In a world where water is taken for granted, there are still vast amounts of our worlds population that do not have adequate drinking water. Veterans Without Orders is a nonprofit tackling the water crisis with help of military vets.
In 2009, John Nonnemaker was the operation officer for the 443rd Civil Affairs (CA) Battalion, a unit which conducted humanitarian operations in foreign nations; that was where he met Nicholette Souffrant and Kyle Toto, fellow Civil Affairs service members with whom he quickly forged an earnest connection.
After serving in the military for 23 years over the course of multiple overseas experiences, Nonnemaker had realized that jobs outside the military were adequate, but never really allowed him or his fellow CA veterans to utilize the training they’d received during their years of military service.
Souffrant agreed with his thoughts; they’d both witnessed the hardships faced by communities affected by violence, natural disasters and poverty firsthand, and knew that their skills enabled them to make a difference – so why weren’t they acting on it?
The absence of an existing program where trained CA vets could continue employing the skills they’d used during their service after discharge inspired Nonnemaker and Souffrant to found Veterans Without Orders with the help of their colleague Kyle Toto; VWO is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization dedicated to combating the water crisis with the help of their fellow CA vets.
The Primary Focus of VWO Missions
The primary focus of VWO missions is to provide access to clean water for developing communities in regions hit hardest by the water crisis.
Veterans Without Orders focuses on the water crisis because John, Nicholette and the volunteers to see that inadequate access to clean water for drinking, cooking and hygiene was at the core to the majority of the internal problems faced by the developing communities they helped.
Rampant rates of waterborne diseases meant any medical aid they provided was only short term. Lack of a means to stay hygienic prevented girls from attending school and women from working. Malnutrition was consistent when food was unable to be cleaned or properly prepared.
So they decided VWO could more effectively address the issues perpetuating the cycle of poverty in developing communities if they tackled them from the roots up; access to clean water opens doors to improving quality of life in more than one way.
Sawyer PointOne Filtration Systems
However, the way they go about executing this goal is what makes them unique; their mission model allows them to reduce rates of disease, allow for better educational opportunities, and empower women all with the help of one simple gadget.
Volunteers working with Veterans Without Orders visit communities in water-stressed regions worldwide.
The volunteers help provide the community with access to clean, safe water by distributing Sawyer PointOne filtration systems; according to the VWO website, the Sawyer PointOne is extremely effective at filtering water and requires only five minutes and a five-gallon container to set up. It’s so simple, no prior education is required to understand the assembly process, allowing any adult to access a way for their family to have clean water any time of day.
Additionally, the Sawyer PointOne is a manual system, removing the need for electricity or batteries from the equation, and each filter promises to provide 1 million gallons of clean water through filtration – that’s enough to provide three families with water for up to a decade. (https://
Water Filtration Systems
Veterans Without Orders exclusively supplies these filtration systems and any necessary training to mothers raising children within these developing communities; due to their consistent roles in collecting water and providing for the household, women are considered some of the most effective community members when it comes to addressing the water crisis.
The filters are provided on the condition that the mothers will provide clean water for three total families – their own, and two others within the community. As the VWO mission explains, this process “builds on an existing sense of community” while assimilating use of the filters into community life, improving the chances of their continued use.
Veterans Without Orders is committed to pursuing projects with a sustainable approach, helping these developing communities provide for themselves after they’ve been given the necessary tools to make it possible. (https://
Veterans Without Orders conducted their first project in Haiti in 2015, and has since completed missions throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and Africa.
A key part of the VWO model is the dedication of each humanitarian outreach project to a fallen U.S. soldier; their website explains that these dedications honor the men and women who gave their lives to protect others by allowing their memory to live on in a way that continues to save lives in areas that most need their help. (https://
Volunteer Network from Civil Affairs Veterans
Nonnemaker, Souffrant and Toto chose to create a volunteer network from Civil Affairs veterans because they recognized, through their own personal experience, that these veterans are trained in various areas of proficiency – predominantly “regional expertise, language competency, political-military awareness, and cross-cultural communication skills” – which allow them to be specifically qualified for addressing humanitarian crises all over the world. (https://
Together, the co-founders rallied the support they needed to kick start Veterans Without Orders from a small, dedicated team of CA veterans who became their core team of volunteers.
Giving these hard working men and women an outlet that utilized the skills they’d gained during their deployments created a greater sense of purpose and community of people just like them, improving their ability to reintegrate into their own families and local communities.