless possibilities. In this space, we are the version of ourselves prior to the experiences that shaped us. In this space, all superficial worries fall away, grudges become futile, and our sense of interconnectedness is recognized.

Forrest Neal outside the Meditation Center of Alabama. Photo by: Audrey Stewart

We all grapple with negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions. We are all faced with the dilemma of how to spend our time on earth.  Will we chase sensory pleasures and chemical solutions? Are we willing to look inwards to find answers, to look to the less fortunate and offer our help? To Forrest, the story of Buddha holds the answers:

“The story of the Buddha is like the story of us coming into our awakening. It is about discovering yourself in this world as a cog in the machine and the liberation that accompanies that realization. Continue to participate in it — or don’t. You have freedom of choice. This is the process of becoming aware.”

Ghana: A Cultural Pact

Inside Ghana with Clare Cutler

“Ghanaian values stem from a cultural lineage built upon trust.”

— Clare Cutler

Soon after arriving in Ghana, the effects of climate change were starkly evident to Clare Cutler.

Clare traveled to Ghana as an agricultural volunteer for the Peace Corps in 2015, hoping that connecting with people on a personal level would help her better understand the realities of our world while studying the effects of climate change on ecological systems.

“Marginalized groups tend to endure the consequences of world-wide environmental decisions,” the Environmental Master’s student explained. “I lived with people who rely on a predictable climate for their crops. Because of climate change, their food security and income are in jeopardy. The people of Ghana use far less fossil fuels than the West, but they are faced with the consequences of our actions.”

Two years working on a cashew farm alongside Ghanaian hosts and friends opened Clare’s eyes to how widespread the consequences of climate change can be. “There are many other issues on a much smaller scale with water and air quality, waste management, and ecology,” she explained, “Where people with the least power are forced to accept living with environmental hazards.”

After spending more than two years in Ghana, Clare returned to the United States with newfound wisdom about more than just the climate crisis. Peace Corps volunteers spend every waking moment immersed in local communities, making it easier to learn the subtleties of cultural landscapes and better understand communities’ needs. Although cultural barriers were present, they were learning experiences allowing Clare to adopt, appreciate, and integrate new ideas. Straddling two cultures offered Clare a valuable perspective on how Ghana’s cultural dynamics and values compare with those of her home, the United States, and what Americans can learn from Ghanaians.

Clare’s Peace Corps Ghana Agriculture group at their swearing in ceremony.

Gender roles revealed on a Ghanaian cashew farm

Questions about the role of women were at the forefront of Clare’s mind as she began her long days of work on the cashew farm.

Each morning, her host mother, Angela—who usually carried a baby on her back—and her young daughters walked three miles to the farm while carrying food and water on their heads.

In cashew season, the women and girls would spend hours harvesting cashews: picking cashew apples off the ground, twisting out the nuts, and throwing away the sour fruit. After a lunch break and three to four more hours of work, Angela would then chop firewood to be carried on her and her daughters’ heads for the three-mile walk back—it’s women’s responsibility to tend fires at home.

Though men began farming earlier in the day than women, they worked at a slower pace. Partially because they’re sometimes tasked with hard labor—like building mounds for yams—but also because many simply have less to do.

“By the time men go to farm,” Clare recalled, “their wives have cleaned the house, swept everything, made breakfast, sold her own things (like fried dough or porridge), got the kids ready for school, prepared lunch, brought it to the farm, and fed the men.” Men have yet another working advantage over women: they usually ride motorcycles or bicycles as means of transportation, while women have to walk.

To Clare, it seemed women are not valued as much as men in Ghanaian society. However, the fact that women hold more representation in politics challenges that notion, complicating any social commentary on gender roles in Ghana. 

“Nana,” who Clare lived with in Ghana, making yarn out of wool. Photo credit: Clare Cutler

Community-thinking in Ghana

Adapting to new gender roles wasn’t the only cultural adjustment Clare had to make; integrating into Ghana’s community-oriented culture began chipping away at her insistence to be independent. The “American way”—work hard and watch out for yourself—values self-reliance, while Ghanaian culture is quite the opposite. 

For example, Mame, one of the Ghanaian women Clare lived with, constantly swept Clare’s porch. At first, Clare was furious, interpreting the act as Mame assuming she was incompetent. One morning, to prove a point, Clare cleaned everything in the house until it virtually sparkled. But the satisfaction was short-lived: Kwame, Clare’s neighbor, soon strolled over, picked up a sponge, and began scrubbing her stove.

Then it clicked.

“They aren’t doing it because they think I can’t do it,” Clare realized. Kwame just wanted to be helpful and spend time with her. This was his way of welcoming her into the community.

“It was a huge shift in my frame of mind. Letting people help me. It made me realize that I can do nice things like that for them, too. It is not offensive to help someone. It was a huge shift for me.” 

A different value of currency

This communal mindset also influences the way people view money in Ghana. 

Before living in Ghana, Clare thought money had fixed rules. Like most Americans, she assumed there was a “don’t spend more than you earn” mentality.

Once in Ghana, however, Clare quickly realized money is completely cultural: many Ghanaians purposefully do not save because then people would want to borrow their money. Ghanaian society relies on the guarantee of constantly helping one another and reciprocating the favor, but some people take advantage of the system and live perpetually indebted to others. For the Ghanaians in Clare’s circles, though, this risk of a few freeloaders wasn’t great enough to change their financial ways. 

At first, this foreign mentality made budgeting and planning a struggle for Clare. But with time, Clare realized that these cultural differences were not barriers, but rather an introduction to new ways of thinking. 

She became more open to sharing what she had. Instead of being insulted when items were returned to her broken, she recognized the fundamental differences between the fast consumptive habits of Americans and the more sustainable approach Ghanaians take to material possessions. “Westerners are much more about acquiring. Ghanaians will use something until it is totally exhausted,” Clare noted. “Especially flip flops.” Instead of throwing out sandals once they break, “they will put them over the fire, melt the plastic and put them back together.”

Challenging as it was at first, complete immersion in a drastically different culture is what the Peace Corps is all about.

Trust in Ghana’s safety

Despite the massive educational value of cultural immersion, when Clare announced her decision to join the Peace Corps in Ghana, she received mixed reactions from her friends and family: they worried about her safety. An understandable first response, but after more than two years in Ghana, Clare grew frustrated about needing to reiterate how peaceful the country is.

Her claims went beyond ‘feeling safe’; she had objective proof. The Global Peace Index (GPI) assesses safety and security, domestic and international conflict, and the level of militarization in countries. It ranks Ghana as the 43rd most peaceful country in the world while the United States sits comfortably at number 114, nestled between Rwanda and El Salvador. 

That’s not to say Ghana is a bastion of peace, but according to Clare, most of the violence in Ghana is inter-tribal; the Peace Corps keeps volunteers well away from areas at risk of conflict. Contrary to her American family’s concerns about the dangers of overseas travel, Clare recalled a list of mass shootings that occurred overseas during her time in Ghana, including in Orlando and Las Vegas. Meanwhile in Ghana, phone theft was the worst thing to happen to her.

Even that was unusual; Ghanaian values depend on trust, and thievery is not tolerated in Ghana. Clare asserted that if you left your bag out in the open for hours, it would still be there when you return. “The way shops or stores work… ladies will just be in their stores asleep,” she explained. “If you want to buy something, you have to wake them up. If I wanted to, I could open up their jar of money, take it, and run. And it just doesn’t happen. It is a cultural pact. They like to be able to sleep in their shops and trust one another. If someone messes that up, the consequences are so huge that you would not dare.”

What are the consequences? One night, Clare was on the beach with friends when she witnessed a crowd of people circling a young boy, almost hitting him. “YOU ARE A THIEF! YOU ARE A LIAR!” they screamed.

The boy had stolen someone’s phone. 

“Even his family members participated,” Clare recalled, “Because if his family wasn’t seen joining in and calling him a thief, they would have been assumed to be thieves themselves. It is about reputation and pride. Those are the consequences. It’s like mob societal justice.” 

That night, the benefits of cultural immersion became evident. Unlike many of her friends on the beach with her, Clare was able to read the subtle cultural precepts motivating the public shaming. When we spoke, she did not claim it was right or wrong, safe or dangerous—just different.

Commitment to cross-cultural exchange

Below the surface of being a volunteer lies a world of opportunity to change how we view others, ourselves, and the world. Cross-cultural exchange can create bonds and strengthen diversity, in turn making the world a more peaceful place. But to create connections that will last, we must ensure exchange truly goes both ways.

The Diversity Visa Lottery in Ghana, a program allowing qualified educated Ghanaian professionals to receive American citizenship, is an important bridge linking the United States and Ghana… but President Trump and other politicians have supported legislation to eliminate the Visa Lottery. 

“I don’t think people appreciate that this positive relationship isn’t guaranteed.” Clare warned, “We have this soft political power in the world because we are a big exporter, employer, and we are the United States. I saw so much influence from China in Ghana and it made me realize that our power is not guaranteed forever and if we don’t foster those relationships with other countries, it will be gone.”

Knowing this, Clare has committed a portion of her life to service. Currently, she’s living in Houston with her boyfriend—another Peace Corps volunteer—while anticipating the start of her Environmental Justice master’s program at the University of Michigan, but she plans to serve in the Peace Corps again. As her years on a Ghanaian cashew farm showed, the most valuable rewards of cultural immersion come from experiencing seemingly paradoxical realities that can only be understood by connecting with people… not textbooks. 

150,000 Children Die Every Year in Pakistan from Drinking Dirty Water

The solution is simple: provide clean drinking water.

“It was a dream come true to help people by providing something they needed every day.”

— Franklin Woodland

In Pakistan, one child dies from contaminated water every four minutes…. but that doesn’t have to be the case. 

They don’t need new drugs. They don’t need more research. They don’t need new technology. All they need is clean water.

Problem is, clean water is inaccessible for many people in Pakistan. Tap water isn’t safe to drink, forcing people to rely on bottled or filtered water. Even if people can afford to buy water, most of the time, the water they purchase is still contaminated.

Franklin Wright, founder of Pristine Water, is trying to change that.

The origins of Pristine Water

After 20 years of software engineering consulting for fortune 500 companies, Franklin wanted to do something different. When the financial crisis hit, one of his companies went bankrupt and his whole business tanked. Rather than focus on the loss, Franklin used it as a window of opportunity to start again from scratch.

He began traveling the world in search of business opportunities. Although he wasn’t well-versed in the development world, he had a clear goal: help people find jobs.

He eventually met a couple in Pakistan running a company that loaned money to women, teaching them how to invest and save. Bonding over business fluency, the couple invited Franklin to stay at their home, introducing him to people all across Karachi.

Their generosity literally and figuratively opened doors: Franklin began investigating possible business ventures to tackle some of Pakistan’s many systemic issues. After exploring different businesses and consulting with local professionals, it became clear that clean water was the biggest need.

The challenges of providing clean drinking water for Pakistan

Through his research, Franklin learned how many people in Pakistan do buy “clean” water in reusable containers, but they’re not quite getting what they pay for. “They are buying contaminated water,” Franklin explained, “It is really sad.”

Franklin went on to share how many of the existing initiatives aiming to get clean water to more Pakistanis were not effective, complicated to use, and prohibitively expensive. Some even involved back washing. The average household in Pakistan earns less than $300 per month; they can’t afford to spend $12 dollars on a water bottle with a filter straw.“I thought if I could manufacture safe drinking water and sell it at the same price that they’re buying contaminated water for, that it would be a slam dunk.”

Franklin imported a reverse osmosis manufacturing machine and built a small facility to purify water in Karachi. He then hired 15 people to deliver water to shopkeepers throughout Karachi. The operation was providing clean water to about 20,000 people per day. 

Franklin felt like it was a dream come true to help people by providing something they needed every day, but he didn’t stop there. His goal was to have 30,000 people drinking his water every day, so Franklin began looking for investments. People laughed at him. “You’re going to sell water for a penny per liter to poor people and that is going to make money?”

People deemed it as a bad business idea, yet they loved the mission and wanted to help. Instead of securing investments, Franklin began receiving donations. Eventually, he formed a charity called the Global Impact Fund, and recently used the donations to build a new well at their water manufacturing facility in Karachi.

Ensuring all is well with well water

Many people assume if you dig a well deep enough, you’ll get pure water. Not quite: wells are easily contaminated with surface water if not constructed properly.

To ensure the water is as clean as claimed, a scientist at Dow Chemical Company with a Ph.D. in water engineering helped Franklin assess the process, materials, and machines. Together, they designed a well to keep contaminants out.

Once their water is extracted, it’s processed using reverse osmosis: a process where water is pushed through microscopic holes in a filter to remove contaminants like arsenic, lead, jet fuel, pesticides, and radiation. There is no human intervention in the process — a machine does it all. 

“Reverse osmosis is more expensive, but I wanted to make sure what I was giving people was safe,” Franklin explained, “There are a lot of other, cheaper, not as effective solutions and I didn’t want to use any of those. I wanted to make sure I could wake up every day and feel confident that people were getting the right water.”

After water is processed, all that remains are hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Since sodium, magnesium, and calcium naturally occur in water, those minerals must be reintroduced for water to taste right. Pristine Water purchases imported minerals from a large pharmaceutical company to guarantee food-grade quality, and the quality checks don’t stop there.

Pristine Water tests their water regularly at an outside lab, and a microbiologist ensures employees maintain a hygienic work environment. 

Franklin is confident that after six years in the business, people respect the brand and the company, “They trust it. They know we care about them and care about what we are manufacturing.”

The company’s attention to detail recently caught the eye of several corporations. One of their clients is Tecno, a glass manufacturing company producing windshields for Suzuki. Tecno asked Pristine Water to provide water with a different chemical composition for Tecno’s industrial application — a testament to Pristine Water’s astute manufacturing ability. “They had 8 or 10 vendors and not one of them had the right thing,” Franklin recalled, “We were the only ones who had the right chemical composition — even though they had specified it.”

The role of Pakistani women

Corporate clients are beneficial, but to create lasting impact for the masses, Pristine Water turned to women.

Women in Pakistan rule the home—most are responsible for taking care of children and preparing food. They know what’s best for their family, so if they tell their husbands to switch to cleaner water, they just might do it.

Pristine Water employs women to go door-to-door in the slums and talk to young mothers about the importance of clean water. “Our water costs one or two pennies more, but it’s safe. It’s not going to kill your kids or your husband,” Franklin explains. Many of the women working for Pristine Water would otherwise struggle to sustain themselves due to being divorced, mental health issues, or familial challenges.

Clean water has financial benefits for women, too. “If their husbands get sick, that means they will be out of work and cannot make money for the family. That is going to seriously impact the family because he doesn’t receive sick time at work, they don’t have any margin, any savings. If he’s sick, they aren’t earning money. So we lead with that :  the financial benefit of drinking our water. We show them how it’s actually better for them to pay for clean water for their husband for a year than for him to get sick for three days.”

The smallest children get the biggest benefits

The people who benefit the most from Pristine Water’s work are also the smallest.

Children are the most vulnerable to contaminated water, especially in their first year. 300,000 children die every year in Pakistan, and half of those deaths are due to drinking dirty water. And death is but one side effect.

Contaminated water often contains nitrates from the agricultural runoff that heavy rains bring. If that water is boiled, those nitrates become dangerously concentrated. Nitrates can cause permanent mental retardation and developmental disabilities. Children have a 45% higher absorption rate than adults do; a small amount of dirty water can rapidly contaminate their blood.

Waterborne diseases like typhoid, dysentery, and cholera cause severe diarrhea. Due to their small size and low weight, infected infants start losing fluid at a dangerously rapid pace. Parents have about two hours to take action, but many wait too long before seeking medical help for a variety of reasons, including lack of means and social stigma.

Beyond offering affordable clean, filtered water, Pristine Water takes a proactive approach to this issue by educating mothers about the benefits of electrolyte mixtures and urging them to have these prepared to give to their sick children. They also provide free drinking water to the families of all their employees.

“We have had families tell us that we changed their whole life by giving them free drinking water that is clean,” Franklin said, “They didn’t realize how sick they previously were.”

How can we help provide clean water for Pakistan?

$7 can provide a month of clean drinking water to a family of 6 in Pakistan. You can visit the Global Impact Fund’s website to make a tax-deductible donation. Donations to the Global Impact Fund are directly invested in the water company in Pakistan, Pristine Water. Every donation matters.

More about Pristine Water and the Global Impact Fund

Pristine Water is a for-profit business in Pakistan owned by Franklin’s investment company, International Water Technologies Corporation. The Global Impact Fund (GIF) is a 501(c)3 charity in the United States which acts as an investor in the International Water Technologies Corporation. Donations made to the Global Impact Fund are directly invested into Pristine Water, helping to expand operations and provide water for thousands more in Pakistan. All gifts are tax-deductible.

Pristine Water’s current objectives

Pristine water would like to use staffing augmentation or recruiters to help find more qualified people to run the Pristine Water business in Pakistan.

  1. Upgrading machines, tanks, and building new labs. New machines can wash, fill, and cap bottles without any human intervention. Automation helps improve hygienic standards. Automation will not lessen the need for labor—Pristine Water will train their workers on maintaining the machines.
  2. Acquiring more vehicles for delivery. Trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and rickshaws can be used for water delivery. Motorcycle rickshaws in particular are very fuel efficient and make it easy to maneuver busy city streets. Franklin hopes to encourage delivery entrepreneurship by funding motorcycle rickshaws for people through Pristine Water, who can pay back the loan by delivering water. This would allow them to keep the motorcycle rickshaw and start their own business.
  3. Expanding to other cities in Pakistan. Pristine Water currently provides drinking water to employees and patients at Community Health Services (CHS), an organization in Pakistan offering free healthcare to slum residents. Pristine Water currently provides water to 9 of Community Health Services’ 30 locations, and CHS requested that Pristine Water provide water to the other 21 locations throughout Pakistan. 
  4. Expand capacity. Karachi has a population of about 21 million people and Pristine Water needs money to grow their business :  opening new warehouses, building new manufacturing plants, expanding transportation operations, and hiring more staff, including more women to go door to door educating mothers about the health and financial benefits of clean water.
  5. Launch a technology education program. In addition to helping women, they would like to provide locally-run educational services for children and fathers. Kids will learn computer skills at an after school program, while teenagers will be taught to code with the hopes of meeting the demand for engineers in Pakistan’s manufacturing industry. Uneducated adults can participate in a literacy program to learn how to read and write.
  6. Find business professionals who want to contribute to their initiatives. Previous supporters helped with marketing, sales, and logistics. Some traveled to Pakistan to do so, others worked remotely.

If you’re interested in helping, $7 a month can change the life of a Pakistani family. Please visit gifinternational.org to make a donation and help ensure every Pakistani has access to clean water.