Creatives for a Good Cause

Wheels 4 Water peddles inspiration for kids in Democratic Republic of Congo.


Individuals at the largest annual conference of creative design professionals raised enough money to provide over 200 children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with safe water and sanitation for life. HOW Design Live and Wheels 4 Water partnered to inspire giving to a good cause in unique and memorable ways.

“Everyone has an opportunity to do something,” said Justin Ahrens, a Wheels 4 Water founder and the Principal & Creative Director at Rule29 in Geneva, Illinois. “People love the fact that they are a part of something bigger and hopefully we inspired a lot of people to apply their creative thinking to real problems in a way that helps others.”

Wheels 4 Water raised money at the conference through a combination of fundraising efforts, including specially designed merchandise, social media, mobile giving, and even a pair of stationary bicycles that powered record players and turning globes. Conference attendees who visited the Wheel 4 Water booth could ride one mile and provide one child with clean water for life through a matching gift from O’Neil Printing of Phoenix, Arizona. Ahrens explained that “people wanted to ride so badly that they didn’t care what they were wearing or how they looked. We had women in high heels with skirts and big guys that dwarfed the bikes.”

Ahrens originally set a goal to raise $4,000 during the 5-day conference held in Chicago, but they hit that mark by Day 2. Between the mile-riding and the merchandise, Wheels 4 Water raised over $8,000 for the cause during the conference, which will help more than 200 kids get water for life.

Wheels 4 Water is partnering with Lifewater International to make an impact on thousands of lives in northeastern DRC. “We are serving the most vulnerable people in a very difficult place,” says Lifewater President/CEO Justin Narducci. “These are people for whom access to water and sanitation could mean the difference between life and death, and who can begin their climb out of extreme poverty with the health and time it brings them.” In regions where Lifewater works, access to clean water and improved sanitation leads to increased education, decreased gender inequality, and stimulated economic activity and growth.

The DRC, located in the very center of the African continent, continues to struggle with cycles of poverty, violence, corruption, and resource exploitation. Over two thirds of rural residents have no access to safe water and no improved sanitation, leading to millions suffering from preventable, water-borne diseases like diarrhea and typhoid. DRC ranks #8 in the world for child mortality, with over 50,000 children in DRC losing their life each year because of a lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). It ranks 186 (of 187) in the United Nations Human Development Index.

The funds raised by Wheels 4 Water and How Design Live will go to providing safe water and latrines in schools in DRC, allowing children to escape water-borne diseases and attend school. Girls especially benefit from such improvements because the dignity and hygiene of these resources allows them to stay in school when they reach puberty.

Ahrens claims he has found a lot in inspiration for his creative work and for his team of professionals at Rule29 through his work on Wheels 4 Water and at the HOW Design Live conference. “Everywhere I went – in the elevator, the coffee line, walking around – I had the opportunity to talk to people about the water crisis and those conversations were often transformative,” he says, adding that he hopes the success of the HOW Design Live and Wheels 4 Water partnership inspires other design professionals.

This year the Wheels 4 Water riders will cycle down the coast of California, from Santa Rosa to San Luis Obispo, over a five day period. They hope to raise $18,000 total – helping 450 children – one for each mile they ride. In 2014, Wheels 4 Water riders cycled from Boston to Chicago and raised over $100,000 to help children in Uganda get safe water and sanitation.

Lifewater International is a non-profit Christian water development organization dedicated to effectively serving vulnerable children and families by partnering with underserved communities to overcome water poverty. With experience in more than 40 countries since 1977, Lifewater serves people of all faiths, focusing on contextually appropriate water sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) development. For more information, contact Christine Zurbach ( or visit Lifewater International is based in San Luis Obispo, CA.

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