Growing up in a low-income neighborhood as a child of two Afghan refugees, Zam Zam Water Founder Yusuf Nessary knows first-hand what it’s like to not have some of the most important things in life: water and education.
Since 2014, Zam Zam Water has worked on nearly 90 water projects, built 5 schools, served more than 230,000 people, and raised more than USD$2.4 million for their ongoing movement of humanity. In 2017, Zam Zam and Paxful officially joined forces to kick-start Paxful CEO Ray Youssef’s ambitious goal of building 100 schools for the #BuiltWithBitcoin initiative.
On a cold December evening, as Yusuf dropped by Paxful’s office in Manhattan to visit Ray—his humanitarian ride or die—he told us how their partnership has continued to blossom, and why you should join us in strengthening communities around the world.
Yusuf, what is your biggest vision for Zam Zam Water?
For us, it’s more so about the communication and relationship that we build on the ground with the people that we serve. In Zam Zam, we serve humanity. Servitude is a mutual relationship, a kind of respect between one another. We’re trying to create an opportunity for not only the person who oversees, or the people whom we’re serving, but also for ourselves.
What is your favorite memory of Ray?
To be quite honest with you, the very first time that I met Ray was in January 2018. He came for 16 hours to inaugurate the brand-new school that Paxful built in Rwanda. It was two in the morning when he arrived after a 17-hour flight. We got a car to pick him up and I told him that we have to get up at seven to go to the school and he’s like, “Let’s go; it’s what I’m here for.”
That’s when I knew that an individual of his stature, running an entire company, can care more about the children than his sleep. He wants to see first hand what he, his company, and his community has accomplished. That’s real love, inspiration, dedication, and motivation.
What is it like partnering with the Paxful team?
There’s mutual respect—at any given time if we’ve ever come into difficulty with a project, the level of communication between us has always been very comfortable.
I’ll give an example. For the very first school, we had a roof that was not stable, and it actually collapsed in one of the classrooms before everything was built. No one was in there of course, but the roof collapsed because of very strong monsoon rain at that time. This was ten days before the students were coming, and it was a little over $10,000 contribution to replace the entire roof with an iron roof that would last 50 years. Thank god that no child was in the classroom at that time — it was a blessing in disguise for us.
At the time, the core group was together and said, “You know what, we care more about those children than the budget at this moment in time.” We saw the children’s lives more valuable than us not falling under our budget. With that being said, it was actually a very comfortable conversation.
[My relationship with Paxful] has never made me nervous. I have nothing to hide, and Ray and the rest of the Paxful team’s intentions are pure. That allows us to have a positive peer-to-peer conversation. When it comes to companies, people usually make a one-time contribution. Paxful has always asked how they can do more. They keep the train moving.
What are your goals for the next 3-5 years?
For Zam Zam Water, we’re expanding to other countries in 2020. Currently, we operate in five countries: Afghanistan, Palestine, Rwanda, Uganda, and Malawi. In 2020, we’re expanding to another five countries: Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Kenya.
Kenya’s where Paxful is building their third school! For us, our vision is not just adding more countries, but being able to add more communities in which we are able to serve. That’d allow the opportunity for Paxful and other organisations to be able to have access to resources on the ground there, too.
Regarding building infrastructure in a place like Kenya, the area where Paxful is going to build their school is called Machakos County, and it has not had a steady annual rainfall for 3 years. Not only is Paxful able to build a school there, but also a rain harvesting water catchment system, a “water well.” They’re not only providing education and sustainable vegetation, but also access to clean water. It’s a well-rounded project.
In what ways has your program changed lives?
It’s not so much about how many people we have affected, but how we’re affecting them. A lot of individuals like to contribute towards projects that are sustainable. The best way that we can allow people to understand what sustainability looks like is being able to go back to those same villages, the same areas, where people recognize who we are.
For instance, for the first school that Paxful built, we had our first graduating class last year. As the students grow, it also allows for a broader reach of the community for more children to come to that school. We are creating something generational, something 30, 40, 50 years down the line. It is way beyond once we leave this earth. We want that legacy to remain.
For us, it’s not about numbers. I’m not here to say we increased the GDP by this percentage — we quantify our qualitative analysis by being able to have a conversation with that person, by them knowing our names, and us knowing their names. That’s how we base how much effect you’ve really made. I can tell you in the five countries in which we serve, at any moment in time, we have the opportunity to be able to go and be welcomed by open arms in those communities. That’s how I base our value.
How does your team usually go about building a well?
There’s quite a few steps to building a water project. The first and foremost is building a relationship with the individual that wants to support, giving them the detailed facts about what to expect, the timeline, the budget, and most importantly, the maintenance behind the project.
Every project that Zam Zam implements has a five-year guaranteed warranty. That includes our schools, our farms, our water wells, in the sense that if anything’s going to happen during those first five years, it’s our responsibility to financially support that project. The reason we guarantee that is because we have multiple conversations with every village that we go to, to let them know that they have a responsibility to this project too. The water project is theirs, not Paxful’s, nor Zam Zam’s.
Ray helped dig the water well for the first school. He took his shirt off, got a shovel, and was just digging up the well! Artur and Jan were there too. It takes a village to implement a project. Not just Zam Zam, not just Paxful, but everyone collectively.
Where do donations usually come from and go towards?
The expense over time is what accumulates. A school requires teachers, paperwork, pencils, desks, chairs, etc. A majority of the funding that Zam Zam receives is at the grassroot level. We have individuals that donate $25 here, $10 here, or $200 there. It’s about the number of people that contributes to the projects, and the rate of them coming back to donating towards us.
We are a 100% volunteer-based organization, including myself as the founder and executive director. No one on our staff receives any monetary compensation. All the money that goes toward our organization directly and indirectly affects our projects, by the way of allowing us to have a sustainable model to be a 501(c3) in the United States, versus us being able to provide job opportunities on the ground in the villages.
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The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotions in Rwanda monitors the country’s commitment and focus on gender equality. This involves education, healthcare and parliament. The government promotes educational programs for both boys and girls on the importance of equality. ⠀ ⠀ Zam Zam’s school in Rwanda serves over 320 students, 177 girls and 147 boys. Employing a total of 10 total staff members so far, our school provides fair wages for the staff and teachers, health insurance for all our students, and annual uniforms and supplies. ⠀ ⠀ Our goal, with any project we implement, is to strengthen our bond with the community and provide an opportunity for a brighter future for all those involved, regardless of gender, race, or faith. Our #EducationIsLife projects are focused on just that and without your support they would not be possible. Thank you! ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #ZamZam #EducationIsLife #School #Gender #Equality #Education #Teachers #HealthInsurance #Rwanda #BuiltWithBitcoin #Paxful
We don’t contract, nor outsource, people. We are literally employing people within the villages through these water projects, to be able to build on their own land, at their own home, to create a sense of capacity.
What can different amounts of donation translate into in Africa?
We focus on one project at a time, so currently we have a project going on for buying winter clothing for children in Khuzdar. That is an organizational-wide project. We know what $25 translates into for a child there, but for a water well project perspective, we don’t break it down in that sense.
For example, we have a fundraising event where we’re raising $50,000. Within that $50,000, we’ll be able to build five water projects in five different countries. We don’t break it down to the sense where we say $10 is enough to provide water for 2 or 3 people; we look at it on a much larger scale. We want to be able to provide opportunities for the entire community. So with a donation of $25, it’s for a greater purpose, not just for a couple of people.
Any parting words?
Join us in serving humanity. The feeling and the joy that we get when we’re there with the people is something that is indescribable and priceless. We truly operate as a family. I welcome others to join this family as well. Our greatest strength is in our numbers.
You can make a difference
Through our continued efforts and generous support from past donors, we have raised USD$200,000 since the launch of the initiative in 2017. This has enabled 400 children aged between 3 and 15 to go to school and have access to clean water.
Besides building 100 schools, we are constantly maintaining the past schools we’ve built. The ongoing costs only accumulate over time, hence we need your help in supporting us in this ambitious initiative. Our donors have helped us achieve more than what we’ve ever imagined — check out the recap below:
|First School||Second School|
|Type of school||Nursery Education Center||Primary school|
|Location||Kasebigege Village, Rwanda||Rwanda|
|Number of children benefited||Ages of 3-6 in a village of 7,500 people||300 (aged 6-15)|
|Structure within the school||
|Additional features||A farm that will encourage sustainable agriculture for the whole village||This school is double the size of the first|
To show our gratitude, Paxful will match every dollar donated!
We are calling for partners to build the third school fully funded with bitcoin. We’re looking for adventurous companies that want to be part of a revolution and make education happen for underprivileged children in Africa. All donations will go to Zam Zam Water Organization to fund the building of an early education center for kids ages 3 to 6 in Machakos, Kenya.
If you want to be part of this revolution in financial philanthropy or an idea that can be #BuiltWithBitcoin, please don’t hesitate to message one of Paxful’s Social Media pages and channels.
BTC (Bitcoin): 3EGxPr7NwbiDfyXWcgvtuvHRmGZRRDmaMT