The Ultimate Gift

Many organizations in this industry join to help those who still don’t have access to clean or safe water.

If you’ve followed my column for the past couple of years that I’ve been honored to write for Plumber, I think it should be very clear how much the plumbing trade and those who work in it mean to me.

Have you ever given any thought to how important the work you do is, or what it is that you do for others or your customers?


Many of the young plumbing apprentices who walk into my classroom for the first time have absolutely no clue what they’ve gotten themselves into. They don’t realize the impact that they are about to have on the lives of others by becoming a plumber.

Most people don’t understand what we do or the impact that we make on their health and livelihood. They have never been without safe plumbing systems. Sure, they may have experienced some “discomfort” from their systems not working, but they’ve never had to deal with not having it for an extended amount of time. For example, maybe they didn’t have hot water when they woke up. Can you imagine the devastation they must have experienced? Or maybe one or two of the three toilets they have in their home didn’t flush. Oh the anguish.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a bit of a discomfort, but I’ve seen much worse. As a matter of fact, the World Health Organization recently stated that 844 million people still lack even a basic drinking water service, and 2.3 billion people lack even a basic sanitation service.

The United Nations International Children’s Fund reports that globally, an estimated 2,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from diarrheal diseases; and of these, some 1,800 deaths are linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. Almost 90 percent of child deaths from diarrheal diseases are directly linked to contaminated water, lack of sanitation or inadequate hygiene.

That’s what we do: Save lives.


I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to places like India, South Africa and Indonesia where I’ve worked with other plumbers from around the world to help communities without safe plumbing systems. Our efforts have paid off in various ways. Not only did we install safe sanitation systems in these areas, but we helped train and educate the residents in these locations so they could provide for themselves after we left. 

I can safely say that on every project I was involved in, my “clients” had a much different outlook on what we as plumbers do compared to the average person here in the United States. There were no jokes made about our work, but there were many smiles and laughs from those who enjoyed the results of our labor.

Last October I joined another group of plumbers from around the world on a project where over 65,000 people in one area still didn’t have access to potable water. Can you imagine? Over 65,000 people in one area don’t have access to safe water.

Now here’s the part where I hope you’re sitting down as you read this. I didn’t leave the United States.

No, that wasn’t a typo. From Oct. 22-26 we worked in the Navajo Nation — the largest land area home to a Native American tribe today. It was an area larger than 10 of the 50 states in the U.S. About 40 percent of the Navajo Nation population (approximately 69,600 people) live without running water or a toilet.

Our group worked on installing plumbing systems throughout the reservation. These systems have buried water storage tanks, photovoltaic-powered pumps and water heaters, as well as whole house filters and basic plumbing fixtures installed.

You can find my daily blogs about the project at


Sometimes I think I’m “preaching to the choir” when I explain the importance of what plumbers do in my articles. But I believe you truly need to hear it. Not only do you need to hear it, but there’s a chance to take your plumbing careers to the next level.

Consider joining a group or organization such as The International Water, Sanitation and Hygiene association (, which I work with as a volunteer and sponsor. If not them, then reach out to groups like Plumbers Without Borders ( and ask how you can become involved.

By joining or sponsoring an organization such as these, you will have stepped up your game and truly given the ultimate gift; the gift that will continue to give for generations. You will change lives like you have never changed them before, and you’ll receive the ultimate gift of satisfaction from a job that truly save lives.  


Randy Lorge is a third-generation plumber and plumbing instructor and trainer for the Plumbers Union, Local 400 out of Kaukauna, Wisconsin. Lorge was a coach for Team USA in 2015 in Nashik, India; 2016 in Diepsloot, South Africa; and in 2017 in Indonesia, where his team and he participated in the Community Plumbing Challenge. Lorge also sits on the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials Training and Education committee. He enjoys time with his family and spending as much time as possible in his deer stand. To contact Lorge, email


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