Fiona Jeffery OBE Founder and Chairman of Just A Drop
In 1998 Fiona founded the international water aid charity Just A Drop. Its aim to encourage travel, tourism industry and businesses to give back to communities across the world through the provision of clean water and sanitation. To date, projects have reached almost 1.5 million people in 31 countries.
Q; Where do get your passion and the time to do your charity, and how does it fit in with your everyday life?
A; The desire came from being the daughter of a doctor and nurse and seeing the difference they made to people in the community. I didn’t in the end study medicine but went into business. I then decided when I became a Mum to encourage both my business and industry to give back to communities around the world in a way that was environmentally sound, and that’s where it really started. The passion I think comes from starting something, having a sense of responsibility and wanting it to become successful even if it’s difficult. I just didn’t realise, in my naivety at the time, just how difficult it is.
Q: How does it fit in with your family, your time, your work, how do you delegate?
A: Like a lot of women we juggle! we’re used to that aren't we ! When I was in a full time corporate role, the charity became my night job and my weekend job, now that I’ve got a mixed portfolio, I just fit it in, so my week is simply a 7-day week, and I fit in everything I have to do around those 7 days but I have more flexibility now.
Q: How many people do you have on your team?
A: My team at Just A Drop is 6 employees, then I have about 10 volunteers. Each of our project officers and engineers are responsible for dedicated countries in Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Cambodia, India, Nicaragua. They, like me, are all volunteers. Many of them are Royal Engineers, so ex-military, and are used to dealing in difficult environments. but they want to give back to communities and society and they get an awful lot out of the work they do with Just a Drop. Other volunteers are hydrogeologists or have a lifetime of expertise in international development. I pull the talents and strengths of everyone together so everyone supports one another in doing a great job in the field.
Q: What about funding for Just a Drop, is it purely donations, sponsorship.
A; One of the things I wanted to do in running a charity was to bring some business principles to running charities, as many charities get criticised for being wasteful or not efficient. In running a charity, I wanted to overcome many of those criticisms, and I also wanted people that donated to the organisation to know exactly where the money was going and get a real appreciation and understanding of the difference they were making.
When I started, a child died every 17 seconds from dirty water and £1.00 could deliver clean water to a child for nearly 10 years. The statistics have changed over the years and but still a child dies every 90 seconds because of dirty water. I called the charity Just a Drop in the belief that if everyone gives a little together we can make a HUGE difference. I want people to understand how they really transform people’s lives. That’s why all donated funds are directed to specific projects and we report on these to our donors so they see the impact their support has and the legacy it creates..
We will also take sponsoring companies and individuals out to the field so they can see for themselves the difference they are making. That is quite unusual for a charity but where possible we like to make that connection.
A child shows the water she used to drink and the water she now drinks from the borehole Just A Drop supported.
Q: How do see Just a Drop developing further?
A: Increasingly Just a Drop is evolving as a community development organisation. We aim to give people the leg up they need to help themselves. With access to clean water and sanitation close to their homes women and children don’t have to trek for up to 12 hours/day in the dry season to find water and the risks this carries such as being abducted, raped or attacked by wild animals. The children can be in school getting an education and the women can work in the fields. With water, they can grow crops, excess food lets them trade and trading helps them get out of the poverty trap.
Water is man’s most basic human need and providing water provides a community with a sense of security, health and well being. Nothing has more power, Without water life is an endless struggle, with it almost anything is possible.
It’s trying to get people to understand how empowering their donation is, it genuinely transforms lives.
An important part of the Just a Drop journey has also been encouraging businesses to see the important role they can play in the charitable (third) sector and I believe strongly that a lot more can be achieved if the business and charitable sectors work more closely together which is to the benefit of both. The encouraging thing is that more and more young people going into business want to see social values and responsibilities coming into play and I see this as a positive trend for the future.
Children next to school water tanks. These enable the children to stay in school and so they don't have to trek long distances for water.
Q: What’s the ultimate goal for your charity going forward, where would you like it to be in 5 years time?
A; My ideal would actually be for the charity to become redundant, as that would mean everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. Unfortunately that’s not likely to happen even in the long term, so my objective is for us to continue to grow and be a professional, sustainable organisation and the best we can be in the field. We’re a good way towards that, but obviously we can continue to grow and make a bigger impact. I'm not trying to be a big multi national organisation, I want to simply ensure that anyone who engages with us be it as a donor, volunteer, or member of staff feels connected to Just a Drop, that they’ve personally made a difference and make sure we deliver the best projects in the field for the benefit of those communities - it’s that simple!
Fiona with the community on the rock catchment they built using their own hands and chopping up rocks with their bare hands.
Thank you Fiona, what an inspirational woman, achieving her goals and dreams to help others.
To donate, sponsor or find out more about JUST A DROP - please go to their link: www.justadrop.org