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.

In 1995 Charles Banda launched Freshwater Malawi. Charles, a humble 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 a million people.

Charles traveled to Denver for an educational fellowship to learn marketing skills, and Heidi Rickels became his professional mentor and became inspired by his passion for water issues. In the same year, Amy Hart traveled to Africa to make a film on global water issues, and was introduced to Charles Banda, who became the central figure of her film, Water First, and the mission of supplying water to people of Malawi took permanent root in her heart. The three became fast friends and Heidi and Amy fervent supporters of Freshwater in Malawi.

In 2012, Heidi and Amy formed Freshwater Project International to formally support Charles’ efforts in Malawi as a sister organization.

Sadly, in 2013, Charles succumbed to cancer. Charles did so much to help the people of Malawi to receive clean 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. 

Freshwater Project International now carries the torch as our own implementing organization in Malawi, continuing to serve Malawians by providing fresh, clean water, safe sanitation, and hygiene training.