It might surprise people to learn that over the last five years, two Greenville-based companies have been responsible for building nearly two dozen wells in impoverished countries across the world. But probably even more surprising is the fact that neither company is in the well-drilling business.
Instead, they are corporations that have dug into their earnings to provide for World Help, a Virginia-based Christian humanitarian organization. Since 2011, Practicon and One Source Communications have invested more than $300,000 in the lives of people in India, Africa and Central America by giving them access to clean water.
“They’ve been massive supporters to us and their water programs have transformed many communities around the world,” Allyn Lyttle, World Help vice president of communications, said of the two companies. “It really is incredible that it’s all come out of that community.”
The story of how an eastern North Carolina dental-supply company came to respond to the global water crisis began nearly two decades ago when World Help’s children’s touring choir made a stop at Covenant Church, where Practicon President Scott Griffin and his family attend. The Griffins agreed to host a few children from the choir in their home for the weekend, but they had no idea at the time the trickle-down effect that such a small gesture would produce.
“I kind of fell in love with these three little girls,” Griffin said, laughing. “I wound up becoming a ‘groupie.’’’
He was impressed by the organization’s care for the children, who are provided with food, education and medical care through World Help sponsors. When he learned that the Christian organization also provided a dental program, he offered help from Practicon.
Still, after being recruited to serve on World Help’s board of directors, Griffin wanted to see if his company could do more. When World Help began CauseLife, its clean water emphasis in 2009, Griffin had found his cause.
“There’s this huge need, particularly in the rural and economically distressed areas that World Help works in, for clean water,” Griffin said. “Everywhere they went clean water was needed. It was tearing up families. It’s destroying children’s lives because they were spending all day every day fetching water from whatever dirty puddle that they could find.
“Women and children are the primary water gatherers in these areas, so that was their lives. They couldn’t go to school. They couldn’t find employment,” he said. “They couldn’t do anything else because they just had to simply sustain their lives with whatever water they could find, which was usually polluted.”
Beginning in 2013, Practicon began donating a penny from the sale of every Smile Goods toothbrush to World Help. In four years, those pennies have added up to nearly $200,000, enough to pay for 13 wells in Guatemala, Uganda, Zimbabwe and India. The company includes information about World Help in all of its catalogs to make customers aware of what they can do about the lack of access to clean water, which World Help estimates affects one in 10 people on the planet.
“So many people don’t have experiences in ministry or in the bigger scope of what you can do to make an impact in people’s lives,” said Sid Bradsher, Practicon’s director of people and culture. “Life’s found in giving it away, Jesus says. … It’s just a chance to broaden people’s horizons and hopefully give them an opportunity to maybe catch a vision for what could be more in their lives.”
Griffin recalls a trip to Guatemala when he was able to attend the dedication of a well that Practicon contributions funded.
“It was an absolute celebration,” he said. “It is amazing the life impact it is when people can actually drink the water that’s coming out of the faucet.”
One Source Communications has been sharing in those celebrations since 2011. That was the year the company decided to make World Help’s CauseLife the beneficiary of its office Christmas party. For the party, employees are invited to buy raffle tickets for a host of prizes the company provides.
Soon, the company began adding more fundraisers, including an annual yard sale and chili cook-off for employees. One Source also began allocating a percentage of revenue to CauseLife and sending Christmas cards to its vendors announcing that One Source had made charitable contributions to World Help in their names.
The clean water effort has become One Source’s largest charity, with contributions of $120,000 which have funded wells in Guatemala, India, Kenya, Uganda and Nepal.
“It goes beyond our community,” Yi Yi Tang, One Source director of marketing, said. “We’re seeing a very positive impact across the globe, seeing how much we can help individuals and families in different countries, and that means the world to our organization.”
The walls of One Source Communications corporate offices on Arlington Boulevard are decorated with pictures of men, women and children surrounding their community’s new well. Representatives of World Help speak at the company Christmas party and bring with them videos of grateful schoolchildren waving and saying, “Thank you, One Source.”
“I’ve seen this video a million times and I always well up with tears,” Megan Motter, a One Source human resources representative, said of a video from a school in Uganda. “The wells that we were able to provide, they send us pictures … so our staff members were really able to see where that money was going. With other organizations, sometimes the money goes and you know you’re giving, but you don’t know the specific result of what that giving is. With this we’re able to tangibly see.”
World Help Chief Operating Officer David Day said clean water also has an impact on underdeveloped communities that many people don’t see. He recalled how the installation of a well changed a village whose name meant “dirty brook.”
“Now all the people on the outside of that village, it draws them in,” he said. “A lot of times the head guy in that village may be the pastor, so now all of a sudden, he’s got people that can come to his church.
“The big thing is this becomes a generational thing,” Day said. “Now kids don’t have to go walk to get water. Now they can go to school. Now they can get an education. Now their life’s completely changed.”
While World Help continues its efforts to build churches, distribute Bibles and provide humanitarian aid to people in 70 countries, Lyttle finds that the gift of water tends to open the floodgates for community transformation.
“It’s kind of like a domino effect,” he said. “If you bring clean water to a community, you’ll see that that clean water provides health. A lot of times it brings the water much closer to the people so they can develop their economy much better. They can spend more time on farming, on schooling, on various ways of generating income.”
Lyttle recalls World Help building a well in a community in India where the primary source of income was prostitution, and the residents were considered the lowest members of the country’s caste system.
“As a result of distributing water and building these wells there, we’ve now been able to start school programs for girls and have seen a lot of success in that area,” he said. “We’ve had some churches built there, so it’s certainly been a door opener, not just for relationships and for programs but also for transformation to take place in these impoverished communities.
“It certainly is a tool that can create a ripple effect in more ways than just clean water,” Lyttle said. “… It’s a huge encouragement to that community to know that someone across the world cares enough about them to give.”
For more information about World Help’s CauseLife or other humanitarian efforts, visit worldhelp.net.