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20 Years of Impact: A Journey With LifeStraw's Head of Give Back, Violet Ngunjiri

20 Years of Impact: A Journey With LifeStraw's Head of Give Back, Violet Ngunjiri

March 08, 24

Meet Violet Ngunjiri, head of global give back at LifeStraw, whose remarkable two-decade journey within the company has been nothing short of transformative. Through her unwavering dedication and commitment, Violet has been at the forefront of driving change within LifeStraw and her community.

Violet's story is one of resilience, passion, and purpose. Her role leading LifeStraw’s give back programming underscores her deep-rooted commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

We sat down with Violet to walk down memory lane, remembering her experiences, milestones, and invaluable contributions that have shaped LifeStraw over the past two decades.

LS: Over your two decades at LifeStraw, what have been the most significant milestones or accomplishments you've witnessed or been a part of within the company?

VN: I have seen the transformation of a Guinea Worm pipe filter—a filter which has reduced mortality from millions 20+ years back to 15 incidences in 2022—into life-changing water filters and purifiers that have won several awards over the years with the LifeStraw company growing into one of the leading safe water companies globally with several product lines in the outdoor space, home space and humanitarian space. I am proud to have been part of such significant growth!

LS: Can you share some memorable moments or experiences that have defined your journey at LifeStraw and contributed to your professional growth?

VN: Back in 2008, we ran an integrated preventive demonstration in partnership with the Ministry of Health which saw thousands of people come in for HIV/AIDs testing which was a stigma back then. We provided a CarePack containing IEC material on HIV/AIDs, a LifeStraw water filter, a PermaNet pre treated mosquito net and condoms. This was the first time I was directly involved in a public health campaign.

I have seen that campaign continue giving to that community as LifeStraw rehabilitated a small health facility to give ongoing support to those who tested positive. This health facility has grown to a level 3 health facility with an outpatient, comprehensive care center and a maternity ward. Every time I visit the Emusanda health center it takes me back to that implementation. That was a true testament of the company’s commitment to do good!

When Vestergaard closed the mosquito net retail business, I thought my stint at the company had come to an end until I met the current LifeStraw CEO, Alison Hill. She had worked in the public health space in Africa and I admired her passion for improvement of public health and her commitment to attaining this goal. She came in to start a sustainable safe water program for households, and when I was asked to support her in setting it up because of my background in administration where planning and execution of activities was key, I jumped at the opportunity.

LS: What advice would you give to new employees joining LifeStraw, based on your extensive experience and insights gained over the past 20 years?

VN: You must come in with an open mind, ready to learn and unlearn previous experiences. You need to truly understand what you are all about.

Are you a person who sits on the sidelines doing the bare minimum or are you the person who wants so much out of life not only for yourself but for others as well? Are you willing to dig into various projects that make a positive impact, for that’s what we are all about—making a positive impact, leaving this world a better place than we found it by driving equitable access to safe water across the globe.

Be proactive, speak up and want to be part of a TEAM that makes things happen!

LS: Reflecting on your career at LifeStraw, what do you consider your proudest contributions or projects, and how have they impacted the company's mission and goals?

VN: I have had the privilege of working with an amazing team and learning a lot from Tara Lundy, our Chief Brand Officer, and now with 13 years of program management experience we have grown the Give Back school program that started with only 300 schools to currently covering over 3000 schools globally. This has been made possible by our retail customers where for every product bought, we are able to provide a school-going child with safe water.

Through partnership engagements, we have been able to reach underserved communities that have enabled us to expand our impact programs. As we implement our public health programming, we are fulfilling our mission of providing equitable access to safe drinking water.

LS: As someone who has been with LifeStraw for two decades, what do you envision for the company's future, and how do you see yourself contributing to its continued success?

VN: LifeStraw has stayed true to its DNA (“doing good is good business”) and has not looked back since going into the safe water space through provision of safe drinking water to school going children, responding to emergencies and driving humanitarian response.

There is still so much more to be done with the rising number of water contaminants that need removal, therefore LifeStraw will continue to focus on solutions that provide the highest protection from unsafe water and have a positive impact on people and the planet.

My role will be providing thought leadership and bringing a ton of institutional experience in public health and the retail business that will see this growth become a reality.

LS: What aspects of LifeStraw's mission and products resonate most with you, and how have they inspired your dedication to the company over the years?

VN: LifeStraw’s dedication to creating positive and sustainable impact and remaining committed to despite bumps along the way is what I admire most and being part of such a devoted team has been amazing.

LifeStraw products have also had a direct impact on me as I live in a community where our water sources are not safe and recently people got sick from consuming contaminated water, therefore I am a devout believer in the LifeStraw products.

I have used the LifeStraw home products since the first version of the LifeStraw Family came to see the light of day. The impact LifeStraw Community water purifiers have had in our school programs which we extended to special [needs] schools, children’s homes, and health facilities is my pride and joy and I definitely treasure the LifeStraw Go Series bottle as it ensures that our team is protected since we are always on the go making monitoring and evaluation visits to provide repair and replacement maintenance service in institutions within our program.

LS: Finally, looking back at your journey with LifeStraw, what are some key lessons or insights you've gained that you'd like to share with your colleagues and industry peers on LinkedIn?

VN: Sometime back, I read a saying that “the best things in life don't come easy, but those things are the ones worth the sacrifice.” This has been true in my journey with LifeStraw. Where we are today is as a result of people who believed in the mission and went out of their way to make things work. It was not about “I can only do,” it was more of “how can we…?” You have to get out of your comfort zone to learn and have life changing experiences.

Make it a personal goal to want to grow without having to leave anyone behind. Yes, you cannot be there for everyone, but start with those around you, let what takes up most of your time whether it is your business or your job, strive to make sustainable change. Don’t see it as a burden, rather look at it as an opportunity to be better and to do better—after all it all depends on the lens you chose to look through.

It is also important to understand what it means to be in a leadership position at any level, it has everything to do with what you can do for your team. Respect begets respect and that plays a big part in motivating people to want to work with you to attain the set objectives. Bring solutions to the table or be part of the solutions. Celebrate small wins whether yours as an individual, somebody else’s or the organization as a whole, embrace change as it is inevitable so choose to be optimistic.

Nothing has been more fulfilling in my professional life than working with an organization whose values have aligned with my personal values. Waking up each morning knowing that every little task that I fulfill that day will eventually contribute to creating a positive impact on lives across the globe by bringing life and smiles. This is my reason to continue doing what I do and want to improve myself to do better.