As in previous years, we're donating to clean water charity FRANK Water during our Black Friday campaign. Many of the artisans who create our beautiful products are based in communities in India - indeed it was their incredible traditional skills that first inspired the creation of Nkuku, starting with our iconic leather-bound journals. As FRANK Water supports similar grassroots communities, there is a natural synergy between us and it's been a privilege to see the impact of their incredible work. Here FRANK Water founder Katie Alcott reflects on her 21-year journey to where the charity is today, as she returns to where the story first started.
"I first came to India in 1997, to teach at a community school in Jammu, a town in the farthest Northern state of India, the one that had, in those days, just one page in the Lonely Planet guide, which strongly discouraged any trip to this contested area of India. Nevertheless, myself and three other girls were sent to the region to be hosted by the city’s Chief of Police and his family.
I have many memories of this trip, both pretty hairy and quite beautiful. One of the fondest was celebrating the youngest daughter, Delight’s 10th birthday in the garden of the house. We played games and sucked on fresh, juicy mangoes.
I do however remember having to excuse myself rather suddenly and rush to the toilet with very little time to spare. A few days earlier I’d eaten at one of the local teacher’s houses and ended up drinking some water that I shouldn’t have, something that I regretted immediately and for many years to come as I suffered recurring bouts of ‘Delhi belly’ (amoebic dysentery).
After five years suffering the effects that ranged from diarrhoea to severe food intolerance, and witnessing firsthand the impact that dirty water and lack of sanitation have on many of the world’s poorest people from trips to Bolivia to Mali and India, I felt so passionate about the importance of bringing safe water and sanitation to those without, that I founded FRANK Water. And now, twenty-one years later, I find myself back in the place where this all began, Jammu.
This trip offers a time to reflect. I find myself asking whether I would have started FRANK Water even if I hadn’t got sick or if I hadn’t asked why there were so few girls in my classroom and if I hadn’t learnt how lack of safe water affects the health and wellbeing, future and opportunities for so many in the world still today.
The conclusion I come to is that I really don’t think I would have. It was the personal experience that sparked such determination in me to do something. It’s hard to imagine what you would be doing if your life had taken a different route, there are endless possibilities.
This is the third year that Nkuku have been part of our story, supporting our work in rural India, bringing safe water and sanitation to hundreds of people, enabling them to have healthy, enterprising futures.
As I’m writing this, near some of our most impactful work in western Chhattisgarh, I have to admit that (with hindsight) I don’t regret getting sick all those years ago as it’s led me to drive change for over 386,500 people across 442 communities and lead a fulfilling career which I feel incredibly proud of.
This time next week, in Jammu, I’ll be celebrating the marriage of Delight. But it won’t just be me. Lots has changed in 21 years and I’ll be joined by my husband and three children, all of whom are involved as flower girls and page boy. It’s an honour to be remembered and that our connection has remained so strong.
Last week I learned that we’ll not be in a local hotel, instead we’ll be hosted in the family home, the very one I stayed in all those years ago. I’ll see the teacher whose house I drank the dirty water in and we’ll visit the school I taught in too.
I’m sure much has changed, but I’m looking forward to giving my children a little glimpse into the original inspiration for FRANK Water and on leaving, to consider what the next twenty one years might hold for us and all the people we’ve already supported as well as dream of the futures we might enable in those coming years."
Katie Alcott, FRANK Water founder.
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