There’s a new captain on Pure Water for the World’s deck, all the way from Cote d’Ivoire.
“I gave it roots, he’s giving it wings,” said former Pure Water for the World executive director Carolyn Crowley Meub. “I love where Pure Water is, but it needs somebody with new energy, new contacts, new experiences. ... It’s his organization now.”
The World Wide Chairman of the Rotarian Action Group for Water and Sanitation, Nicolas Mancus, after almost 30 years traveling and working throughout Africa, relocated to Rutland on May 6 to take the helm of the nonprofit that works to improve access to safe water.
“I’m aiming to build on all the fabulous work Carolyn has done ... and spread it to other countries,” Mancus said. “Its name is Pure Water for the World, so we have a big canvas to paint on.”
Born in Oakland, Mancus holds a graduate degree in public health, and began work at the U.S. Embassy in Benin, which was transitioning from a Marxist-Leninist country to a capitalist system when Mancus first arrived in the early 1990s.
“There was no infrastructure, there was one TV station that broadcast for a few hours a night,” Mancus said. “There were no banks — the banking system had fallen apart. ... It was a fascinating time. There was a lot of hope.”
Mancus said he’d previously coordinated community water projects at the U.S. embassy, which provided a precursor to the United State Agency for International Development.
“Because it had been a Marxist country, there had been no USAID before that time,” Mancus said.
With his Rotary Club, he’d helped complete various community water projects where he lived, gaining knowledge and experience until 2008, when major market changes shook the model of Mancus’ commodity-selling business, which gave him the opportunity to fully invest in the work he came to Africa to do.
That brought him to the Clinton Health Access Initiative.
“They were looking for someone who was fluent in French and English, and who had a lot of business experience in the region,” Mancus said. Mancus covered Benin, Mali and Burkina Faso for the Clinton Foundation, providing pediatric antiretrovirals to children who tested positive for HIV and were previously being given adult antiretrovirals.
“In Cameroon, I had about 5,000 pediatric patients,” Mancus said. “In Africa, 75% of transmission is through heterosexual contact.”
Mancus worked for years with clinics providing health care for HIV-positive patients before traveling to Chad to work on malaria control programs in 2011. From there, he moved into Uganda to help with water and sanitation programs from 2013 to 2015.
Most recently, Mancus was working in Cote D’Ivoire on food and nutrition programs, but found he could also be of service back where he started in the United States.
“We’re looking to expand the work that’s going on in Guatemala right now ... our country director is going to be going up to Guatemala next week to meet with the partners there on the ground, to see how we can bring the mission to Guatemala,” he said.
Mancus said he’s going to miss his friends in Africa, his home for most of his adult life, but he’s already growing to love Vermont and still communicates with friends and Rotary Club members there.
“We were looking for candidates with water and sanitation hygiene backgrounds, and someone with nonprofit experience,” Meub said. “All of his experience made him the ideal candidate.”
As a last hurrah, Meub has decided she’s going to make a big jump — out of a plane.
A group of people, including Meub, will be skydiving on June 29 to try to raise $100,000 for Pure Water for the World, and are hoping to draw sponsors for their flight.
“Right now, I’m cool,” Meub said. “On June 28, I’ll probably be like ‘What am I getting into?’”