Bob Rosner ’80 was a best-selling author and syndicated columnist when he heard a fact so shocking that it changed his career: Every 14.5 seconds, a child dies of a water-borne illness.
He heard the grim statistic during a conversation with a colleague, former Tacoma pastor Danny Thomas, who was telling Rosner about his Tacoma-based nonprofit, Water for the World, which sends portable water filtration units to Kenya.
As Thomas developed the organization, the two kept in touch. Five years ago, Rosner joined Water for the World, putting his communication skills to use as the chief communications officer.
In pithy, soundbite-ready quotes, Rosner spreads the word about the pastor who quit the pulpit to sanitize water in towns halfway across the world.
The suitcase-sized units use a 14-stage filtration system to clean 5,000 liters of water—enough to support a school or a neighborhood—per day. The nonprofit finds U.S. investors to purchase the machines at $24,000 apiece. The investors split the profits with Kenyan entrepreneurs, who sell the water on the ground.
For every 4,200 liters of water sold, 800 liters are donated to those who can’t afford it. “It’s just an amazing business model,” said Rosner, who bought half a share of a purifying unit. After adding more units in Kenya, Water for the World plans to expand into other African countries.
Though he never worked in the field, Rosner credits the occupational therapy degree he earned at Puget Sound—as well as working with Serni Solidarios in student programs—with his talent for solving problems in a variety of ventures.
Earlier in his career, he wrote books on workplace issues, such as The Boss’s Survival Guide; launched a smoking cessation initiative; and started a crime prevention program for seniors. Now he’s putting his skills to use helping children to access safe, clean water.