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Making a difference in India

Seven Xylem employees recently travelled to West Bengal, India, as volunteers in the company’s Watermark program.

The purpose of their visit was to help inspect 42 sanitation systems installed in 2010 in cooperation with Water for People, a nonprofit development organization sponsored by Watermark.

During their two-week assignment, the Xylem employees spent long days travelling in the countryside around Calcutta, visiting high schools and primary schools. There they collected data on the systems and water, interviewed children, and helped teach them about hygiene. 

“I volunteered because I wanted to see first-hand the work that our company supports,” says Jenny Kjellander, a project manager from Xylem’s financial shared service team in Emmaboda, Sweden. “Even though many of the people we visited were living in poverty, they were so friendly and welcoming, and greeted us with flowers and songs.”

The sanitary blocks they inspected were large rooms with water taps and private toilets. “There are separate parts for boys and girls, which is important, since otherwise a lot of girls stay home when they have their period,” says Sandra Ferreira Axelsson, also from financial shared services. “This increases the chance that they can stay in school and not drop out.”

After inspecting the blocks and how they were functioning, the volunteers entered their data into a smartphone, which was then sent to a main database. A water sample was also collected for testing. Follow-up visits to installations like these are a unique feature of the Watermark program.

“We didn’t see a lot of problems with the sanitary blocks, since they were so new,” says Maria Idberg, a Xylem IT project manager working at the service desk in Sweden. “However, we noticed that there were a lot of students but few toilets, in one case five toilets for 600 students. But the children were still very proud of their blocks, because at home they didn’t have any toilets at all.”

by Chad Henderson