Trashwater and "The Greaser's Ball"

On October 5th, Native Crave and Fallen Arrows Present: “The Greaser’s Ball: The First Annual Man Calendar: Release Party to Benefit Trashwater”, a fundraiser for the Atlanta based non-profit whose mission is to provide a clean and sustainable supply of water to third-world countries. Here’s a quick Q&A with Joshua Sanders, Executive Director and Co-founder.

BANG!- Is Nicaragua Trashwater’s main focus, or other countries being addressed as well? (Outside of the fundraiser, of course)

TRASHWATER-Nicaragua is currently our main focus. When we first started Trashwater we were working in Cairo, Egypt and we had several long term goals for there. But, the volatility of the political climate made it untenable to return. We did try but our Egyptian friends urged us strongly to wait until things calmed down. At that point we needed to find an alternate area in which to work.

Nicaragua presented itself through a series of conversations and random connections. We’ve been working there for 3 years now and really feel like we can continue doing so for many years to come. Our first project in Nica was a water filtration system for a feeding program that caters to elementary aged children in Los Brasiles. We’ve expanded to other parts of Managua and Nicaragua in general and have always primarily focussed on water filtration systems. Until now.

We are currently in the process of raising funds to build our first ever Purification Center in Los Brasiles. The Center will provide clean drinking water, toilets, showers, sanitary supplies, and jobs for a co-op of women who will maintain it and supervise it’s upkeep. The Center will serve over 3000 people in a barrio that is particularly hard hit by poverty.  Proceeds from the Atlanta Man calendar will enable us to break ground and begin building during our return trip later this month.

BANG!-The calendar is very inventive, what constitutes a mover and shaker in Atlanta?

TRASHWATER - Thanks. Our friend Ryan Smith, founder of Native Crave, came to us with this idea to highlight Atlanta men who inspire us in a cheeky, classic pin up calendar. Colin and I are allergic to the traditional fundraiser and we’ve always tried to host events that we would actually want to attend. So, we jumped at this opportunity.

For us, the hardest part was narrowing down the “models” to just twelve. There are so many inspiring fellas in this town it was really tricky. Ultimately we broke it down into categories like activism, art, culinary art, education, music, and so on and then picked one man from each of those categories. Even that was challenging but, we’re really excited about the men we chose and proud to have them in our calendar.

There are people like Carlton Mackey, the Director of Ethics in the Arts at Emory Center for Ethics, Chris Appleton, co-founder and director at WonderRoot, Cousin Dan, director of cod-piece wearing, Catlanta, Steven Carse who founded and runs King of Pops and many others. All of whom have done something that has gotten our attention as a city, inspired us to do more and think bigger, and get out there and enjoy ourselves.

BANG!-How do you feel about working on Atlanta’s water system or is that too much of a mess? Better to build one elsewhere than try and fix the mess here?

TRASHWATER-We get asked that question a lot and the short answer is, it’s too damn hard. There is certainly a great deal of need concerning water in Atlanta but, sadly, the bureaucracy and red tape we would have to weed through to get anything done just make it too difficult. The other thing is, while we’re experiencing water shortages and less than perfect drinking water conditions, we generally aren’t dying from our water like they are in places like Nicaragua, Egypt, India, Africa or any other developing nation. All of which, by the way, are much, much easier to get things done in and for much, much less money.

BANG!-How does one facilitate such a large scale project such as providing these necessities to Nicaragua?

TRASHWATER-Partnerships are key. Since Colin and I have jobs outside of Trashwater, for the moment, we lean heavily on our partners on the ground. We also like to empower young people within the communities who show leadership potentials with maintaining our systems and reporting back to us. Beyond that it takes big, audacious dreams, very understanding spouses and children, and the financial and moral support of so, so many wonderful people.

I should also add that it takes years to really do any sustainable good in a place like Nicaragua. We’ve seen too many well intentioned organizations do a “good thing” for a community only to have it fail a year or so later because they either didn’t maintain it or make sure that it was something the community really needed. So for us, we plan to work in Nicaragua for at least the next 10 years as we build upon the foundation we have laid and continue to invest in the relationships we have cultivated.

BANG!-It’s neat how Native Crave decided to throw this fundraiser, how did this happen?

TRASHWATER-I’ve known Ryan, the founder and head chef for Native Crave for about a year now and he’s always wanted to support Trashwater any way he could. This calendar and this fundraiser are a way for Ryan to do that. But really, Ryan is just one example of how so many amazing people in this incredible little Atlanta community have rallied around Trashwater and our mission. We’ve been incredibly lucky that people like Ryan have “gotten it” and decided to throw their energy, their money, and their time behind us.

BANG!- What were the plans to help Nicaragua before the benefit was proposed?

TRASHWATER - The land for this Purification Center fell into our laps rather abruptly this Summer and we had to scramble to raise the money to start the project. Fortunately, this calendar and corresponding party had already been set in motion but, we wanted to shore up our bets so we had a fundraising dinner at JavaVino, a bake sale on the Decatur square, and an Indiegogo campaign that’s right now in it’s final hours. All in all, we needed to raise $6500 to start the build and after all of these fundraising events are done this weekend we should be pretty close. Of course, that’s just to lay the septic and put up the walls. The full project, which we hope to have completed by next summer, should run anywhere between $15 and $25k. So really, we’re just getting started with the fundraising blitz. And I need a nap.

In all honesty, this Center represents everything we’ve been working toward all these years. We hate asking for money probably  more than people hate being asked for money but we believe in this project and it’s ability to really, significantly address the health and sanitation needs of Los Brasiles we would do just about anything to make it happen. Including annoying the hell out of people with our pleas for money.

BANG!- What is the monetary goal? How much money and resources do you think it would take to completely rectify Nicaragua’s water problem?

TRASHWATER -That’s a great question. The thing that sets Trashwater apart from many other clean water organizations is that we work in developing communities that have access to water. It’s just deadly water. So, we don’t really dig wells or run piping from rivers to villages. We take water that comes out of a tap, from a municipal source, and filter that water. To really make a dent in the water problems facing the whole of Nicaragua you could do two things. First, you could go through some global humanitarian organization on par with the UN or the WHO and convince the Nicaraguan government to work with you to provide better municipal filtration and sewage treatment and replace a vast number of compromised pipes throughout the country. You would also probably have to fund the entire project.

The other alternative is to provide community based filtration systems, like the Purification Center we’re trying to build, where you’re utilizing the local water supply but you’re providing a safe, clean, protected place where people can come for not only clean water, but also for toilets, showers, community wash basins (meant to cut down on rampant and deadly cross contamination), and jobs for people within that community. When this Center is built we will be able to service between 3,000 and 5,000 people. So basically, if there are 5,869,859 people in all of Nicaragua and each Purification Center serves approximately 5,000 people, you could serve every person in the country if you built 1,174 of these Centers. And at around $20k a pop that’s around $23 mil. Not bad considering it would probably cost in the billions to do it the other way. I’m no mathematician and these numbers are definitely approximations but, you can see why we feel pretty strongly about our method. We would certainly never want to take on a fraction of that many Centers but we hope the few that we do undertake will inspire others to do the same.


-Miles Jenson