It was back in 2008 when John Griffith was asked to use his engineering skills to help support the Rotary North East’s floundering ‘Aquafilter’ project.
At the time, John was running a design and development consultancy in Washington, Tyne & Wear developing textile machinery.
The business was sold, so John and his wife Gill decided to use money from the sale initially to help a district project supplying water filters to developing countries.
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But when that project folded, John and Gill decided to start again, supported by the Cleadon & District Rotary Club.
John re-designed and developed the filter, and then set up the manufacturing and distribution of innovative water filters to areas of the world most in need.
As a result, John established Grifaid, a charity supporting the distribution of water filters worldwide.
Using robust monitoring and feedback on the filters from a number of developing countries, he systematically improved water filter designs.
John also set up The Safe Water Trust Limited, a not-for-profit company, to develop and manufacture the water filters in a 5000 square foot research, development and manufacturing facility in north-east England.
Now, water filters, under the Grifaid brands are recognised as market leaders in terms of design, longevity and cost effectiveness.
Since 2009, 45,000 filters have been deployed in more than 50 countries, providing safe drinking water to more than a million people.
John and Gill have visited Grifaid filters in use in Cambodia, The Gambia, Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, often with repeated visits.
They work closely with the Derbyshire-based Rotary charity Aquabox, which assembles the filters for its own use. They also supply filters to Water Survival Box, and have recently signed an agreement to supply filters to ShelterBox.
The Safe Water Trust has assisted humanitarian crisis worldwide by supplying water filters via Humanitarian NGOs, to Malawi, Bangladesh (to Rohingya refugees), and Palestine.
These water filters save lives by providing clean drinking water and offer significant social economic benefits in developing countries and emergencies.
By providing clean drinking water, infant mortality is drastically reduced; children no longer get sick and miss out on education, while educational achievement is greatly increased.
There are also significant economic benefits through reduced parental care and increased capacity to work.
The water filter project also offers many environmental benefits with the reduction in plastic waste and the burning of wood to boil water.
This is a venture which attracts both Rotarian volunteers to help build the filters, so reducing costs, while many Rotary clubs and charities have helped support the venture through raising donations.
Addressing growing community needs, John has designed two types of filter. There is the family filter, which filters up to 90 litres of clean water per hour and is designed for extended families.
To further address community needs, a second filter was developed by John, the community filter, which filters up to 300 litres of clean water per hour and is designed for use in villages, clinics and schools.