Thunder Bay·Audio

Lifewater: International charity with roots in Thunder Bay

An international charity established by a Thunder Bay man is celebrating a milestone anniversary.

Lifewater has supplied safe drinking water to 500,000 people in developing countries

Lynda and Jim Gehrels run Lifewater Canada from their home in Thunder Bay. (Amy Hadley/CBC)
Featured VideoTwenty years later, half a million people have clean drinking water thanks to Lifewater, a Thunder Bay charity. Jim and Lynda Gehrels talk about their upcoming anniversary celebrations
An international charity established by a Thunder Bay man is celebrating a milestone anniversary.

Twenty years ago, Jim Gehrels co-founded Lifewater — a charity that equips people in developing countries to drill wells for easier access to clean drinking water.

When he started Lifewater, he had no idea how big it would become.

"My vision at the time was do one well, give them a drill rig, train them how to use it, and never go back," Gehrels said.

"This year we're celebrating having finished 1,000 wells, supplying safe water to 500,000 people."

Lifewater provides training and support for water and sanitation projects in Africa and Haiti. ((Courtesy Chris Ludwig and Lifewater))
Lifewater has worked in Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria and Haiti. Gehrels recently returned from his latest trip to Haiti, where they built a community compound to serve as a permanent base for the Lifewater team.

It costs about $3,500 US to sponsor a well, said Gehrels, who added that because the charity is run by volunteers, they are able to get the most from every fundraising dollar.

"So as a result every dollar people give, gives a child safe water for a year," he said.

"Now think about that next time you have a cup of coffee."

Gehrels said he's managed to continue his work thanks to the help of others. He said he has been going blind due to a degenerative disease, and has lost most of his vision.

The charity's work is sustained "with the support of a lot of very good people," Gehrels said.

Lifewater will celebrate its anniversary with an event at the Valhalla Inn on Friday at 6 p.m.