“I write today with the great excitement of introducing our recent project in Afghanistan with you” writes Jon Rose, Founder of Waves for Water, who we mentioned last year for his water project in Haiti. Jon is an ex-pro surfer turned humanitarian, and boy does he have fun following his passion. It’s always lovely to hear his personal tales as he zips through New York. He has managed to synthesize his love of surfing, traveling the world, and making an impact — all while having fun. It seems a relevant model for this generation. Here’s the latest letter he sent me from his new adventure — a battalion called The Wolfhounds.

(Afghan women in Burkas assembling filter system)

From John:

About six months ago a US Army Captain by the name of Michael Brabner reached out to us through our website. His battalion, called The Wolfhounds, is stationed in Northern Afghanistan in the Kunar Provence. He contacted us to see if we’d be interested in doing a project to help the Afghan communities in his unit’s AO (area of operation). He said that there were about 5 villages in his area and none of them had access to potable water. Apparently the Kunar River, which every village is built along, is their only source of water. And since everything (I mean EVERYTHING) is dumped into it, waterborne illnesses cripple these communities is almost indefinite.

Like many of the places around the world we work, these type of illnesses basically become a part of everyday life – for people in these places, there is just no way around it, no other choice… So they continue to get sick, or even die, from problems that are completely preventable. This is the very reason Waves for Water exists – our single most important purpose is to bring the great solutions, that already exist, directly to the problem – stopping the widespread sickness and senseless deaths that follow.

(Christian and Jon Rose and CPT Brabner)

So in the case of Afghanistan, CPT Brabner had relatively simple questions – would our program work there? And if so, would we be willing to partner up them to implement it? Right away I was deeply struck by the possibility of being able to help people that were in such great need but seemingly inaccessible. It’s no secret that Afghanistan is considered to be a hostile place at the moment, especially for Americans. But the majority of the local population have the same basic needs as anywhere else – and the fact that it is still a kinetic war zone, brings the likelihood of humanitarian assistance down to a dramatic degree. This brings me to my point — who is there, all the time? The US military. They are stationed throughout the entire country with great infrastructure in place. Whether or not you agree with the reasoning for being there in the first place doesn’t matter at this point – we are there. So it is even more important to make the absolute best of being there, which CPT Brabner and his crew are doing. Their first objective is to keep the insurgents at bey, so that the majority population can go about their lives without living in fear of being bullied and harassed by mafia-like Taliban forces. And in addition, through projects like ours, this military unit has actively sought out new ways to help these villagers beyond their basic orders.

(Giving demo to selected group of soldiers)

This is a pivotal time for US Operations in Afghanistan – I feel that this project could be instrumental in changing the conversation from the negative reports we so often here in the media, to some of the positive impacts that are taking place – like this project! We are embarking on a path that could help to reinvent some aspects of the existing military model, and the perceptions that follow it. The military is not just a symbol of a nations strength – it is also a network. One that reaches far and wide, with great structure and organization throughout. If we can tap into this network and create program where every single military unit has water filters that they can distribute during their deployments – we are talking serious global impact!

(LTC Wilson with Afghan kids)

If our mission is to get clean water to every single person who needs it, then we need all hands on deck. This is one great example out of many that need to happen if we are going to achieve our goal. When CPT Brabner reached out, I could tell that he was genuine in his attempts to help the Afghan people. The military doesn’t get much credit for its humanitarian efforts – and while it might not be their primary focus during deployment, they do embark on a number of humanitarian initiatives… I saw it first hand just after the earthquake in Haiti when we worked side by side with the 82nd Airborne. Then, again, months later during our project with the UN Military – also in Haiti… and now in Afghanistan with The Wolfhounds.

(One of the Afghan villages Jon helped)

Being raised by hippie parents and choosing a career path as a pro-surfer, I had literally zero experience with the military before starting my work in Haiti. The closest I ever came to the military was trying to sneak my way on to Camp Pendleton in San Diego because it is known to have good waves on base. But now having logged some serious time with our armed forces in two countries, I can speak with confidence when saying how incredibly grateful I am of their service. It is moments like these that truly showcase the greatness in humanity.

With the first phase of this project already completed, Waves For Water and The Wolfhounds have effectively provided 20,000 Afghan’s with access to clean water. The project is now gaining momentum throughout the military chain of command and the private sector alike – phase two has already been funded (thank you Bill Nelson & HBO) and is set to launch in January with 500 more filters that will provide an additional 50,000 Afghan’s with clean water.

(Our translator Sahar telling Afghan women about filter system)

Please spread the word and help to bring a positive light to an otherwise dark subject. For more info on how to bring clean water to places in need, check out Waves for Water.