It’s no secret that using my photography abilities to help share the stories of NGOs all over the world is my passion. For five years, I have been leading trips all over the globe for The Giving Lens, helping children uncover their creative side by teaching them the art of photography while documenting the work of the NGO that they are a part of.
So, when I met my friend Rob McQueen for a cup of coffee here in Boise, Idaho, I was giddy when he detailed his life as the Field Operations Director for Waves For Water, otherwise known as W4W.
Founded in 2009 by Jon Rose, W4W works on the front-line to provide clean water to communities in need around the world. Rose’s original concept was simple. Provide water filters to travelers who are then able to bring the supplies to a pre-determined location, which allowed these independent vagabonds to continue to live their travel heavy lives, but help out along the way. This Do-It-Yourself program was a hit, and since then, W4W has grown into a well organized NGO who is often one of the first responders to locations in dire need, as Puerto Rico was after the devastation that Hurricane Maria left in its wake.
As W4W continues to expand their projects globally, they also launch specialized teams that aim to help the volunteers just as much as the communities on the ground. The Clean Water Corps is one such program. While many of the missions involve professional athletes, Rose and McQueen wanted to start a wing of W4W that enlisted the help of military veterans. McQueen, a former US Army Captain, heads the program that serve as a specialized clean water task force run entirely by military veterans. McQueen told me about why he he felt starting the CWC was important to him, as 14-year military veteran trying to transition to civilian life.
One of the biggest challenges Veterans face is loosing ones purpose and identity. Your entire time in the military you are driven by purpose bigger than yourself. Moreover, you are part of a team of equally driven people who all share that same goal and purpose. A team that is so committed to that cause that they are willing to give their lives for it. That shapes your identity, it shapes who you are, and that identity feels almost stripped away when you leave the military. Loosing that identity is a huge challenge in the transition to the civilian world. Creating that team and higher purpose is the goal of the Clean Water Corps. A real mission. A real purpose. One that the skills and experience of Veterans is perfectly suited for. A chance to continue to impact our world and a chance to find a new identity and purpose separate from the military.
As the success of the CWC became apparent, McQueen wanted to start producing initiatives that were made up solely of female veterans and military wives. And today, W4W announced their newest project, the ‘Clean Water Corps Nepal Women’s Initiative.’
Later this year, three Regional Directors, all of whom are women who served in Special Operations in the CWC, will accompany eight military wives to Nepal, where they will help provide clean drinking water to women at the midwives’ clinic Aadharbhut Prasuti Sewa. Founded in 2007 by Laxmi Tamang, APS provides free health care services for local women and children. The goal is simple. Help improve the health of Nepal’s women and children to help reduce mortality. And access to clean drinking water is a crucial component of APS’s overall mission.
Having gotten to know McQueen and his wife Tiffany personally, I have been left speechless by the way the talk about his time in the military. McQueen was active duty for 10 years, and out of those 10, he estimates he was away from home on training and deployment missions for at least half of that, or roughly 5 years. Even the oldest of their three daughters, Devlin, was born when the US Army Captain was deployed in Iraq in 2008. Hearing their stories about how hard those times were for Tiffany is both heartbreaking and inspiring, as she was willing to make the sacrifices of a stable home life for Rob, his dreams, and their country. McQueen opened up to me about why the Nepal Women’s Initiative is so important to him, and why he thinks this is just the beginning.
Military Spouses are the bedrock of the military. Their strength and sacrifice is ultimately what makes the military function, and its also a defining factor in their lives. They give up many opportunities to hold things together through deployments and training. I saw this sacrifice and strength every day in my wife Tiffany and the wives of my friends. This is the opportunity for the women that have always sent their loved ones off to change the world to do it for themselves. To work for a purpose beyond holding down the fort, to connect with other spouses, and to take part in a great adventure of their own. To know the feeling of traveling across the globe and changing the lives of women they have never met, in a way neither group will ever forget. That feeling is something every military spouse deserves, and I am beyond excited to be able to help provide a platform for that opportunity. And with the passion and dedication that our military spouses posses, I know the Nepal Women’s Initiative is just the beginning of something truly remarkable.
Being a personal friend of Tiffany and Rob McQueen, I am beyond excited to share in their joy about launching this powerful program. So much so that I have volunteered to accompany them to Nepal to document the work of the female veterans and military wives to help tell this amazing story.
We will keep you updated on the dates as they get closer, but Resource Travel is proud to partner with Waves For Water to help bring clean water to every person who needs it.
You can help us along on our mission by contributing to the cause on the CWC Nepal Women’s Initiative website.