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Muffins for Clean Water: How One Family Brought Safe Water to Thousands With Muffins

In September of 2016, Janelle Wise and her seven-year-old son Harrison read Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk for Water, a short novel about two Sudanese children named Salva and Nya confronting the water crisis in South Sudan. 

“I want to help Salva!” Harrison announced. “I’m going to bake muffins.”

Janelle and her husband, Tyson could not dismiss this statement. They’re a family of six in Boise, Idaho who are passionate about charity and servanthood. Harrison’s comment was an opportunity to serve.

With the help of Harrison’s second-grade class, Janelle and Harrison put muffin stands up all over town. They sold a variety of muffins for $5 apiece, educating others about the water crisis and how they could get involved. They ended up raising almost $8,000.

The Wise family has sold muffins to raise money for clean water in countries around the world every year since

In 2018, they found Lifewater.

“Lifewater’s holistic understanding of building latrines to clean up waste and having a systematic way to wash food, clothes, and hands guarantees eradication of waterborne illnesses,” said Janelle. “Clean water is fundamental to being healthy.”

The Wise family selling muffins for clean water.

In 2019, the Wise family raised over $10,000, this time partnering with a community in Cambodia to provide a well and health training through Lifewater. 

After the first year, they started taking on the project as a family. They put up a muffin stand on the corner of their street, usually over the kids’ fall break from school. The muffin menu includes favorites like pumpkin chocolate chip, lemon poppyseed, and a gluten-free applesauce muffin. The Wise family put up a tent and make signs that say “Muffins for Clean Water.” They even bring their two horses out to help attract attention.

“The horses are our marketing agents,” laughed Tyson.

Every year, their outreach has grown. One year, a donor called and pledged $500, asking the Wise’s to take the muffins to a shelter downtown. As a result, the Wise family started personally delivering a basket of muffins if you donate more than $100.

“It’s a cool ecosystem,” said Tyson, “Because you’re raising money for water over here, but you’re blessing people with muffins at home and you get to have conversations with them.”  

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The Wise’s love the community that has sprung up from their efforts. One year, a bus driver came all the way back after work to purchase a muffin. For three years in a row, a woman from the apartment complex across the street has run over to give Janelle her laundry money for the week. Another woman offered to make gluten-free muffins, although she couldn’t afford the ingredients, so the Wise family gladly donated them to her.

“When you give others the opportunity to participate in something good, they’ll take you up on it,” said Janelle. “This is the fundamental need: to give them opportunity.”

This year, the Wise family is praying to be able to provide even more funds for safe water. They estimate that they raised a record $27,000 this year for Uganda, which they plan to donate to Lifewater.

Janelle said it best: “If you wake up, open your hands and decide that God can use a muffin it really changes the trajectory of what can happen in a day.” 

The Wise’s bold faith and willingness to listen to God’s call have brought clean water to communities worldwide. 

You can raise awareness and partner to end the global water and sanitation crisis too. For more information, contact us here.

Choose a Village. Change a Life.