Q&A: Fiona Jeffery OBE, founder & chairman, Just a Drop

Fiona Jeffery in Uganda

What is Just a Drop?

Just a Drop is an international water and sanitation development organisation which provides sustainable clean water solutions, sanitation facilities and knowledge of safe hygiene practices to communities around the world.

Clean safe water changes everything. It improves health, education, safety and security, can lead to more secure food sources, income generation, poverty reduction and creates brighter futures. It completely transforms lives, especially those of women and children.

Why did you set it up?

I set it up because I believed that the travel & tourism industry that uses the world as its product was uniquely placed to add value to communities across the world and genuinely make a difference to people’s lives.

At that time I was running World Travel Market and had launched an environmental programme for the industry and had also become a mum, so I wanted to identify a cause that was global in its reach, environmentally sound and impacted children and their families.

Then I learnt that at that time just £1 could provide clean water to a child for nearly 10 years and so Just a Drop was born. I believed if I could get a £1 off everyone working in the industry collectively we could make the world of difference.

How has it developed over the years?

It has evolved a lot. We work hand-in-hand with communities to implement the best solutions for their needs, such as rainwater harvesting systems, hand-dug and drilled wells, sand dams, water distribution systems, biosand filters, latrines, and sanitation and hygiene training. 

Our aim is to help communities help themselves. I don’t like the words charity or aid; our work focuses on community development and empowering communities to help themselves.

For example, we now are addressing issues surrounding an unspoken taboo for many cultures –menstrual hygiene education and this stopped many girls continuing at school post puberty. The aim is to get them back in school and also educate boys and their fathers and male teachers to better understand what’s happening to girls and be sympathetic to their needs. Its giving girls much more confidence and is encouraging them to stay at school so they don’t get stuck in a poverty trap with no way out.

Our work is also developing food security, governance and micro-finance programmes, which further support communities to lift themselves out of the poverty trap and build brighter futures.

We have reached over 1.3 million people in 32 countries since we began in 1998 and currently have programmes in Cambodia, India, Nicaragua, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

We have a programme of training communities to grow drought resistant crops in Kenya and in Uganda we’ll be encouraging schools to start creating kitchen gardens so they have the opportunity to grow their own food and provide a meal for the children attending school.

Many poor families if they can afford to send their children to school do so without anything to eat as they can only afford one meal a day. They then are expected to be at school all day and study on empty stomachs. By providing schools with a safe water supply they can broaden into growing their own food through developing kitchen gardens.

We are also looking to expand our menstrual hygiene programme into Kenya and develop more hygiene education programmes into Zambia and Cambodia.

In India work will continue to bring communities together in order to reduce open defecation as well as providing access to safe water supplies.

We also work very closely with corporate and funding partners to help them understand the impact they are having on the ground and various visits are in planning to take supporters into the field to see and experience for themselves the difference they are making.

We have recently developed a new brand and website and so we will continue to expand knowledge of Just a Drops work and the impact it has in transforming people’s lives for the long term.

How can travel agents and the travel industry as a whole get involved?

We work very closely with individuals and companies from the travel industry and greatly appreciate their support.

Companies like Thomas Cook, TUI, Monarch Airlines, Travel 2 and First Rate Exchange have all sponsored their own projects because they can see that for not a lot of money a huge amount can be achieved.

We also run fun events for people to take part in and enjoy the camaraderie. So we run lots of challenge events including Tough Mudders, a Just a Drop Golf Day and host a Just a Drop Lecture at the Royal Geographical Society each year with an unusual but interesting speaker line up.

Anyone can support and take part in Just a Drop, we welcome their interest in our cause and no amount of effort or contribution is too small. So if people are inspired and have their own ideas to we embrace these whole heartedly.
They just need to contact us at info@justadrop.org or visit our website www.justadrop.org

Just a Drop is the sort of charity that embraces everyone who wants to make a difference.

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