A seasoned Grand Rapids business consultant and entrepreneur has joined International Aid, of Spring Lake, Mich., to launch micro businesses worldwide that will provide potable water for developing countries.
"We hope to build a sustainable system of micro businesses around the world, where villagers take ownership of a simple and effective filtration technology as entrepreneurs," said James Bodenner, who was named director of Water Initiatives at International Aid. "This is a new approach to humanitarian service that we believe can effectively address the staggering problem of waterborne disease."
Bodenner, along with his wife Susan, owns Bishop Hills Elder Care Community in Rockford and also serves as a business consultant for Varnum Consulting, LLC in Grand Rapids. Bodenner knows first-hand how clean water can turn around the health of a village through his work in the Dominican Republic, where he beta tested 10 of the BioSand Water Filters that will be distributed by International Aid. After the successful test, Bodenner helped put into operation more than 7,500 BioSand filters in the Dominican Republic and Haiti with over $300,000 raised by Rotary clubs in the U.S., Canada and the Dominican Republic.
"We are extremely pleased to attract someone of Jim's caliber for this strategic initiative," said International Aid President and CEO Myles Fish. "He has a unique blend of humanitarian experience and business savvy that are perfectly suited to launch this program worldwide."
Fish said Bodenner will work closely with the Safe Water Institute, a Grand Rapids-based organization that comprises the potable water efforts of International Aid, Cascade Engineering, Inc. and Aquinas College. International Aid will use its extensive network of relationships with governments and faith-based organizations to administer, market and distribute the BioSand Water Filters, invented by David Manz, a professor at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Cascade Engineering will produce the BioSand Water Filter components out of plastic, and Aquinas College will provide the training and quality control of the units in the field.
Along with other experts, Manz and Fish are scheduled to speak on various aspects of the BioSand Water Filter initiative at the Second Annual Water Conference to be held Monday, Feb. 27 at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.
"The new plastic design lends itself much better to marketing and distribution," Bodenner said. "A plastic BioSand Water Filter weighs less than 15 pounds, while the original concrete version weighs more than 300 pounds, even before it is charged with gravel and sand." The new lightweight version can be transported easily to rural areas and remote locations, where it is hoped local villagers will create cottage industries in their operation and maintenance. A properly installed and operated BioSand Water Filter will remove 100% of the parasites and 90% of fecal coliform bacteria from water, according to the Centre for Affordable Water and SanitationTechnology in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
"Bad water kills people, particularly children," said Bodenner, who became passionate about clean water when he saw the transformation of a seven-year-old girl in the Dominican Republic who had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. The girl was continually ill before using the BioSand filter because her body had to fight the onslaught of additional disease. After a few weeks of drinking filtered water, the girl's immune system had strengthened to the point where she was "running and playing like all of the other kids," Bodenner said.
He said he intends to use his business training and experience to launch International Aid's plastic model that will foster entrepreneurship and create jobs in developing nations, where faith-based and humanitarian organizations can act as mentors for individuals who will install and maintain the filters.
Bodenner holds bachelor's and master's degrees in business and a law degree from Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, Ill.