Rocky Fork Enterprise

Helping African countries

Humanitarian group's campaign aims to fund 100 water pumps


A local nonprofit humanitarian engineering organization wants to bring clean water to about 40,000 Africans, launching a fundraising effort at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium's new Heart of Africa exhibit Wednesday, June 11.

Design Outreach, founded in 2010, recently announced the start of the Hundred Pump Project, an initiative that is expected to bring clean water to Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Malawi and Zambia, where access to clean water is non-existent.

The nonprofit, along with numerous fundraising donors, intends to raise $920,000 to fund 100 water pumps, called LifePumps.

Gahanna resident Greg Bixler, an engineering professor at the Ohio State University, is co-founder of Design Outreach.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to bring clean water to villages in Africa who desperately need it," Bixler said. "Having local access to water gives these villagers, especially women and girls who are usually tasked with retrieving water for their families, time to be as productive as they can to care for their family, work or go to school. That's a benefit that is just as important as clean, reliable water."

Within the zoo's Heart of Africa exhibit is a display of a LifePump installation in Malawi from November 2013. The cost to manufacture, install and train people for one pump is $9,200, and donors are being sought to lead the fundraising effort for a village.

East Side Grace Brethren Church is sponsoring a village through its mission and outreach program, said Stacey P. Stathulis, Design Outreach marketing manager.

While in Africa and on trips to former Soviet republics, Bixler heard about the life-threatening water issues that affect the world's poorest people and found that he could not ignore the situation, Stathulis said.

Bixler met group co-founder Abe Wright while they were both volunteering on a missions team in the Central African Republic in 2006. That's when they learned the biggest challenge for African villages was in establishing a water source.

"When we first came to Africa, we found broken pumps and pumps needing repair," Bixler said. "But most were outdated with parts that are no longer in production. The problem was more than needing a few spare parts. A new design was needed -- an easy-to-use powerful pump capable of reaching water deep underground."

The LifePump is a hand-cranked pump that draws water from depths as great as 325 feet -- two times the limit of similar devices.

LifePump's progressive cavity design acts as an Archimedes' screw to pull water from the deep aquifers common in Africa. An Archimedes' screw is a type of drill, with the threads lifting water while the drill digs.

"We are already building LifePumps and will be shipping several of them soon to arrive in Africa this summer," Bixler said. "The (outreach) team will be making trips this summer and fall to install the pumps. Our goal is to install the first 30 pumps in 2014."

Design Outreach works with volunteers, donors, and suppliers to create products that effect change in the fight against poverty, particularly on the forefront of freshwater production.

As with past pump installations in Malawi, World Vision is offering significant support for each LifePump by working with each village to prepare and dig the well. Then a concrete pad is laid for the pump's installation, which is completed by the local World Vision personnel and the Design Outreach technical team.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. It also is one of the largest nongovernmental providers of clean water in the developing world, reaching one new person with clean water every 30 seconds.

For more information about the Hundred Pump Project and the LifePump, Donations may be made online or at the zoo event.

Individuals, businesses, churches and organizations that want to get involved should email Aryn Zitricki at