Fiona Jeffery is the founder and chairman of Just a Drop, a U.K. based charity that focuses on supplying sustainable clean water sources for communities in need. Ms. Jeffery is also a Chairman of the World Travel Market. She has been an avid proponent of responsible and sustainable tourism for many years, and founded the World Responsible Tourism Day at World Travel Market. In 2008, Ms. Jeffery was named Shine Woman of the Year.
TRO: What inspired you to establish Just a Drop?
FJ: It was 1998 and I was pregnant with my second child, my daughter Lauren. I was also responsible for running the World Travel Market. I became very conscious that I was pulling the world of tourism together to do business. Having children helped me to realize even more just how precious their lives are and I wanted to give back to the areas in which the World Travel Market was operating. That inspired me to investigate different things we could do. I knew I wanted to do something global and environmentally sound, as well as to aid children. That’s when I came across the issue of clean water. I learned that that the lack of clean water is the biggest killer of children under the age of five throughout the world.
TRO: Please explain Just a Drop’s mission.
FJ: Our main mission is to convey the message that just 1 pound or $2 can give one child clean water for nearly ten years; therefore if each of us gives a little then collectively we can make a huge difference, which is why we are called Just a Drop. As charity, we are absolutely project-focused and community-led. Our objective is to raise awareness of the horrific water sanitation issues that exist globally and to try to reduce child mortality caused by dirty water.
2/5 of the world population does not have adequate sanitation near their homes and 1/6 of the world’s population does not have access to clean water near their homes. The projects we do are completed in such a way that the water sources can be sustained for many years. We wish to do this not only for health reasons, but also for economical and educational reasons. For example, if a child is walking 4 or 5 miles a day to a river to gather water with her mother, she is not in school. In addition, water sources afford better conditions for agriculture, so there is more food available for nourishment and trading or selling.
TRO: How does your organization fulfill its goals?
FJ: We have a small central team based in London and there are two arms to what we do. We have the fundraising arm, which is about engaging individuals and companies in the travel and tourism industry to help raise funds for the project work we do in the field and awareness about the issues we focus on.
We also have a team of project officers who are volunteers, often ex-British military, qualified water engineers with tremendous expertise in being able to work in very remote areas and are very good at working with the local communities directly so that our projects support often forgotten and difficult to access communities, where other charities may not go. It is very important to us that the local people we help are engaged in doing the project and are trained so the projects are sustainable in the long term.
TRO: What role does the travel industry play in Just a Drop’s operations?
FJ: The travel industry is really important to Just a Drop. We are a charity born out of the travel and tourism industry. It is from the industry that we raise a good portion of our funds. We want to bring travel and tourism companies and individuals closer to the work that they are doing so they can make a difference within the countries and areas in which they offer vacations as well as other less developed destinations.
TRO: How can travel agents become involved with Just a Drop?
FJ: Different companies we have worked with will sometimes make a corporate donation, or engage their employees and gather donations from them; some actually collaborate with their suppliers to increase their resources. Travel agents have added a dollar onto each booking for donations or donate prizes, which we can auction off and raise funds that way. Even just spreading the word on their websites and by talking with their clients helps immensely. Whatever works for a company or an individual is much appreciated.
We have tried to create as many methods as possible to gather funds and assistance in order to better fit the needs of the wonderful people who help us. We partnered with American Fund for Charities, a US 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and donations to the American Fund for Charities from US taxpayers are tax deductible to the extent allowed by US law; we use PayPal, which may be accessed via our website www.justadrop.org, and we have set up a very simple form on our website, just click “Donate” on the home page.
TRO: How has your experience with the World Travel Market assisted you in the development and operation of Just a Drop?
FJ: They are very different operations. On the one hand, WTM is a huge international event with a large team operating the organization. On the other hand, Just a Drop is a very small charitable organization, where you are working with individuals who are volunteering because they want to contribute. That is very different than employing a dedicated team that is being paid to do a job.
In some ways, the skills acquired are similar, for example, working with WTM prepared me for working with different cultures and backgrounds, social and environmental challenges, etc. However, the methodology is quite different because Just a Drop works with a smaller, volunteer team and that requires even greater patience and diplomacy but its also inspiring because people are giving of themselves.
TRO: Please explain an experience you have had visiting one of the regions Just a Drop assists.
FJ: Running a charity like this isn’t easy and sometimes you have to remind yourself why you started doing this in the first place. A good example of one of those times I went to an area north of Kenya, it’s quite remote but still a bit of a tourist destination. We were installing a borehole near a school, which educated 250-300 children. The only place for them to get water was a local river, and a few weeks before I took my trip, an elephant trampled two children and a young girl was taken by a crocodile, all because they were trying to get water. Tragedies such as these just add to the dangers of not having clean water nearby and remind me that this is why I’m here.
TRO: Anything else you would like to share with the travel agent community?
FJ: Life without water is an endless struggle but with it, so many things are possible. It is the essence of life and people should not underestimate how it changes peoples’ lives. The key thing we want everyone to realize is that a little goes a long way, so spreading the word and raising awareness and each of us giving a little is vital to creating a better life for so many people.