As an online college educator, Veterans for Peace activist, vice president of the Thurston Community Television board of directors, ham radio operator and member of the Olympia Friends Meeting (Quakers), Dennis Mills is no stranger to 18-hour work days.
So when his wife, Anne, asked him what he wanted for his birthday – he turned 70 last December – Mills thought about it for a moment then said: “All I really want is to take a nap.”
He didn’t know it at the time, but his words would give birth to one of the oddest fundraising campaigns I’ve ever seen.
Here’s what happened: Mills shared the birthday conversation he’d had with his wife with fellow Olympia Friends member David Albert. The two were instrumental in forming a nonprofit group in 2010 called Friendly Water for the World, which helps poor rural communities in Africa, Latin America and India secure clean drinking water through the use of biosand water filters.
Albert, an irrepressible promoter and advocate of the nonprofit, seized the moment. “That’s our new marketing plan,” he said. “Nap for Life.” Forget about 5-kilometer runs, walkathons or pie-eating contests. Think sleep for dollars.
With Mills’ consent, Albert concocted a plan to have people sponsor 500 hours worth of naps for Mills at the rate of $25 per hour.
If successful, they’ll raise $12,500, which is enough money to build 250 biosand water filters, each capable of providing clean water for a large family, an orphanage or a school for up to 30 years with little or no maintenance.
The water filters truly are life-saving devices. While we take clean water for granted, vast populations around the globe face the burden of debilitating and deadly waterborne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, bacterial and amoebic dysentery, rotavirus and hepatitis A. While the “Nap for Life” campaign is somewhat silly sounding and light-hearted, the money raised is saving children’s lives around the world.
For example, The Kigezi Orphans Home in southwestern Uganda was home to 400 children who lacked access to clean water. They routinely suffered from waterborne illness, and, with no doctors to care for the orphans, child mortality was high.
In September 2013, a Friendly Water for the World representative in Uganda installed two biosand water filters, which remove from the water 95 to 99 percent of the bacteria and viruses and 100 percent of worms, parasite, amoebae and protozoa. Three weeks later, the Orphans Home Director Julius Katemba couldn’t believe the results, calling it a miracle. “Among the 400 children, there is no dysentery, no diarrhea, not even a single stomach ache.”
Mills is ready for action, ready to generate some more success stories like the Kigezi Orphans Home. He converted his family’s guest bedroom into “Dennis’ Dozing Den,” and equipped it with a webcam so donors can verify they’re getting their money’s worth. Mills has a nightshirt and a traditional Irish stocking cap, but he doesn’t always wear them when he settles in for his afternoon snoozes.
People so far have paid for 50 hours of napping by Mills. He’s logged 22 hours of naps, but realizes he will have to up his game from the two or three naps a week he’s taking, if he’s to keep up with the demand.
Mills is one of those people who can lie down and fall into a restful, rejuvenating sleep within a few minutes. He said it’s a trick he learned in college.
“When I nap, I really tune out,” he said. “And when I wake up, I feel energized.”
The Friendly Water for the World folks aren’t stopping with naps by Mills. Go to the Nap for Life website (napforlife.net) and you’ll see other money raising ideas, including “Solitary Napsters” who ask friends, family members or co-workers to sponsor naps. There’s a “Corporate Napster” sponsorship program, too, for employees and employers.
“We’re hoping the Nap for Life idea goes viral,” Albert said. If it does, it will be good news for children and bad news for waterborne viruses and diseases from Honduras in Central America to Zimbabwe in Africa.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444