The story of Freshwater Project International is the story of a friendship that began, serendipitously, in 2004 on two different continents, between two American women and an amazing African man. Together, all three united around a vision for universal access to water for every person in Malawi, Africa.

1995 (Malawi, Africa): Charles Banda Launches Freshwater Project Malawi

Charles Banda, a local Malawian fireman who grew up in villages without clean water, took it upon himself to become a Waterman and provide clean water to the impoverished people of his country. His organization has since provided clean water to more than 800,000 people.

2004 (Denver, Colorado): Charles Banda meets Heidi Rickels

Charles traveled to Denver for an educational fellowship to learn marketing skills. Heidi Rickels became his professional mentor at Project C.U.R.E., a non-profit where she was Director of Communications at the time. Her loving family basically adopted him, and they stayed in close touch with Charles since his fellowship.


2004 (Malawi, Africa): Charles Banda meets Amy Hart

Amy Hart traveled to Africa to make a film on global water issues. She was introduced to Charles Banda, who became the central figure of her film, Water First. While there, she sponsored the repair of a broken well, and the mission of supplying water to people of Malawi took permanent root in her heart.


2009 (USA Tour): Amy & Heidi bring Charles to the U.S.


Heidi and Amy got online with each other and arranged a speaking tour for Charles following screenings of Water First at the American Public Health Association conference and a series of other venues in Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York and Denver. Heidi and Amy finally got to meet with Charles in person in Philly – and the bond was sealed.

2012: Heidi & Amy form Freshwater Project International

After a wonderful grad student named James Laske spent a summer with Charles interning in Malawi, Amy and Heidi felt they were ready to start their own non-profit organization. With generous support from Cleary Gottlieb, the law firm that provided pro-bono legal support to manage the endless paper work, the organization was approved in 2012! We are now an official non-profit, tax-exempt 501c3 organization, so all donations are tax-deductible as allowable by law.


2013: In Memorium, Charles Julius Banda

We are very, very sad to share the devastating news that Charles Banda, the founder of Freshwater Malawi and our dear friend, passed away on Monday, August 5, 2013 due to complications from liver cancer. Our hearts are broken and I’m sure you share our grief during this devastating loss. Charles was our friend and beloved African brother. He did so much to help the people of Malawi to receive fresh water and sanitation – and to give them hope. And he sacrificed so much in order to do so. He lived on a meager income – but his spirit and generosity was rich beyond compare. He and Freshwater Malawi have helped more than a million people in Malawi since 1995. We know many of you knew and loved Charles as we did and will miss not only his amazing altruism, but his endless reserves of charm and good humor. Despite the tremendous weight of the work he carried, he always made us laugh at his silly antics and humorous stories. He was a saint and a dear dear friend and honestly we don’t know what we’ll do without him.

2014: Freshwater Project International Registered in Malawi

We decided to continue the vision of our friend, Charles Banda, by continuing to fund projects that serve the people of Malawi with clean water and sanitation.  Serendipitously, we were able to hire a very experienced Malawian project manager as our Country Director in Malawi. Henrick was able to register us an official Malawian NGO, now able to implement our own projects in Malawi, Africa.


2015: Freshwater Purchases a Drill Rig


Heidi and Amy and the whole team at Freshwater Project International