Local woman spearheads clean water project for Moroccan people
Turn on your tap and chances are clean drinking water will start to flow but that isn’t the case for everyone. Shelley Cleverdon discovered a limited water supply in Morocco while on vacation in 2016 and the decision to help changed her life.
She said the landscape on the north side of Africa was beautiful with the Mediterranean Sea to the north and Sahara Desert to the south. She fell in love with the country’s beauty while keeping one ominous thought in mind.
“I was told not to drink that water,” she said. She remembers thinking that the tap water didn’t look bad, but it wasn’t safe to drink.
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, Morocco is a water-scarce country confronted with dwindling groundwater reserves. A lack of functioning sanitation networks and wastewater treatment systems cause already scarce water to become contaminated.
“Over there, the temperature can get to 130 degrees, and people are sucking down as much water as they can,” she said. “When you see children that don’t have enough water, it makes an impact on you.”
The World Health Organization released a report in June of 2019 stating that billions of people around the world are continuing to suffer from poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene: “Some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed drinking water services.”
Bottled water stored in single-use plastic is one solution to the problem but that creates an abundance of trash – a whole new problem. It’s also an expensive solution that not everyone can afford. During her first trip to Morocco, Cleverdon discovered that her reusable water bottle with its internal filtration system was a better solution than one-time use bottles. She was on the road from the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech when a tour guide named Hassan noticed her reusable bottle.
“He said the people could really use bottles like that,” she said. He added that the bottles could especially help people who can’t afford to buy water. He told her that people are forced to drink unsafe water.
As it happened, Cleverdon was also looking for a sense of purpose. She had built a successful career and raised her children and wanted something new to focus on. Helping the people of Morocco get clean water seemed like a monumental task, but she decided she could do it if she developed a smaller project.
She made several trips back to Morocco and took water bottles with her. Hassan helped her give the water bottle filters to people in need. She soon decided the project needed to grow.
“Magically, those who want to help have entered my life,” she said. “I met a man on a train from Casablanca to Meknes. We began chatting because he was eager to speak with me in English. He led me to many other helpful contacts throughout Morocco. Several people have shown up at the right time to help. One idea led to another. One person had led to another.”
She gave the project a name: The Giving Pool. And then, she recruited some local help. Casey Emerson of Clint Fischer Law Offices in Polson registered the name. She developed a board that includes herself, Ashley Morigeau, Joe Taylor, Aubrey Hutchison and Casey Taylor. Lisa Rochin of Davis and Brown CPA’s helped her get nonprofit status. Krystal Lee helped develop a website (www.thegivingpool.org), and Michael Hewston helped with designs.
Morocco has a population of around 35 million so she decided to focus on the children in the country. “You have to start somewhere, and my emphasis is on the children,” she said. “The guiding purpose of my life is to foster the growth and development of children, focusing on providing clean water to families is consistent with that vision.”
In February on 2019, she met with Mike McHugo who oversees a program called “Education for All.” He established six boarding homes for girls in Morocco. The homes give the girls a place to stay so that they can have access to education. She plans to put pump-style water filtration systems in the kitchens at the boarding homes and also send in water bottles.
To make all this happen, she had to find funding. She decided to sell one water bottle to anyone that wants to buy one and use the profits to send another bottle to Morocco in a one-for-one style exchange. She chose 28-ounce water bottles that can filter 100 gallons of water before the filter needs to be replaced. She said the bottles can be filled with dirty water and the filters clean it. A single bottle with a replacement filter costs about $53.
People can only buy the bottles for this project in Polson at a few locations because it costs too much to ship them at this time and leaves nothing to purchase a bottle to send to Morocco. The bottles can be found at Pop’s Grill and Second Nature Gifts and Goods in Polson.
“They have both agreed to sell the bottles without a commission, which is wonderful, so I can use the profits to send a matching bottle to Morocco,” she said.
On Aug. 24, Cleverdon will be selling the bottles at the Day of Hope event on Third Avenue. She is also organizing a music benefit from 8-11 p.m. at the Perfect Shot on Oct. 11 with a $5 cover charge. A band called Sunlight Black will be playing. The proceeds will go to the water bottle project and bottles will be available for purchase.
Cleverdon and other volunteers would like to hear from the public concerning ideas about the project. “We want to leverage efforts to maximize results, so we invite you to contact us with suggestions.” People are asked to send letters or donations to 1613 Hillcrest Dr., Polson, MT 59860; call 406-260-5692; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; and through the website.