A journey through Indonesia’s remote areas with a mission in mind
Jeroen Van Overbook shares with us the reason why he started this journey to improve access to clean water in rural Indonesia and how Social ImpaKt was born.
Back in 2011, I was Vice President Europe, Middle East and Africa for a British corporation, based in Dublin, led a business of 260 million USD with 7 factories and 800 employees, traveling and earning always more.
Suddenly, in 2011, I experienced a shift. I realized that I was helping companies making money, but I was not helping people. I realized there was a better way to use my business skills. I wanted to give a new meaning to my life and focus on humanist values.
I quit my job and I landed in Indonesia for some holidays, without exactly knowing what would be the next step, but with only one idea in mind, how could I help to make this world a better place?
I got amazed by this country, its people, its cultural and artistic heritage, the numerous different traditions but at the same time, I was quite terrified by the living conditions in rural Indonesia. I came across the alarming figures of children deaths caused by drinking unsafe water. In Indonesia alone, 20 000 children below 5 years old die every year from waterborne diseases. My adventure started at this moment, I decided to focus on water.
How could I have an impact? I did thorough research and after a couple of months, I found an amazing, impactful and eco friendly filtration technology manufactured in Indonesia by a social enterprise managed by 2 Dutch people. And the beauty of it all is that it is affordable for rural people, the “ bottom of the pyramid “ or the “working poor “ : 20 USD for a water filter set that can last more than 2 years – and after 2 years you just have to change the filter candle that costs only 10 USD.
In 2013, inspired by this trip and my desire to make this world a better place, I decided to create Social Impakt, a social business whose mission is to improve access to clean water in remote communities in Indonesia by supplying an affordable and eco-friendly water filtration technology. I moved to Bali, one of the world’s top touristic destinations. Bali was voted the world’s best touristic destination in 2017 by Trip Advisor. What most of the tourists visiting Bali do not know is that there are still many inhabitants of the island that are living in extreme poverty, 77 400 people to be precise. I wanted to make a difference and help these people in the rural areas, off the beaten tourist track.
I was fluent in 7 languages when I moved to Indonesia but could not speak a word of Indonesian. I was not too worried about it, a couple of months completely immersed in the villages and I would get it. Which is what happened. I rented a car, drove hours and hours every day around the villages on the island in search of some remote and precarious areas with difficult access to clean water. I experienced amazing moments, met incredible people, felt new emotions that were feeding my heart instead of my ego. It allowed me to be who I am today, a much better man.
I had a thirst for adventure and new experiences. I wanted to enter into this new world, get closer to this culture I was very curious about. A couple of weeks after my mission started, I was so grateful to meet Mangku, the local person to whom I owe a lot of my success today. He is my brother, my translator, my mentor, my gateway to this new world. He helped me to accomplish my purpose of giving back to the communities and living in harmony.
In Balinese culture, there is the Tri Hita Karana traditional philosophy for life. The literal translation is roughly the “three causes of well-being” or “three reasons for prosperity.” Harmony amongst people, harmony with nature and harmony with God are the three causes referred to in this philosophy. Bali woke up my soul and opened my heart and this is what I am now trying to achieve here in Bali by adopting this philosophy of life.
Over an 18 months period, Mangku and I were traveling through East Bali with our car filled with water filters with the mission to improve access to clean water. We met more than 150 village leaders and visited more than 500 schools. Introducing the water filter, a very new technology for rural people and most of the time difficult to grasp. Nevertheless, with patience, perseverance and passion, we introduced this technology to the village leaders and school teachers who are respected people and influencers in their communities.
Through this journey, Mangku and I have already impacted the lives of more than 15 000 people here in Bali and Lombok. We also distributed filters to neighbouring islands, like Lombok, Flores, Borneo, Java. By providing access to clean water to rural communities, we want to raise awareness and empower people to create a better future for themselves and their communities. We have set up networks of more than 30 resellers in the villages of Bali, creating new income opportunities and positively impacting an increasing number of people.
Water is life and access to clean water is a human right! It is estimated that in Indonesia 34 million people out of 260 million people – that is 13% of the total – do not have access to clean drinking water. And with clean drinking water, you can break the vicious circle of poverty. You improve health, you improve productivity – parents don’t need to stay at home anymore to look after their sick kids. You improve income – the most common way to make water safe to drink is to boil it on expensive gas. Using the filter is 5 times cheaper than boiling water on gas. And you protect the environment. With the supply of the water filter from which people can refill their water bottle or glass, we contribute to the reduction of plastic bottle use in Indonesia. And this is much needed as Indonesia is the world’s second largest source of marine plastic pollution after China.
This journey has been the most amazing experience of my life. I feel infinitely grateful to be where I am today. And it is now time to give more visibility to this project, get more people involved to realise my dream that one day everyone on this planet will have access to clean water.
We at Social Impakt are right now preparing a crowdfunding campaign that will be launched on September 1st for 30 days and which aims to raise USD 65 000 to finance the purchase of 2000 water filters for 3 villages and 25 schools in the area of Sidemen in East Bali. This is an area where access to clean water is rather difficult. You can find out more details by visiting http://bit.ly/socialimpakt
Do not hesitate to donate and share it to the world, it is for a good cause. One of the donators to the project, regardless of the amount donated, will win a visit to the project in Bali for free, including airfare, if our funding goal of 65 000 $ is achieved. So stay tuned!
Social Impakt is a Social Enterprise created in 2014 by Dutch Entrepreneur Jeroen van Overbeek, whose aim is to improve access to clean water in rural Indonesia. To get additional information on Social Impakt’s work in Indonesia, please visit www.social-impakt.com
Jeroen moved to Bali in 2013 and started Social ImpaKt with the vision to ensure everyone everywhere has access to safe and affordable technologies within their homes. His mission is to bring simple, eco-friendly life changing and enhancing technologies like water filters, solar lamps to remote areas (the last mile) and urban centres in Bali and East Indonesia. Social ImpaKt also aims to create micro-business opportunities with these technologies.