We had the good fortune of connecting with Cindee Rood and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cindee, how does your business help the community?
Formidable Joy is a 501c3 nonprofit based in Los Angeles. Our sole mission is to provide access to clean water in Malawi, Africa.
We have been very busy since we spoke with you two years ago. Back then we had completed 35 projects and provided 30,000 people with access to clean water. Since then, we have provided over 130,000 people with access to clean water. Our 70 completed projects (and counting) can be found in schools, villages, Dzaleka Refugee Camp, and inside five very deserving hospitals. By partnering with local NGOs and companies, Formidable Joy drills boreholes, repairs broken pumps, installs solar systems, manufactures tank stands, supplies water tanks, and distributes biosand filters across Malawi – one the poorest countries in the world. While their circumstances may be poor, Malawians are some of the loveliest people you will ever meet – rich in community and resilience, and so full of joy! It’s no wonder, Malawi is known as “the warm heart of Africa.” Our hospital projects are where we can provide the greatest impact for the most vulnerable populations. In 2018, we supplied a solar water system for the state-of-the-art children’s hospital built by Madonna. We went on to partner with Madonna’s nonprofit, Raising Malawi, to help a neighboring hospital where nearly 12,000 babies are born each year. The hospital suffers an average of 6 hours a day with no water – sometimes even days without water. We installed a backup water system for the Maternity Wing and Nursery, so every baby and mom could experience childbirth with access to clean water. While so many industries and companies are pivoting their missions in reaction to the world’s “new normal” that is COVID-19, we are able to stay the course. Now more than ever, everyone needs access to clean water! A natural extension to clean water is hygiene. Washing hands with soap and water is the most important preventative measure there is to reduce the spread of the virus. Soap and clean water are also luxuries so many of us take for granted. Over 660 million people around the world lack this basic human right. Since the pandemic outbreak, we’ve partnered with other NGOs to distribute over 6,300 bars of soap, create educational materials, train communities on proper handwashing techniques, and we continue to provide schools and communities access to clean water.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Running a nonprofit is a full-time job! I keep very strange working hours, given the 9hour time difference between Malawi and Los Angeles. I typically start my day (usually everyday) on Whatsapp at 5:00AM. The biggest thing that sets Formidable Joy apart is being a female-founded, female-led, and female-focused organization. Our board is made up of 100% women. We are women helping women, because it is women and girls who bear the burden and responsibility of collecting water for their families. Women start before sunrise, walk long distances, and carry up to 40lbs of water on their heads. This daily chore costs them time, money, education, and health. Hours upon hours are spent collecting water several times a day. The time it takes to collect water is time they could be using to earn an income or an education. Girls are often kept out of school – just so they can collect water. Older girls miss school during menstruation, due to lack of water at school. Often the water that is being collected is dirty, causing water-borne illnesses. There’s a great quote that we’ve engraved on several of our projects that says, “when women support each other, incredible things happen.” I think that quote says it all. If you want to help women and girls in developing countries, help them gain access to the basic human right of clean water.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The best part of Los Angeles (aside from the weather) is the diversity of what this city has to offer, from downtown to the beach, all within a 30-minute drive – traffic pending, of course.
These are some of my favorite places that I take my out of town friends:
FOOD: Homestate – my favorite breakfast tacos, or anytime tacos.
Cecconi’s – breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Sugarfish – doesn’t matter which location, they’re all equally great.
Dan Tana’s – an oldie, but a goodie, and an LA staple with the best Caesar salad in town…and the cappuccino ice cream – YUM!
Gracias Madre – even if you’re not vegan…the patio is beautiful, and the drinks are strong!
Olivetta – this was my last meal out before we were all forced to shelter in place. The food was just as delicious as the décor!
RTH – My favorite store in LA! This causal, cool clothing store (and so much more) represents the biggest space in my closet!
Rose Bowl Flea Market – the second Sunday of every month. You won’t come home empty handed. I like getting there right when they open to avoid the heat and the crowds.
OUT & ABOUT:
Runyon Canyon – especially at sunrise or sunset, and always with dogs. Hollywood Bowl – best concert venue ever.
Hollywood sign – especially love the dog park just below the sign.
Venice Beach – 2 words – people watching.
Malibu – the beautiful drive up the PCH alone is worth it.
Beverly Hills – drive around to see the insanely beautiful, tall palm tree-lined streets, the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, and a walk down the infamous Rodeo Drive. And, for the best views of the city and valley, take a drive along Mulholland Drive.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I wish I could Shout-out every person and company that has supported our mission – from donations to introductions to hosting fundraisers, spreading joy, sharing their love, support, and incredible generosity. There are hundreds of people that deserve a Shout-out for taking a leap of faith, believing in our mission, and being part of this journey. No one does it alone…ever! It has been the adventure of a lifetime, and it is the epitome of “it takes a village.” There are a lot of village people to thank! So much credit goes to my silent partners – my family. My husband and teenage boys support the work, but also have to sacrifice our time together during my quarterly trips to Malawi. Believe it or not, I’m actually going to use this time to shout out other people’s children. I have been blown away by the empathy and big heartedness of so many kids who have gotten involved and taken part in the mission – from lemonade stands to bake sales, birthday parties, Facebook fundraisers…you name it. They are proof that you are never too young to make a difference! Here are some unexpected, underage, oh-so deserving Shout-outs…all kids who opened their hearts and minds for the sake of others: Greyson H. – For his 11th birthday, he held an entirely Formidable Joy Malawi-themed birthday party – right down to the birthday cake! In lieu of gifts, he asked that donations be made to Formidable Joy. His party for a purpose provided a school in Malawi with a new water source. Declan A. – For his 6th birthday (yes 6th), he also gave up his birthday for the sake of others. Not only did this pint-size activist raise enough money to provide a school access to water, he also got up in front of his entire school to talk about his accomplishments. Again, he is only 6 years old! Huck F. – For Hanukkah, this big-hearted 15year-old was adamant that his only wish was to help others. That, he said, is what would give him the greatest joy. He too asked friends & family to forgo Hanukkah gifts, and instead support his passion for helping others. Thanks to Huck, households in Malawi will soon receive life-saving water filters inside their homes. The beneficiaries would never be able to afford these life-changing filters without Huck’s help. Olivia M. – There are so many reasons Olivia is extra special to me. Her dad was the very first Formidable Joy donor in 2017. His exact words to me were, “I don’t give to charity, but I want to support you, and be your first donor.” Chris went on to inspire his teenage daughter. Olivia has held not one, but two birthday Facebook fundraisers in support of Formidable Joy. In a strange twist of fate, Olivia’s birthday just happens to be on World Water Day (March 22nd). Moral of the story – you never know when a moment will create a movement. Kids may not always pay attention to what you say, but instead, they pay attention to what you do! And last, but certainly not least, a HUGE Shout-out and so much gratitude goes out to the entire Hollywood Schoolhouse community (whose famous alumni includes Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle). HSH recently held a schoolwide service-learning project where the entire student body learned about the water crisis, participated in water-related activities, and came together to fund 4 new water projects. They baked cookies, held a good old-fashioned lemonade stand, sold handmade jewelry, sold water at popular hiking trails and skate parks, and even went door-to-door collecting change for a fundraiser we called – HSH for H2O…Change for Change. 300 students collected over 545 pounds of coins! Kids helping kids with change for change. All of these kids are examples of selfless, random acts of kindness that will ultimately change the lives of literally thousands of people on the other side of the world. I’ve never met so many big-hearted, open-minded, compassionate, empathetic, generous kids. These water warriors are proof that it only takes a little to make a big difference in the lives of others. Much love and gratitude to everyone that has done their part to make the world a better place…no matter the country, no matter the cause.
All photos by Cindee Rood