Treating Root Causes: Why the Hawthornes Give Safe Water

In 1962, Lifewater’s founder and water pump business owner Bill Ashe visited Baja, Mexico to repair a hand pump well at an orphanage. It was there that he came face to face with the global water crisis, one he was capable of doing something about, and one he felt convicted to solve.

So Bill and his wife, Lorraine, began what would become Lifewater International.

Just a few years later in 1970, Jim and Dorothy (“Dotty”) Hawthorne visited Ometepec, Mexico, the same country where Bill Ashe first felt inspired to help solve the water crisis. Jim had just finished his first postgraduate year after medical school at University of Southern California (USC).

“After that you have to decide what you want to specialize in, and I really was uncertain,” he said. “We found a doctor in this town called Ometepec who had been there for a number of years and wanted to come back to the states to take exams… he needed people seeing patients and keeping the hospital going.”

Jim and Dotty decided to go, and for six months Jim saw patients and Dotty helped him around the hospital. There, just as with Bill, Jim’s eyes began to open to the global water crisis.

Dr. Jim Hawthorne and Dr. James Boyce, a missionary doctor in Ometepec, Mexico in 1970

“It was a frustrating time because we could diagnose why the patients had diarrhea or abdominal pain or anemia often due to parasites,” he said. “We could treat them, but soon I recognized that I was treading water; the same patients would come back reinfected, and I tried to explain how they were getting sick and tried to encourage them to boil the water.”

Jim was treating and re-treating waterborne illnesses.

“In reality, you aren’t going to get people to boil water on a wide basis and certainly not kids,” he said.

“Bill Ashe had dealt with the problem by going to the root of the problem,” he added. “We were treating a symptom or disease that was recurring because of a cause that we didn’t have the expertise to address.”


Getting to the Root of the Problem with Lifewater

Jim returned from that trip to Mexico to specialize in urology and build a family with Dotty. Today, they’ve been married 51 years and have three children and eight grandchildren, and they love being grandparents. Jim laughed as he said, “And I could have eight more!”

It was after this trip that Jim and Dotty learned about Lifewater, Founder Bill Ashe’s mission to bring safe water to every child, and their ability to join in the cause.

Since first giving with Lifewater, the Hawthornes have helped hundreds of people get lasting, safe water.

“At first, I recognized the consequence of bad water,” Jim said. “I think what I’ve learned is what it takes to get safe water to the villages and to individuals.”

“I have an appreciation of how the whole system of getting safe water, keeping it clean, storing it, having sanitary facilities is all related,” he added. “It involves so much training and cooperation and buy-in by people who are getting a well.”

“Bill Ashe had dealt with the problem by going to the root of the problem. We were treating a symptom or disease that was recurring because of a cause that we didn’t have the expertise to address.”

– Jim Hawthorne

Jim went on to do medical missions in many more countries following his time in Mexico. Again and again, he saw the need for a solution to the root cause of so many illnesses abroad. It’s why supporting Lifewater’s safe water access, WASH programs, and sustainability measures is so important to Jim and Dotty.

Lifewater International doctors in Africa
Jim (third from right) in Mbingo, Cameroon with African resident physicians and a visiting physician

“You don’t just put in a well and say ‘Good you have what you need;’ it’s ongoing,” he said. “It’s the ancillary things that are so important to completing the picture.”

“Lifewater has made it its goal to go to the hard places,” he added.

Jim spent his career caring for people in need in the U.S. and globally. With Lifewater, he’s reaching the root cause of illness in so many communities—unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation—so that families won’t have to be treated at the hospital in the first place.

Jim and Dotty are change makers, as is every person who is inspired to give safe drinking water to communities in the most rural, remote parts of the world. They’re not only reducing life-threatening waterborne illnesses, but beginning the domino-effect that safe water and improved health have in a community. Together, Jim and Dotty’s gifts of safe water are helping parents start businesses, children go to school, and every person to thrive as God intends.


Choose a Village. Change a Life.