Many little water filters.

Great solutions can sometimes be so simple. For instance, in Thailand employees of BMW Group Thailand “Care4Water” have distributed countless little water filters – and helped over 343,400 people get clean drinking water in the process.

Opas Noppornpitak grew up in the city, which means he took many things for granted – like clean water. Just turn on the tap and out it comes. The idea that things can be very different for other people had never really occurred to Opas – until he accompanied the “Care4Water” team of BMW Group Thailand into the provinces. A completely new world was revealed to the Manager of Corporate Communications from the plant in Thailand. “The village was right near the main road – yet the water that came out of the tap there was brown and pretty much undrinkable”, says Opas, shaking his head in disgust.

His colleague Jariya Koonlinthip, Chief Operations Officer at BMW Financial Services in Thailand, had a similar experience. The inhabitants of the village she visited had been collecting rainwater in jugs under their houses, in amongst all the mud and dirt. Not even the water used by the local hospital was clean, she recalls. In reality, few people in remoted areas in Thailand have enough money to be able to buy clean, bottled water. “But we can still do a lot for those who have no choice”, says Jariya.

When Opas and Jariya went into the villages, they had a solution for the villagers in their backpacks – little water filters fitted with a simple membrane that works without any batteries, electricity or mechanical devices. They are the same kind of water filters that former surfing pro John Rose took with him on his round-the-world trip about ten years ago. Forever in search of the perfect wave, the American surfer frequently found himself in regions with no running water – and definitely no clean water – in sight. At that time, John began handing out to local villagers the water filters he had originally taken with him purely for his own use. His surfing and backpacking community soon followed suit. A short time later, he founded the organisation Waves for Water, which now works with the support of various partners in 37 different countries around the world. Two years ago, John found some willing new recruits and enthusiastic partners in the form of the BMW Financial Services team. “The experience of being able to help people who live on the outskirts of our BMW Group Thailand offices in Bangkok and our plant in Rayong is not something you can buy with all the money in the world”, says Ong-ard Arunsaengroj, Sales & Marketing Director of BMW Financial Services in Thailand.

Sometimes the areas the BMW teams reach with their “Care4Water” initiative are more than 600 kilometres away from Bangkok. This means that the volunteers have to spend up to two days in the sweltering heat and humidity on dirt roads. “The amazing beauty of the landscape and the warm welcome from villagers make me forget all the hardship,” says Ong-ard. However, handing them out is not enough. For these BMW Group Thailand staff also assume long-term responsibility. Ong-ard likes to stay in touch with these people and help them if they have any problems with the filters”.

Over time, more and more employees of the BMW Group Thailand have joined the “Care4Water” team. Over 400 volunteers have been involved in the initiative since 2015 and rolled out more than 3,434 water filter systems to 39 communities in Thailand. One filter can provide 100 people with clean water every day. As a consequence, the company provided up to 343,400 Thai people with access to clean water at this point. Word has got around amongst their colleagues in India, Mexico and Brazil too, who now also distribute filters to people living in rural areas around the outskirts of BMW plants. But there is still much to be done – including in Thailand. “There are so many people out there we want to reach. So I will keep at it”, promises Opas. In this year alone, he and his colleagues plan to distribute 1600 water filters in Thailand.