Clarence, NY - With the internet and so many other resources available to connect us, the idea of neighbor is changing. Just ask Kate Vacanti who has traveled to Africa repeatedly to help villages there get access to clean water.
She and her husband Joe started Let Them LOL after learning four years ago that a billion people do not have access to clean drinking water.
The not-for-profit raises money to drill wells for clean drinking water in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
They used Joe's unforgettable laugh to create a ringtone and sold it.
Kate Vacanti says, "When your phone goes off, people then say to you what is that laugh? You can share the story and pass it on."
It took just six weeks to raise the money for their first well.
Someone from the local organization goes to see each well that's been drilled, so people who donated can see in pictures how their donations have helped. That personal connection was important to Susan Rybarczyk who donated the money for a well. Susan says, "I wanted to see it. I had thought about it for so long. I wanted something tangible."
Susan spent three years looking for a way to do a well. "I think God kind of put a burden on my heart to do it. This has happened to me a couple of times in my life when I was looking for answers to things and a little thought pops into my head, and it won't leave."
The well is named in honor of her late husband Brian who died quickly from a rare cancer of the lining of the blood vessels. Susan says, "He died when he was 35. He didn't get a chance to make that difference for himself and I think he had it in him to do so and just never got the chance. So, I think this was a way of honoring him and the goodness he had done in his life and the goodness he missed out on doing."
It's also a lasting lesson in giving for his sons Alex and Brian.
The community has come together to fund more than 65 wells.
A team from Let Them LOL is in Sierra Leone now scouting new locations.
Kate says, "There's people here doing great work to meet the needs in our community. These people in Sierra Leone are at the bottom of the UN index of developing nations . They are one of the worse countries in the world. 1 in 5 kids die before their fifth birthday there, so almost every family you meet has lost a child. The life expectancy is about 42 years old. So, while there is poverty here and there are issues here, I just felt like these people are some of the most poor people in the world and that we could do something."
Let Them LOL has a goal to drill 100 wells in 100 communities.
You can get involved by volunteering. There's also a gala in November to raise money for operating expenses and a 5K Run in May.
You can also buy the ringtone online and be a voice for this good neighbors' project.