Mark Hogg, founder and CEO of the WaterStep organization.

WaterStep Works for Safe, Clean Water Access Around the World

It began with a mission trip in West Africa in 1983. Mark Hogg, a college student, was helping to build a dam that would expand a 20-acre lake to 60 acres.

“The lake was filthy,” he says. “It was causing sickness and disease. Women were bringing their cattle, and their goats or sheep. It was a terrible place. There was no support, no way for them to have safe water.”

Though it is well-known that contaminated water causes sicknesses and fatalities, many people around the world still drink it. Some know that the water will make them sick, but without access to safe water, there isn’t an alternative.

“At night I would hear this drum cadence periodically, and it would be kind of odd,” Hogg says. “The first time I heard it, I asked around that morning what it was, and people said, ‘That’s the drum cadence that happens when a child dies in the community.’ I know now that was from waterborne illness.”

After his trip, Hogg was confused. “I couldn’t imagine how these people could be living like this,” he says. “It became a big part of my life to look for a way to solve that problem. My faith has always played a big part of what I am and what I do, and long ago I felt this tug – a call – to be able to help people somehow.”

WaterStep staff member Kurtis Daniels trains volunteers on how to operate WaterStep’s Chlorine Generator following a typhoon in the Philippines. (Photos by Kylene Lloyd)

Years later, Hogg is now hard at work on the problem. He is the founder and CEO of the WaterStep organization.

“WaterStep is an organization that works in the developing world and in disasters, in order for folks to be able to control their own safe water access,” Hogg says. “Today we teach people all over the world WASH – water and sanitation hygiene. We’ve really been able to help teach communities how to do WASH programs, and then they teach another [community]. That is being done without us having to travel. In all these countries, we have dozens and dozens and dozens of people that are working together to develop their own strategies, and carry the WASH programs out to impact the entire region.”

“It was all, constantly, things coming together at the right time, and the right opportunities being taken for me to be able to be a part of this,” he adds. “Hope happens when people are living lives of hopelessness because they’re sick, because they can’t work, because they can’t go to school, because they can’t process food – but you’re able to bring them something that transforms their life. I think hope is seen clearly.”

Hope was certainly seen in Turkana County in Kenya, where water was scarce, and safe water even more so. The riverbed was dried up.

“[Children] would dig [holes] in that riverbed and dig down to get water,” Hogg says. “They put a marker at their hole so they could go back each day and dig a little deeper. A lot of times they would have to reach down in there with their face and suck water into their mouth and spit it out into some sort of container. That is one of the really hard stories – living that kind of life, where I’ve got to work so hard every day to dig my own hole to get water out of a dry riverbed, and the water is contaminated. I know it’s going to make me and my family sick, and I’m going to bring it home anyway.”

The full story of Turkana was filmed and titled “Holes.” It can be found on the organization’s YouTube page.

Much of WaterStep’s good work comes directly from volunteers and partners. Donations are always helpful for the organization, but there are also creative – and unusual – ways to help. The organization collects shoes, which they use as a means both to raise funds and to publicize their mission.

“A lot of people in the city are getting involved,” Hogg says.“If folks are traveling internationally to a developing country where there are water issues, sometimes people will move equipment for us. We’ve had people take equipment to different countries as a part of their luggage, and we’ll have somebody meet them at the airport and pick that up. We also are constantly looking for committed volunteers to help us build our equipment. These are predominantly retired people. They can work and learn how to put our equipment together. It’s folks that can be committed and patient, and learn how to put our equipment together. They get to put their fingerprint on a piece of equipment that goes somewhere in the world and saves lives.”

Children gathering water with jerrycans in Africa.

“It’s interesting how social media ends up in places where sometimes we find people that are in other places of the world,” Hogg adds. “The media has really become a big part of our volunteer base as well – people engaging and sharing the story.”

The people involved with the organization, including equipment builders, staff, shoe collectors and more, are affectionately referred to as WaterStep Nation – and the “nation” is reaching the world.

“We now believe that there’s the possibility that we could actually be a champion,” Hogg says. “I believe that we can solve the world’s water crisis in our lifetime, and that we can provide safe water worldwide. The goal of WaterStep Nation now is to see the day no child dies of waterborne illness. We think we can solve this in our lifetime. Access to safe water is a human right. People living without safe water and proper sanitation is something that we need to be fed up with, and it’s something that we can fix in our lifetime. It’s not complicated. It’s done with simple solutions. It can be affordable, and we can do it.”

Hogg is hopeful for the future – not just for WaterStep, but also for the millions of lives that can be changed for the better by clean water.

To learn more or get involved, go to Also visit WaterStep’s social media pages, and explore

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