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posted: 8/8/2014 11:02 AM

Grayslake Resident Works to Bring Safe Drinking Water to Africa

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  • Helen Bond of Grayslake, co-founder of the Benkadi Project, with children from Guinea, Africa.

    Helen Bond of Grayslake, co-founder of the Benkadi Project, with children from Guinea, Africa.

Jonathan Silverstein

A group of friends came together in Illinois to launch The Guinea Water Project, an all-volunteer fundraising campaign to make and distribute sustainable biosand water filters in Guinea, West Africa. They hope to raise $20,000 in the fall of 2014.

The heart of the campaign will be an Indigogo online crowdfunding campaign, which will run from September 5 through October 6 (contributions made on at before September 5 will count toward the Indigogo campaign). It will also include WaterDance, a performance event on September 6 in Evanston, Illinois, and Rhythm and Schmooze, a five-star dinner and art auction in Chicago's West Loop on October 5.

Helen Bond, of Grayslake, Illinois, first visited Guinea in 2001, and Amy Lusk came a year later, because they loved the Djembe, a traditional West African drum whose origins can be traced back to Guinea.

"We fell in love with the people and the country," said Bond. "We saw how the rhythms of the drums, the dancing and the music built and nurtured community. But, we also saw the poverty, the lack of educational and economic opportunity, and the disease. We wanted to help."

Bond and Lusk used the Motherland Rhythm Community, a small 501c3 nonprofit, to launch the Benkadi Project, a collaboration between Guineans and Americans for sustainable development. Their accomplishments include installing a solar device and distributing self-contained solar lights; building and maintaining a new school house while improving an old one and providing benches, tables and supplies; taking a village from one well to four; repairing a neighboring village well; building a youth center; and providing food,agricultural and emergency medical assistance. In 2013, they began making biosand water filters, a modern adaption of the traditional slow sand filter, which has been used for community drinking water treatment for 200 years. The filters were an immediate hit in a country where water-borne diseases such as bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever are commonplace. Each filter can provide safe drinking water for ten people for ten years, yet only costs $300 to make. That means that it costs less than a penny a day to give a person safe drinking water.

"I've been concerned about the world's water crisis for a long time," said Jonathan Silverstein of Chicago. "I can drink water without fear any time I want, but a billion people don't have a reliable source of safe drinking water. I was so inspired when I met Helen and learned about her work. I immediately asked, 'How can I help?' So, I decided to start a fundraising campaign. I worried I might be doing it all by myself, but this project really touches a chord with people. I've been amazed by all the talented people who've given so much of themselves to make this happen."

WaterDance will take place on Saturday, September 6, 2014 at the Temple Synphorium, a unique arts and performance space with plenty of free in-lot and on-street parking at 600 Hartrey in Evanston, Illinois. Performances will include West African dance orchestrated by Jen Halman; drumming by Diamana Diya; Cynthia Cobb and Seven S'Aba (Parrish Collier), the stars of Gershwin & Friends; The Lost Brigade, a band which combines honest roots music mixed with fresh, fun creative rock, and KJ Irwin, a rising singer-songwriter with a powerful, soulful voice. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at

Rhythm and Schmooze will be a five-star dinner and art auction at 115 N. Carpenter in Chicago's West Loop with special guest Kevin Lampe of Kurth Lampe, on Sunday, October 5, 2014. Dinner will be created by AlyseMarie Warren, Head Chef at the Saddle Room in Hoffman Estates. Art for the event has been donated by some of the top artists from Chicago and beyond, including Yva Neal, Brook Woolf and Kay Wood. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased at