When you retire, you’re faced with a possibility for renewal and reinvention that is basically unequaled in any other transition in your life. It’s up to you to decide what your goals are and how you’re going to achieve them.”
—Sid Miramontes, Retirement: Your New Beginning
By Brian Hitsky
Exchanging her expensive and lavish Manolo Blahnik high heels for a pair of hiking boots drastically altered Jane Brinton’s life. Disadvantaged people all over the world, without safe drinking water, have enormously benefited.
An successful award-winning entertainment manager and record promoter, Brinton hustled in the industry until her record distributor filed for bankruptcy and her main client left. She became tired of chasing her royalties and being involved in numerous legal disputes. Jane decided to leave the music business. Abruptly, her next move was to hike the Himalayas.
The trekking experience led Brinton to deeply consider her life’s path. At 60, she enrolled in a graphic design class at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her move to Cuenca came in 2013.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I had no clue,” Jane recalled.
“I was introduced to a fellow expat, Spryte Loriano, who had lived in Africa. We had something in common because I had spent time there. The subject of water came up. Simultaneously, we both said ‘water bearers’. It was all of a sudden like lightening. It just struck a chord when we both said it.”
The remark sparked the creative juices in Jane and Spryte, and they immediately registered “water bearers” as a domain name. Later, Jane used her marketing and promotional background, acquired from advocating for big-name stars such as Madonna, Cher, Elton John, Prince and Janet Jackson, along with her graphic design talents, to create a vivid website, https://thewaterbearers.org
To further call attention and boost awareness for clean water for all, from California, Erin Toppenberg joined The Waterbearers and began a 30-day fundraising campaign in support of World Water Day 2016. They were in essence testing the water.
“It wasn’t meant to be anything. It wasn’t a company, it was just a domain,” she said. “It was supposed to run for 30 days just to do something good.”
The initiative was a resounding success. It raised $175,000 for nonprofit partner Waves For Water from contributors world-wide. When the dollars kept growing after the conclusion of the next campaign, Jane and Erin realized that together their inspiration could spark even more success and reach more people if it became a recognized charity. In 2017, Jane and Erin formed a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation in the U.S..
“I was in the music business before. I knew nothing about water and nothing about charities,” Jane said.
She did know about promotion, however. Jane had managed DJs, engineers and record producers. Her efforts helped generate 50 top-five recordings, and she cherishes a dozen gold and platinum awards, representing 28 million in record sales.
To date, Jane boasts that thousands of people may have been reached by The Waterbearers organization that has funded clean water initiatives through strategic partners in 26 countries. “It has just blown up from Cuenca,” she said.
The money collected primarily is used to purchase and distribute Sawyer PointONE filters, a unique device that traps bacteria and can filter up to 540 gallons of water per day. Donations also pay for rain water collection systems and solar lights which they distribute to communities in remote regions around the world.
Jane said the experience of hiking the Himalayas brought a new insight to where she now is managing her own life, “and doing things for me,” rather than handling other creative people.
“That’s what I do now. That’s what The Waterbearers has done for me. I love doing it,” she said. “I didn’t want to retire. I didn’t want to do nothing. I am not a do-nothing person. I wanted to have a purpose. In my heart I wanted to give back.”
Jane does all the graphics and creates the website campaigns. Basically, it’s her day-to-day. She also travels.
“It’s an amazing experience to go into the field. We want to be there. We want to make sure the people get the funds, get the filters, get the water,” Jane said. Upon arriving in backwater places, she performs a hands-on demo, drinking from the dirty water source to instill confidence in the filters.
The Waterbearers don’t ship the filters. Jane and her crew transport them as luggage to ensure there’s no hold up in customs. They also travel to train women on how to use and maintain the devices. The filters will last 10 years with proper care and produce up to one million gallons of water over the period.
In addition to providing clean water projects to other countries, Jane’s organization is also very active in Ecuador. They’ve been to the Amazon jungle about a dozen times, and were funded by Pacari, the chocolate company, and the Chamber of Commerce in Quito to teach water workshops in communities across Ecuador.
“As far as I’m concerned, getting people clean water is the bottom line,” Jane said. “I just want to give people clean water. Everyone on earth has the right to clean water. That’s really my goal and the goal of The Waterbearers.
Another purpose is to empower women. “We go into these disadvantaged communities and we train women to filter the water. We teach women and children about bacteria.”
Jane said that the role of bearing water is traditionally a women’s job. “Men for centuries have never fetched water. They are supposedly hunters and gatherers. It’s the women and children who are carrying the buckets on their heads.”
It’s somewhat ironic that Jane began her project in a South American city that is renowned for clean drinking water. From a high-society lifestyle to her current situation.
“When I see how some people live, I can’t complain,” Jane said. “I have clean water, and so should everyone else.”
And now Jane owns five pair of hiking boots.
The Waterbearers are having a “Slumdog Benefit” on Friday, June 28 to provide clean water systems to 300 slumdogs in Pokhara, Nepal. A joint effort with the New Hope Charitable Children’s Home. Tickets may be purchased on line at https://give.classy.org/slumdog