A Life Committed to Stewardship

Mark Armfield is at home in Malibu.

by Mark Armfield, RainCatcher Founder

Establishing RainCatcher was an extension of my lifelong mission. Even as a young boy growing up on Point Dume in Malibu, seeds were planted in me that grew into a strong desire to make a difference and be a good steward of the natural world.

During my childhood, Point Dume was pretty undeveloped and we basically had free roam of the bluffs, the beach, and all the land right there along the coast. I spent my days riding my horse, exploring, and surfing and was always very plugged in and aware of the environment and the abundant animal life at the edge of the Pacific.

My compassion for other living things was further fostered over years of watching my dad, a veterinarian, care for animals, both healthy and suffering, and being his unofficial assistant. When an animal needed help, my dad would bring me along. At his side, I witnessed a lot at a very young age that has stuck with me.

My dad also encouraged me to be respectful of nature and to honor it. And he taught me that when a living thing, animal or human, needs help, you only have a limited time to make a difference. You need to act. Your hesitation can cost lives.

He was tough and he didn’t sugarcoat his lessons. His efforts to teach me are vivid in my memory and set the stage for my whole life. Kids can really be influenced and set on the right path, so the youth are very much a focus of my life’s mission – both in bringing clean water to children and families and in leaving a legacy and passing the torch to the next generation.

With the filters, people get clean drinking water, no matter how dirty their water source is.

Like many people, I experienced a stable childhood of relative abundance and had such reliable access to clean water that I never really gave it a second thought. We would turn on the tap, grab a glass, and fill it up. We never had to to think about where our next drink would come from or whether the water available was safe.

But my whole perspective changed when I contracted a waterborne illness as a young teen and became very ill. After falling ill from contaminated water in Mexico, I was hospitalized and sick for months. The memory of that harrowing time has never left me.

As an adult, I began to travel the world and encountered sick children in country after country. We saw kids suffering from diseases caused by dirty drinking water in India, Thailand, and China. In each country, we had the same takeaway: these were child-killing diseases that could be avoided!

Even on our flight home from India, I realized I would never be the same. I’d seen so much suffering and I decided I would find a real solution, for everyone.

After those global experiences, I couldn’t forget that a child dies every 20 seconds due to contaminated water. I also couldn’t forget that I knew it didn’t have to be that way.

Mark Armfield is the RainCatcher Founder and owner of Armfield Design & Construction, Malibu, California.

Mark is the owner of Armfield Design & Construction, Malibu, California.

With my company, Armfield Design & Construction, I had spent a decade establishing my expertise in environmental building. In fact, my company pulled the very first permit for rainwater harvesting in Malibu. Soon, we were regularly installing rainwater-harvesting systems on luxury homes in drought-prone Southern California.

My clients were aware that so much water was being wasted, and they had the resources and luxury of being able to catch the rain for things like outdoor showers, irrigation, and gardening. We were pleased to do that for them and make a difference in our own backyard.

My good friend and like-minded design collaborator Jack Rose had also been focused on catching the rain in California and had decided to support people abroad. Soon he was traveling to Kenya to deliver water solutions to kids.

An early RainCatcher tank arriving at a village in the Mua Hills, Kenya.

Together we turned to our mindful and environmentally conscious clients for help funding more projects in Africa. Those first steps of converting the generous intentions of the people we knew in California into clean water for students halfway around the world blossomed into an even bigger vision.

Soon, through a combination of self-funding and donations from Malibu folks eager to save lives, RainCatcher was officially born and Jack was traveling back to Kenya to put those heartfelt gifts to good use.

From the same Point Dume office where we were imagining and designing beautiful, environmentally responsible Malibu homes, we spearheaded several rainwater-harvesting projects for schools in East Africa.

In 2008, we were introduced to Father Kizito, which began our growth into Uganda. Later, other partnerships led to even more clean water provided in both Uganda and Kenya.

Jack Rose, Father Kitzito, and Mark Armfield.

Jack Rose, Father Kitzito, and Mark soon after their first meeting.

After another year of an informal and extracurricular partnership focused simply on doing good and providing a method for our clients and neighbors to do good, as well, I registered RainCatcher as a formal nonprofit, dedicated to healing communities by providing clean water in the developing world.

That year we also encountered a more modern, affordable, and sustainable filtration solution and were able to expand our plans. With these new filters by Sawyer, based on the technology used for dialysis in kidney patients, we were able to deploy Jack and others beyond just the larger rainwater-harvesting projects.

Darin and Jarrod with kids after a filter demonstration.

We made a shift with advanced game-changing filters.

With point-of-use filtration, we were able to visit a village, show community leaders how these new filters worked, and in five minutes make an immediate change in the lives of the people there. These filters could take the dirtiest water that families had gathered from the ditches, streams, and ponds and remove all the bacteria and worm cysts that led to most waterborne diseases.

This affordable, portable, long-lasting option instantly increased our reach and made it possible to get clean water to more people, while we traveled and installed the larger systems. (And, even water from rainwater-harvesting tanks needs to be filtered before drinking, so this upgrade in filtration improved the deployment of our larger systems too.)

In January 2010, our activities responding to the devastating earthquake in Haiti meant seeing those filters and our team play a major role in the Western hemisphere. The increase in activity, with both our emergency-response efforts and the outpouring of gifts from local people eager to help the Haitians, meant a need to hire staff and instate a larger board of directors.


Early RainCatcher board members, Sarah Savedra, Mark, Darin Olien, David Zielski, and Tom Evoniuk.

Throughout it all, we have been committed to being of service to those who go without. Catching the rain and using filters is the least expensive way to help people in areas with abundant rainfall who need clean water.

A lot has happened since we incorporated and established a board of directors made up of caring people committed to our mission. The RainCatcher board has grown, worked hard, raised money and awareness about the simple, affordable water solutions that save lives, and they have ushered the organization into the next chapter.

The team grew with our projects. Father Kizito visited Malibu again and met with Max Musina, David Zielski, Darin Olien, Mark, and Martha McBride.

Since 2009, RainCatcher has expanded programs from that early handful of school project sites to a total of 36 Kenyan sites, 76 projects in Uganda, and, in recent years, we installed 12 rainwater-harvesting systems in the American Southwest on the Navajo Nation and on the Hopi Reservation.

Our sites serving the indigenous tribes of our country are particularly close to my heart. My parents taught me that Malibu belonged to the Chumash tribe and I absorbed that outlook and still feel it’s my duty to be a good steward of the Earth. That early exposure to Chumash teachings led to a lifelong feeling of closeness to the indigenous peoples of this country.

Our expansion, in the American Southwest and in East Africa, all came from a growing vision by me and the board and strong partnerships on the ground. Partnership in finding and implementing solutions for this devastating challenge is essential. We truly could not do what we do without partners, at home and abroad.

Our board expanded to bring RainCatcher to its next levels. Pictured: Byron Jones, Martha McBride, Nicola Albini, Max Musina, Darin Olien, Mark, David Zielski, Hutch Paker, and Lisa Slater

My job is to get into people’s hearts. A big part of it is education and speaking to individuals and groups. And my sole goal is to help them share our vision and how they can be part of the solution. Together, instead of helping 10 we can help 10 million!

Now in our second decade of existence, our mission continues to be refined and enriched. Through partnerships, we’re beginning to address more water-related initiatives, like WASH programs (water, sanitation, and hygiene) and other health- and water-connected projects. All of these needs are intertwined and as we work with established partners on the ground, it makes sense to embrace linked issues.

As an environmental builder for more than 35 years, I have a pretty strong point of view about what is possible. We are so fortunate in this country and people forget that our society’s situation is the result of teamwork and vision. Our forefathers built a solid infrastructure and, after World War II, “the Greatest Generation” made sure we had incredible highways and they expanded that infrastructure.

The people in the developing world go without a lot, as they wait for their governments to shift into the creation of solid infrastructure. We can help! We can support essential needs – like clean water – during their wait for good systems in these rural, underserved areas.

At RainCatcher, we aim to reframe the relationship with rain. We want to instill gratitude for storms and rainfall, to facilitate a shift from a “rain is bad, let’s get rid of it” attitude to “rain is a blessing, let’s catch it.” One day, it’s my hope, that more of us will collect it from roofs and put it to good use.

Water is the most precious resource. Water is life. Let’s catch the rain and save lives!

Mark Armfield is the Founder of RainCatcher. As a lifelong Malibu resident, he’s devoted the past 35 years to eco-friendly building and sustainable construction and planning. Mark served three terms as President of the Malibu Association of Contractors, during which they were honored with the prestigious Malibu Times Citizens of the Year Dolphin Award, and received Special Congressional Recognition. He has also served the community in the following capacities: Director, Malibu Chamber of Commerce; Chairman of Government Affairs, City of Malibu; Member, Malibu City Business Roundtable; Member, City of Malibu Sustainable Building Committee; environmental activist and contributor to The Local, and more.

The Mnapendwa Project: Changing Lives

Good Hope Junior students are excited to have clean water at their school

We’ve told you about how Rett Frost raised money to fund the installation of a rainwater-harvesting system at a school in Uganda, but we haven’t shown you what that looked like.

One thing that was so special about Rett’s gift was his utter commitment to sending a message of love to a community half a world away, in a country he’d never visited.

Grateful for his generosity, we considered needy sites our local staff had identified. We monitor potential sites we haven’t yet been able to support with more than just filters. One school stood out: Good Hope Junior Primary School.

Our staff visited the school.

The Long Walk for Water

As is common in East Africa, the students walked long distances down a road, twice daily, to gather dirty water from a ditch.

The long walk for water

Leaving eave class in the middle of the day, they filed down the road, avoiding cars and motorbikes with their empty yellow jerrycans, filled up the containers, and then carried the heavy jugs back to school. This was in addition to their earlier long morning water walk before school.

A Teacher’s Challenge

The head teacher Babirye Esther was frustrated by the time spent outside of class, as well as the danger she felt the children were in each school day. But she had no choice! There was no water available at the school and that ditch was the closest water source.

The kids at the dirty stream.

Good Hope has solid buildings and, at first glance, appeared to be well-equipped. And, in a contrast that is heart breaking, this little school is in Entebbe, located within a few miles of both Uganda’s international airport and the country’s President’s “country home.” It is a town that is prosperous, compared to other parts of Uganda. It is a suburb of Kampala, the capital city, and many homes have running water, electricity, and cable TV.

As an organization, we had only one other project site in Entebbe, an orphanage.

Good Hope was a school that one could reasonably expect to have the basics. Yet our Country Director Dennis often saw the students walking to gather water. He lives in Entebbe and this was a sight that bothered him and really stuck in his mind.

The kids carrry these heavy cans bacnk uphill to school.

With Rett’s tank in need of a good location that Dennis could confirm was in need and would be a good partner, he visited the school for a partnership assessment. The photos above show what things were like during his first visit.

Lives Are Changed

The tank was dedicated at Rett’s request as The Mnapendwa Project (in Swahili, loosely translated, mnapendwa means You are loved).  This system has changed a lot for this school. Attendance has improved, teachers report that students are happier and doing better on their exams, and there has been a drop in the illnesses that are so common when kids drink dirty water.

Plus, students no longer take that risky walk down that busy road, missing precious hours of school, just to make sure there is water to drink during the day.

Now the students spend more time being kids!


Instead, they’re able to drink clean water on campus and spend their time learning and playing. And, more than anything, that feels like the beautiful results of a labor of love.

Happy to have water ON campus!

Making the Most of Employer Matching Gifts

Our staff visited the school.

Do you wonder how you can make a big impact and provide more clean water? Do you know whether your employer offers an employee-giving program?

Recently RainCatcher supporters have harnessed the power of their employers’ matching donation programs to magnify the impact of their gifts in some interesting ways. One dedicated supporter was able to raise enough to fund a rainwater-harvesting system at the school pictured above, which provides clean water to hundreds of students all year long. That huge gift was made possible, in large part, by a generous charitable giving program he had access to through work.

How Do Employer Matching Programs Work?

A matching donation is a donation the corporation makes to match the gift of an employee. Typically the employee submits a formal gift request to the company after making a donation and then the employer matches the employee’s contribution.

Programs vary, but companies like eBay, Gap Inc, CarMax, Boeing, Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, and American Express match the eligible gifts of their employees.

Please check with your HR department or employee benefits office for the details of your company’s program.

What Are Some Ways to Use Your Program Well?

This team raised more money for clean water because of a matching gift

Athletic Events Like Team RainCatcher

Invite your co-workers to get involved. When your company offers to match gifts, you can invite your friends at work to sponsor your race, climb, or run. Christian did just that as part of a recent Team RainCatcher ride. The program provided by his employer, Google, generously matches donations made by all Christian’s co-workers.

A handful of companies, including BP, Intuit, McAfee, Inc., and Penguin Random House, have expanded their matching gift program to also include money raised by an employee participating in a fundraising walk, run, or ride, like Team RainCatcher. In those cases, the company will match donations made even by non-employees.

You can make a difference doing what you love and provide your co-workers and friends the chance to be part of something positive. People love to help because it feels good! If you’d like to dedicate your next race, climb, swim, or other trained-for activity to saving lives with RainCatcher, please contact us today to learn more.

The tank provided by community fundraising and a matching gift

Rally Your Community Around RainCatcher

Rett Frost had a soft spot in his heart for Uganda after hearing about the need for clean water from a priest who was a close family friend. He learned a tremendous amount about the immense challenges faced in accessing clean water and was told about RainCatcher’s work in Mityana, Uganda. Once he knew about the rainwater-harvesting systems and the positive impact in the villages, Rett decided he would provide a tank for a school.

Knowing it was a big undertaking, Rett decided to tap into his employer’s match program and harness the compassionate power of his church community. By telling the story and inviting people to participate, Rett was able to generate a substantial number of gifts from people in his parish. By donating that money to RainCatcher and reporting it to his employer, he was able to double the money he collected.

In late 2016, a school in Entebbe, Uganda received a rainwater-harvesting system as Rett had dreamed. Before the tank was installed, the students at this school had no choice but to walk down the road to this dirty stream to get water and then haul the heavy yellow jugs of contaminated water back to the school.

The stream the kids walked to for dirty drinking water before the matching gift funded a tank
Touched by the quick impact the system made and the elimination of that long walk for dirty water, he asked us to have the dedication on the tank read “Donated by the Mnapendwa Project.” In Swahili, Mnapendwa means, “You are loved.”

These students can spend more time at school with the tank that was provided by a matching gift

Depending on the specifics of your employer’s program, you could organize fundraising through your friends and family, too. You’re limited only by your creativity and the guidelines your employer provides. When people know that their gift is being matched, they’re likely to give and get an extra boost knowing the impact they’re making is even bigger.

If you would like to create a fundraising page online to make it easier for people to donate to your cause, you can “Create A Campaign” as a Rain Maker for our Water Is Life! cause on a secure platform that provides space for you to share your story.

3 Simple & Fun Ways To Get Involved With Us

Have you ever asked yourself what you can do to help those who do not have access to clean water?

We hear from people like you almost daily, asking how they can get involved. People want to be a part of RainCatcher. They want to help! Many people believe, to really make a difference, they either need to be able to give large sums of money or fly to Africa to volunteer. That is not the case.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’d love to be involved!”  or “I am driven to make a difference, but I can’t take two weeks off work and travel like that!”?  Well, you’re in luck! Busy people with other responsibilities can literally help save lives.

One of the things we are really proud of is the simplicity of our service programs and how they are managed by people in the communities we serve. So, contrary to what some may think, we’re not sending teams of volunteers to install rainwater-harvesting tanks or distribute portable point-of-use filtration systems. The implementation of RainCatcher solutions is handled by local leaders and managed by local country staff in Uganda and Kenya.

Portable Filtration Unit Demonstration Clean and Dirty

More than 800 children die each day from preventable diseases caused by poor water and a lack of sanitation and hygiene.

You can make a difference! You’ve watched what we do and you realize that through rainwater-harvesting projects and filtration, RainCatcher’s simple, sustainable, and cost-effective solutions provide immediate access to clean water for those in need.

Here are three ways you can help provide clean drinking water.

Donate Your Birthday Online
You’ve probably seen your friends do this on Facebook, or if you’ve had a birthday in the past few months, Facebook has probably offered to host a fundraiser for you. For many of us, our Facebook birthday is the only time we even interact with the majority of our Facebook friends. They are reminded it’s our birthday and they are prompted to wish us well.

Imagine if the same method was used to put a little fundraiser, hosted by you, in front of each of your friends as they go to post their cake and balloon emojis on your wall?  Many will simply ignore that you’ve announced you’d like to raise money for clean water as part of your birthday, but some, who feel the same way you do, will be grateful for the easy, simple, unobtrusive option to just click and donate. Remember helping others feels great!

Sample of a Facebook Birthday Fundraiser

You can set up your fundraiser through Facebook in less than five minutes. Facebook will help you set a goal and you can even personalize the message. All you need to do is visit the RainCatcher Facebook page and click “Create” at the fundraiser section near the top of our page.

If you would prefer more customization and a page that can be more easily shared via email, Instagram, and Twitter, you can “Create A Campaign” as a Rain Maker for our Water Is Life! cause on our separate secure platform.

Pushups for Clean Water page

This method provides more space to share your story and allows you to share the link wherever you’d like, even on Facebook.

Host An Event To Raise Money For Clean Water
Did you know RainCatcher’s largest annual fundraiser started because a generous couple who hosted an annual July 4th beach party for friends and family wanted to add some philanthropy to their already fantastic event? This partnership has been a great fit and it’s something you can do, too.

July 4 Fireworks Event set up

You can turn one of your annual events into an opportunity to raise awareness and support for clean water. Do you have a family reunion, summer barbecue, girls’ weekend, annual White Elephant or Yankee Swap, Holiday Cookie Exchange, or big camping trip planned? Those all work great!

Or you can create a new party.  Host a viewing of a much-anticipated movie or television event (Game of Thrones? The Bachelorette finale?) or even go back to your trusty birthday well and invite people to celebrate your special day with you and ask them for a donation of $20 in lieu of gifts.  We know people who have hosted a fundraiser like this by inviting people to meet up at a particular bar for happy hour or a particular restaurant for a massive brunch and asked them to donate at the door.  The sky really is the limit.

If you ever struggle to find ways to get your friends and acquaintances together as often as you like, trust us, creating an event around a cause you love gets people off their couches and out spending time together. Everybody wins!

Pro Tip: Because schedules can be crazy, it can be helpful to set up an online fundraiser, as described above, to support people in participating with a gift toward your cause, even if they can’t make it to the live event.

Push-Ups for Uganda fundraising page

You’ll be amazed at how good your friends will feel being able to be part of something awesome. Make it EASY for them with a personalized link to donate!

Dedicate Your Athletic Event to Raising Awareness & Save Lives
Water projects are a natural complement to athletic events and hydration is a vital part of training. Whether you’re involved in a walkathon, a marathon, or something in between, water is crucial. We created the Team RainCatcher concept as a way for you to help us raise awareness of the need for clean water while doing what you love.

Team RainCatcher at the finish line

If you’re like us, you’ll post more than your share of training-day selfies, or heartbreaking bike malfunctions, or even photos as you pack your gear for that Everest Base Camp trek. We would LOVE to partner with you as you dedicate your event to raising awareness and support for clean water through Team RainCatcher.

If you’d like to dedicate your next race, climb, swim or other trained-for activity to save lives with RainCatcher, please contact us today to learn more.

Team RainCatcher Leadville 2017