Water Cooler Talks: Tim Kingham


Project_Haiti_EarthquakeTIM Kingham has had anything but an ordinary career. Not only has he travelled all over the globe, but – in the early days at least – trouble never seemed to be too far behind… During his first post with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) in Nigeria, he had to be evacuated due to the Biafra war; then he was sent to Monserrat in the Caribbean some years before the erupting volcano reduced the habitable part of the island by about two-thirds, forcing his early exit; and in 1974 he contracted malaria and typhoid fever in Ethiopia just as the coup that led to the overthrow of the Emperor Haili Selassi was taking place.

Staff_Project Engineer_Tim KinghamThese events did not deter him however and his career as a Chartered Civil and Environmental Engineer has seen him travel far and wide, advising on water strategies in countries including Bolivia, China, Madagascar and Kazakhstan.

Now an expert in his field with over 40 years’ experience, Tim continues to put his skills to good use as a volunteer project engineer for international water charity Just a Drop. And he’s certainly glad that his intrepid spirit wasn’t dampened after the initial hiccups!

Tim says, “Engineering is brilliant for the variety of work and opportunities it throws up; not to mention the chance to travel to places that some tour operators would never go and be paid to do so.”

Project_Haiti_EarthquakeTim recognises that the importance of engineers is not always publicly celebrated, but their work is invaluable to a charity such as Just a Drop, whose mission is to deliver clean, safe water where it is needed most.

The charity aims to address the shocking statistic that a child dies every 20 seconds from a water related disease. On the ground, it provides clean water and sanitation facilities to some of the poorest communities around the world through the construction of wells, boreholes, pipelines, hand pumps and latrines and it derives its technical expertise from its small but dedicated team of retired engineers – all of whom have wide-ranging experience on worldwide water development projects.

In fact, the expertise that an engineer like Tim brings to the team means that Just a Drop can deliver projects that are sustainable and can really make a difference.


Helping in Haiti

Project_Haiti_EarthquakeAlthough he formally retired in 2003, Tim started working with Just a Drop in Haiti in 2011. This was one year after the most deadly earthquake in 200 years struck the country, and his first project involved devising strategies for effectively spending money raised from the charity’s ‘Just Help Haiti’ appeal.

As the poorest nation in the America’s, this earthquake was particularly devastating for Haiti, leaving much of the infrastructure in ruins. These facts, coupled with the reality that before the earthquake just over half of the population had access to clean water, shows how utterly desperate the situation was.

In 2011, Tim travelled to Haiti for Just a Drop whereupon reaching the capital, Port-au-Prince, he was horrified by the scenes that greeted him. He told us that what appalled him most was “the closeness and contrast with the USA which is barely two hours flight time away” and the “lack of mains electricity, water or refrigerators”. The severity of the situation was rather proved by Tim himself, who was granted a bout of Dengue fever whilst on the ground – proof that even in retirement he has not been immune from such inconvenient situations!

Project_Haiti_EarthquakeTim’s efforts on behalf of Just a Drop (as well as making a full recovery from Dengue fever) have meant that two schools have been provided with new sanitation facilities and rainwater collection systems, as well as the implementation of sustainability and health and hygiene programmes.  He continues to be dedicated to helping Just a Drop to further their mission on the ground, including two more school projects in Haiti, at Hinche and Malte Perate. His visit will include both ensuring sustainability at the completed projects, and implementing these strategies at the new ones.

To find out more about Just a Drop’s work in Haiti, please click here.

Written by Natasha Neely.