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"It's about life and death": Colorado nonprofit delivering water filters to Ukraine

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Posted at 9:22 PM, Apr 30, 2022

DENVER — Advocates say it’s one of the deadliest aspects of war that is often overlooked: drinkable water.

Russian attacks in Ukraine have left many cities without access to safe water, risking disease and death according to UNICEF. Water for All, a nonprofit in Colorado, is stepping up to help by flying thousands of life-saving water filters to the Ukrainian border in the coming weeks.

The situation in Ukraine is dire, according to a UNICEF report this month. 1.4 million people living in eastern Ukraine do not have safe water, and another 4.6 million have only limited access. The solution from Water for All comes in the form of a small, portable water filter called Vivoblu—about the size of a soda can—that filters out contaminants including giardia, E. coli, protozoa and more within a matter of seconds.

Vivoblu water filter
A Vivoblu water filter in operation. Water for All hopes to donate 100,000 of these filters in Ukraine by the end of 2022.

“For this particular cause, the Ukrainian war, we’ve developed and designed a portable backpack,” Water for All President John DeYoung said. “So, the military, moms, widows, orphans—all those people can grab our bag, put it into a river or a lake or a puddle in the street … and they have two and a half gallons of clean water, instantly.”

Vivoblu water filter backpack
A Vivoblu water filter backpack, which Colorado nonprofit Water for All is donating throughout Ukraine in 2022.

In the faces of the young Ukrainians who have lost their parents in the war, DeYoung sees himself. He is an orphan, and was “found on the streets of South Korea.”

“I don’t have parents,” DeYoung said. “I don’t have a name. I was found on the streets at the age of four, or four and a half. We don’t even know how old I am. I don’t even have a birthday. And so when we think about the widows, and the orphans, and the people, and the soldiers that are in Ukraine right now—they need clean water.”

The team at Water for All isn’t going it alone in their European mission. Sarah Davison-Tracy, the founder of Colorado nonprofit Seeds of Exchange, is joining the trip to help deliver the filters.

“It’s about life and death—clean water—but it’s also about the power of reminding people that you’re not alone,” Davison-Tracy said. “There are lots of people on the move right now. They’re fleeing one town and heading to another. We’ve heard reports of people hiding out and camping up in the hills. They can hang this backpack from a tree, or they can carry it on their back along with their suitcase and have clean, safe water.”

Water for All’s goal is to ship 6,000 filters by the end of May, and 100,000 filters by the end of the year. Each filter works for up to three years, and can provide safe water for an entire family, according to the nonprofit. Donations are being collected to fund the creation and distribution of the filters to Ukraine.