Dallin Larsen: Good evening, everyone. So nice to have you joining us on another episode of Life Lessons featuring Hearts and Hands For Humanity. First of all, happy Memorial Day to everyone. I want to thank everyone who served in our services. And to many of those who’ve given their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms which we enjoy in this country. When I say America, I mean the United States and Canada. We live in a great land.
Tonight, it’s my pleasure to talk about Hearts and Hands for Humanity with those who founded this amazing organization. You know, this morning I got up. I was hoping to sleep in a little, but it didn’t happen that way. So, I got out of bed about 6:30; and during Covid I’ve been getting up every morning and walking, and I’ve so enjoyed it. You know, I used to run some. And now I’ve decided it’s a little hard on the joints. And now I’m starting to walk. So, I walk an hour a day. But today I decided to go a little further. So, I went about a little over two hours this morning. What a beautiful morning! It’s so nice to get out there before the rest of the world is up. And as I was listening to some different music, I heard that song from Eric Clapton, Change the World. And it reminded me of this conversation that we’re going to have tonight because I’m on a call with some world changers, people who took a risk and exercised some courage and faith, saw a need and went out and made a difference.
Gandhi said something along these lines: Don’t ever believe that a handful of people can’t change the world because, in fact, that’s the only thing that ever has. So, I’m honored to bring on this evening the founders of Hearts and Hands for Humanity: Verlyn and Connie Harris, along with Alan and Tish Jackson. They’re joining from their office in Utah. So good to see you guys this evening!
Before I start asking you a few questions, I want to just let the audience know a little bit of detail on how we came to meet each other. Some of you have heard this story, and I’ll be brief because I want to get right into the great work that’s happening over in Africa. But as I came out of retirement and decided to start a final company called Vasayo, I knew at the time, Karree [Larsen] and I and Daniel [Picou] and Dan [Zhu] wanted to have a nonprofit organization that we could align ourselves with. So, as people got involved in Vasayo, I didn’t only want them to enjoy exceptional products—and for some people who wanted to, to build up a business to make them some additional income on the side—but I wanted to provide an opportunity for them to get involved in something bigger than themselves. Just this month, three years ago, we launched this company and a few months before the launch, I still hadn’t determined what organization we were going to partner with.
And I told my partners, this is something that you can’t rush. This was a spiritual matter because in my life, one of my life lessons is that when you’re involved in the lives of people and trying to do good, that’s where the universe lines up. The word “God” shows up. And so, we made it a matter of prayer. I said, “God, what is it you would like us to do?” And it just wasn’t coming to me. But I didn’t want to rush it. I didn’t even know when we launched the company whether we would have that organization or not. But as fate would have it, one day I was in the office and I turned to Daniel and Dan Zhu and said, “I’m not sure what the nonprofit is going to be, but this time, this is my final venture, Vasayo. And I want to pick an organization where people get involved with their hearts and their hands. And I said, “I like that. Has a nice ring to it. Go online, look online, and see if there’s a website called that. Maybe we’ll start our own.”
Daniel went online and he types “hearts and hands” and said, “That’s already taken,” and that’s the last I thought about it. Well, it wasn’t 24 hours later where Daniel was at a little Vasayo gathering in Salt Lake City, and he was introduced to one of the men you’re going to hear from tonight, Alan Jackson.
Mark Ewell actually went up to Daniel, said, “There’s a gentleman here who’d like to meet with you. He’s with an organization called Hearts and Hands for Humanity. Folks, how many millions of websites are there around the world, you know? What’s the likelihood that less than 24 hours earlier I’d uttered the words “hearts and hands,” and then Alan shows up at a meeting. Those are not coincidences. I mean, those are divine appointments.
And so, Daniel said to Alan, “Well, I was on your website yesterday.” They talked about what Hearts and Hands is and then Daniel called me, and I got goosebumps. I thought how amazing God is. Daniel gave me the names of Verlyn and Connie Harris, the founders of this organization, and I found out they lived in Midway, Utah. And so, I thought again, “Come on. Really?” So Verlyn and Connie, you guys, I invited you over to my home and we sat down, and we talked. And that was the first meeting.
We had a second follow-up conversation, and we started talking about our upbringing. I found out that Verlyn grew up in Idaho. I grew up in Idaho. And then I asked Verlyn, “Where in Idaho did you grow up?” He said, “Sugar City.” And I said, “Well, that’s about three miles from Rexburg. I grew up in Rexburg. What are the chances? You know I lived in a home built by a gentleman…you wouldn’t happen to know a Harold Harris, would you?” And you said, “Yes, Harold is my brother.” Wow. I remember as a five-year-old boy watching this man frame our home, and he finished our home that we kept in our family for just about 50 years. I got those goosebumps when I found out that Verlyn’s brother was Harold Harris. And I said to myself, that’s all I need to know about the roots and the wings that you have in your life, and let’s partner together and go change the world together. And so that’s what we’ve done over the last three years with Hearts and Hands for Humanity, drilling wells.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, that over 2,000 children under the age of five pass away every single day on the continent of Africa because they don’t have access to fresh water; they die of waterborne diseases. And it’s staggering and almost impossible to believe that in 2020 we can do so many amazing things, but we haven’t been able to get fresh water to all the world’s population. But, you know, when Karree and I, Daniel, and Dan decided to start this company, the reason we started it is that we wanted to do good in the world. We said we’re not going to wait for governments to solve all the problems. It’s time for leadership to stand up and step up and provide products and opportunity and a way for people to give back and to belong to a community of givers and servants. And so, we started on this path together.
I really want to honor you, Verlyn and Connie, for starting Hearts and Hands for Humanity, for the number of trips you’ve taken over to Africa. I’ve seen you in action, loving on these children. It reinforced to me that we made a wise decision partnering [with you]. I didn’t know how many wells we’d be able to drill. We had a dream of blessing a million lives, and I want a million lives blessed in Africa alone. And we are now well on our way, in fact.
So Verlyn and Connie, I want you to just take a couple minutes and share your impression of Tanzania and what drew you to that area.
Connie Harris: Alright. Well, it so happened that Tanzania came into the picture because I had an 18-year plan to hike Mount Kilimanjaro, not even having a clue where it was. Finally, my friends called and said, “We are 55; it’s time to hike! Let’s get this job done.” So, we booked our flights, got over there, did the hike, and found out about the terrific need for water. When it rained there, we were at a school, and all those little arms stuck out with their colored cups and caught the rainwater from that tin roof there. It sure said a thousand words. And I brought that information home and said, “Honey, we’ve got some things to do. I’ve got some promises to keep there.” And we hopped right on board, even though he was really angry at me for going over there without him that time. That’s how it got started.
Dallin: How many trips have you made over to Tanzania now?
Connie: I suppose over 50.
Verlyn Harris:(Hearts and Hands For Humanity) And it has been nothing but a joy. I long to get over there. In fact, I booked another flight. Connie just told me that they’ve opened the country now completely, and so my flight is the 6th of June. But more than anything, also, I want to thank you, Dallin, for the opportunity of participating with you and that great Vasayo family. We surely could not do the work that we’re doing without you, and we thank you very much.
Dallin: It’s an honor for all of us to lock arms together. Alan, will you now talk a little bit about where Tanzania is on the African map? And while you’re doing that, maybe talk a little bit about what’s been going on since the pandemic hit?
Alan Jackson: Sure, absolutely. So, Tanzania is in the eastern part of Africa. [Where we are drilling is] in Khalifa in Kenya. It’s right on the border, right on the oceanside. So, we’ve been drilling there with our team in Kenya. We have four drillers there, and we hire a couple to help here and there. Our team there, we have 11 people that work for us. That’s where all of our supplies come from and stuff like that. So, we have continued to drill during Covid. Luckily, our drill teams have been protected and safe. They are in remote villages, and so there’s not such a worry with that. Our Kenya team right now is drilling well number 83. And our Tanzanian team right now is drilling on well number 86. So, they should both finish those up this week. Their goal is to be at 100 by convention in August. And we will be there sometime mid-July.
Dallin: Alan, I’ve got to say, when I was over there, Verlyn, you’re kind of like a witch doctor because you have this device. You’re walking around these schools with this wire in your hand trying to figure out where the energy is. That’s pretty fascinating. I mean, you find a spot and you say, “This is where the well is going to go.” And then we drill down. I mean, a long ways. Explain what that thing in your hand was, witch doctor.
Verlyn (Hearts and Hands For Humanity): Well, I had never drilled a well before in my life. So, I had absolutely no idea how to get it done. It was a steep learning curve. I recognized early when I went over there that certain foliage could not exist without a sufficient amount of groundwater and that groundwater is not what we’re after. We’re after the deep-water aquifers. However, the groundwater will eventually seep down and fill up those aquifers. Well, recognizing the terrain, the different foliage, recognizing that, number one, we want to drill near schools—both primary and secondary schools—because that’s where we get the biggest bang for our buck. It delivers that water immediately to the kids. The kids can bring their buckets to school, fill them up, and take them back home for their families back in waiting. So, we knew how important that was. So, once we found those areas, I would take out my divining rods…well, copper rods that interact with the soil and water and the electrical magnetic force of the earth. And it shows me exactly where the water is. It seems like kind of a voodoo type of deal, but it works every time. And we’ve taught our boys over there to use them. They have found the wells. They drill exactly where they say they’re going to, and they hit water every time.
Dallin: How far down do we have to drill to get to the aquifer?
Verlyn: Typically, the cool, clean air and uncontaminated water lies at about 130 to 150 feet. And so that’s how deep we drill typically.
Dallin: You know, to see these kids and look at those Vasayo signs they’re throwing up there, and they’re getting fresh water, it’s just so precious to be able to go and see. Tell me some stories. I mean, we’re changing lives over there. And you shared with me the experience of one man that came up to talk to you. I want you to share that with our audience tonight.
Alan(Hearts and Hands For Humanity): I’d love to. It’s just one of those touching moments. We were drilling, and this gentleman came up and expressed his gratitude for us providing a well for the school in his local village. Then he shared with us something that was very personal to him. He had two sons and one of them had died from a waterborne illness; and, fearing that his other son would die from the same thing, he sent his son off a great distance away to go to school where they had clean water. This isn’t uncommon there in Africa for them to send their kids to schools where they have clean water. And that’s why we primarily drill in schools. I believe his older son was still in primary school, so he was probably 10 or 12 maybe. And then his younger son was probably a few years younger than that. But he expressed his gratitude and how grateful he was that we were drilling a well there and providing this local school with clean water because now it was going to be able to bring his younger son home to live with him and go to school there because they had safe water. And this is just one of many amazing experiences that we have.
Dallin: Reunited with his son. Yes, one son who needs his dad. We are changing lives. This water saves lives; there’s no doubt about that. When I came over there, you guys, we stayed at like a youth hostel. But you know what? It didn’t matter because it was beautiful. And I was with some people there that were going there to serve. Flew from Salt Lake City to Amsterdam, about 10 to 12 hours, and then another 10 hours from Amsterdam down to Africa. So about 23 hours in the air. We get there, stay overnight. I get up the next morning and outside of the hotel, [there’s] Mount Kilimanjaro, the mountain you can climb. And as I looked at that, I thought, “You know how we’re going to drill wells, how we’re going to get to blessing a million or a couple million lives or more? Putting one foot in front of the other. And one dollar raised at a time.”
So, I want everyone to know that’s contributed: You know the widow’s mite. I really want to talk about, you know…some people have donated enough for an entire well, some people a dollar, you know. But every penny that’s raised, it’s going to the source. And this is just one of the blessings that you’ve contributed to.
You know, while we were at this school, we had a film crew there and there had to be hundreds of kids there. And we gave them backpacks. They were lined up and we gave all the kids backpacks and candy, and they were so respectful, you know. And so many of them just had, you know, bare feet and yet they smile a lot. And I remember going off by myself and had a moment after the well was finished, and there were hundreds and hundreds of children around the well. And we’re taking a big picture. I started having a conversation with God and said, “God, look at these children.” You know, it was like he spoke to me and said, “They’re right where I want them.” Sometimes Westerners think we’re going to go over there, you know—and thank goodness for the Jen and AJ Conrad’s of the world and people who adopt children, you know. It’s not an easy process to get these kids out of Africa. But, you know, it’s like God said, “They’re there right where I want them. They’re in the palm of my hand.” And I just remember thinking how much emphasis we put on worldly things like shoes and socks and take it for granted. But shoes and socks don’t buy happiness. You know, love buys happiness and friendship buys happiness. And to be able to go to a school and to be educated…that makes me feel good to be able to get a bucket and now go fill it up with water and to take it home to their mom so that they can have fresh water. You know, that was a really meaningful day for me. And then we went from well to well, and I saw the names on those plaques of members of the Vasayo family. And I remember on that trip also, I think with Joanne that gave me this check from a woman whose husband perished in the World Trade Center, and she wanted a well in her husband’s name who had passed. And it’s pretty special to go to these wells and look at the names of people who’ve contributed.
I want to thank all of the Vasayo family for your generous contributions. We’ve now raised money for over 100 wells, and that’s probably [helped] around 250 to 300,000 children. But, you know, we’re just all doing our part, aren’t we? I think all of us want to just finish our lives in a significant way and to do as much as we can for as long as we can. And, again, whether it’s a dollar, $100 dollars, $1,000 dollars, $7,500 dollars (that’s what it costs to drill a well), there are some organizations charging $40,000 dollars to drill a well, you know. And so, we’re doing it as inexpensively as we can to get as many wells [as possible] throughout Tanzania and also throughout Kenya, and I’m sure we’ll expand beyond there. But I want you to know that, yes, I want to take you all on cruises and take you to Hawaii and take you to Italy to hear Andrea Bocelli singing in Tuscany, to the Greek Isles, and all of those trips. But the trip I really want you to go on with you, more than any other trip, is to Africa. And I want to be there when you go because I want you to be able to go to these schools. You’re not going to be sleeping in a five-star hotel, but I promise you that the memories that you gain and the experiences that you have as you go visit those old orphanages, and as you hold those children in your arms, and as you see these wells and these children with their smiles on their faces, and as you put them on your lap, you give them love. That’s the universal language. And that memory will last with you for the rest of your life. It will be one of the most significant weeks of your life. So, I want to go on that trip.
Alan, any story you’d like to share? What’s touched your heart over there?
Alan(Hearts and Hands For Humanity): You know, I tell people all the time I have the greatest opportunity in the world. We just go over and hang out with a bunch of little kids all the time, and we just love it. They just—there are no bubbles over in Africa with these kids. It’s just an amazing experience, and it just touches your heart so deeply to see these children and to be blessed by being with them.
Dallin: Thank you, Alan. Verlyn, I want to give you the last word of the group here. What life lessons have you learned over the many years? What’s the greatest life lesson you’ve learned?
Verlyn(Hearts and Hands For Humanity): With our dream, after we made that commitment that we wanted to spend our whole lives in serving these kids, not knowing exactly how we were going to do it, there were many roadblocks. But Connie and I felt we still had to move forward somehow, some way. The Lord placed people in our path that helped us move forward. A typical example of that is Alan and Tish. They have been such a blessing to our company and what Hearts and Hands does over in Africa. Just previous to that, I felt like the whole world had caved in, and how could I get over that hurdle? That happened many, many, many times. And I’m sure that those who are viewing this tonight feel the very same way that we have. That sometimes you just want to turn your back on your commitment and walk away because it is hard. But there will always be opportunities. People come into your life to make your commitment solid. That, perhaps, is probably one of the biggest life lessons that I’ve learned from this whole experience.
Dallin: You know, as long as we make it a matter of prayer and keep our hearts right, seems like God always makes up the difference, right? Thank you, Verlyn, Connie, Tish, and Alan for your hearts as well as your hands, for your faith, your courage, and your consistency. God bless you guys and all of you guys out there watching. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day, and I can’t wait for the time that we’re all united once again as Vasayo family and friends on a trip over to Africa. Thank you so much.