Nisha Mandani fondly recalls passing out cups of water to senior citizens in Jamatkhana while wearing a volunteer uniform as a child. Today, she travels across the world to ensure people in countries such as Malawi, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have clean drinking water.

On 11 September this year, Nisha stood in front of over 10,000 guests at the World Water Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark, and accepted the 2022 International Water Association Global Water Award. Having built more than 2,000 borewells in the poorest communities worldwide, Nisha Mandani has many stories to share.

Nisha was born and raised in a small village in India. As a child, she watched her mother raise nine children and work to provide for her family.

"She started by making bread from home. She worked tirelessly to raise us. At times she worked three jobs, but my mom never gave up," said Nisha. "There were days she was at work until midnight, but she always did it with a smile."

Nisha is now the CEO and founder of Our AIM Foundation. She launched the charity 14 years ago and, since then, has positively impacted over 4 million marginalised individuals across the globe. Nisha visits each of the initiatives spearheaded by the Foundation personally.

"The people that live in the areas we serve are ultra-poor," she said. "Their homes are four sticks and a garbage bag, so you can imagine when it rains, children are sleeping in puddles." 

Our AIM strives to help bring those individuals and families out of multigenerational poverty. In Malawi, where women would walk 8-10 km multiple times a day to get clean water, Our AIM built 300 borewells to help.

"The women in the village now have more time to learn new skills rather than spending their day fetching water," Nisha said. "These women had never seen a sewing machine in their life. "We paid them to attend our sewing classes and taught them how to sew and sell products to make money for their families. They were excited and empowered to continue working and providing for their families.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, the women in this village sewed masks for frontline workers and helped pass them out to doctors," Nisha proudly said with a smile. "This is the power of women."

The communities Nisha and her team serve nominated her for the 2022 IWA Global Water Award. We asked Nisha what she thought made her stand out among hundreds of applications.

"I asked myself that same question," Nisha said. "There were so many hard-working individuals that were qualified. I am so honoured and humbled by this recognition."

Nisha's unique attributes as a candidate were her passion for serving others and the wide breadth of service Our AIM Foundation has accomplished. The judging panel consists of the most influential experts from the *World Bank, Asian & African Development Bank, European Water Association, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development* and many respected judges from Australia, France, the Philippines, the U.S., Germany, China, and more.

"I sat at a table with the judges during the conference and had the honour of learning more about them and getting feedback about the work done by Our AIM Foundation," Nisha said.

Along with clean water and sanitation, another pillar of Our AIM Foundation is women's empowerment.

"I watched my mother raise my siblings and myself all on her own," said Nisha. "With her determination, the bread she started making from our home became the best-selling bread in the village."

Today, Our AIM focuses on giving young girls in need education to help break the cycle of poverty. At solar-powered centres, the foundation’s volunteers teach children through television, movies, and computers.

"Just because you were born in a certain country or born into poverty doesn't mean you should be deprived of basic needs of quality education, drinking water, or healthcare," Nisha said.

She went on to explain the importance of clean water and its connection to other parts of life.

"Water becomes a part of education because without clean water, you don't have good health. If you have poor health, you're unable to go to school and learn," Nisha said. "Everything is connected to water, therefore, clean water and access to proper sanitation should be prioritised.”

As our interview came to a close, Nisha did not want to end without mentioning and thanking the strong volunteers that work with Our AIM Foundation.

"Our volunteers and donors are the backbone of our foundation, our boots on the ground in these remote villages are the reason we can ensure that 100% of the donations go directly to the beneficiaries," she said.

It's reminiscent of her watching her mother work past midnight as she carries her mother's same characteristics of strength and determination through her work.

"Being an Ismaili and having volunteerism instilled in me has helped me find the purpose of my life," she said.

From giving water to seniors in Jamatkhana to building thousands of borewells worldwide, Nisha directs her passion and service to those living in poverty.