NEWPORT COAST — When local philanthropic couple Jeff and Jackie Bird arrived home after participating in the Haiti relief efforts, they made plans to start a chain reaction that would bring ongoing help to the families devastated by the January 2010 earthquake.
The couple immediately set to work launching the Catalyst, the first line of timepieces from Epic International. The Birds' newly founded company pledges to provide clean water to Third World countries with every watch sold — beginning with Haiti for the one-year anniversary of the quake.
"We came back from Haiti just wanting to make an impact on these people's lives," Jeff Bird said of the summer trip he made with his wife of four years. "It wasn't enough to just go on trip and help with construction but we wanted to do something that would really make a lasting impact on their lives."
Despite having traveled to impoverished parts of South America and Europe, Bird said that he was still shocked at the level of poverty in which the Haitians were living eight months after the devastation.
While permanent structures are needed to replace the decaying tents that many Haitians still call home, what the Birds decided is most crucial is to provide the locals with a clean water supply, he said.
"Getting water is not the issue," said Jackie Bird. "It's getting clean water that's so important."
Water flowing from streams and rivers are commonly used by Haitians for everything from cooking and personal hygiene to washing cars and bathing cattle, she said.
When an outbreak of cholera happened in September, the need for clean water spiked enormously, she said.
The Birds moved up their original launch date from February 2011 and started selling the watches in December to help the country faster, she said.
Their first large-scale distribution of water filtration systems is scheduled for late January. The second is scheduled for around March.
With their watch sales so far, about 200 people will have access to a clean water supply, Jackie Bird said. However, she hopes that the number of Haitians impacted will increase as people take interest in the watches next week in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the quake.
"Someone purchasing the watch is a catalyst," Jeff Bird explained of Epic's first line of watches, which come in a variety of colors including a red and blue Haiti edition. "…We wanted something that could be a symbol that we can make a difference. Maybe we can't change the world altogether, but we can change portions of it by coming together."
While the watches are currently only available on the company's website, http://www.epictimepieces.com, the Birds hope to get the watches into boutiques and impact more countries in need of clean water.
"Our goal is to bring clean water to thousands," Jackie Bird said. "This is just the start."