In his work with a North Carolina-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping provide clean water to people in desperate need, Kyle Lomax ’01 of Wilmington has seen firsthand the devastating effects of poverty, war and disease in the world’s developing countries. Lomax is the technical project director for Wine to Water, an organization with a small staff of eight people headquartered in Boone. What began in 2003 as a humanitarian ideal financed largely through fundraisers held in Raleigh bars has helped bring clean water to more than 300,000 people on four continents in 12 years.
Its projects include community well drilling and repair work, rainwater harvesting and the installation of household water filtering systems. Wine to Water staff members and volunteers also work with local community members to build sanitary latrines in areas where flush toilets are rare or nonexistent.
“Many of the wells in developing countries are inoperable,” said Lomax. “Our work focuses on rehabilitating the ones that can be fixed. We use local resources and supplies whenever possible and work in partnership with other organizations to repair and maintain the wells in existence. We install filtration systems if they are needed to purify the water. We also provide educational programs to help the people of the local communities get the training needed to maintain their water systems.”
Key public health issues of water, sanitation and hygiene are closely related in developing countries, Lomax said. “It’s important to provide education so that people will see the direct connection between water, sanitation and hygiene and understand that all are essential to health,” he said.
Lomax, son of David Lomax ’69 and Linda Allen Lomax ’69 of Greensboro, was a criminal justice major at WCU. After graduating with honors, he started his own construction company. He had been building homes for several years when Wine to Water’s founder Doc Hendley asked for his help repairing the roof on a house and building a small community resource center. The job would not be in the affluent Triangle area they both knew so well, but in Uganda. Lomax agreed to supervise the projects and stayed in Africa for two months.
“Not long after I got back home, Wine to Water called to say they needed a project manager,” Lomax said. “So I said I’d try it for a year. That turned into three years. Now it has been five. Though I never expected this would be my career path, it has been very rewarding work. I love seeing a new well being drilled or a water filter being installed, and it is the personal relationships that I love the most.”