Jim was born in North Carolina, and his parents brought their family to the DR Congo when he was 8 years old. His father was a surgeon running a ‘bush’ hospital. Jim attended high school at the American School in Kinshasa, and later graduated from Wake Forest University. After university, he worked logging oil wells (Halliburton) when the oil industry went bust, so was able to join Duke University’s Geology Department studying rifting in the East African Rift Lakes. Jim became Captain and Engineer on the Research Vessel Nyanja for 5 years, doing seismic surveying of Lakes Tanganyika, Turkana, Victoria, and Malawi (Nyasa).
Jim left Duke to marry Jodi, whom he had met previously while she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Burundi. He finished an MSc in Mining and Geological Engineering from University of Arizona, while she obtained her first nursing degree. After they finished school in 1990, Jim and Jodi went to work with Jim’s parents who were finishing their careers in Embangweni, Malawi.
Jim began working with the local church there on a community Shallow Well project, and then was supported by WaterAid to study Ecological Sanitation. The family moved to Mzuzu in 2000, where Jim worked on the Livingstonia gravity scheme funded by Rotary as well as several other WaSH programmes. In 2012, Jim was involved in initiating the Centre of Excellence for Water and Sanitation at Mzuzu University, and with Henk Holtslag, started a SMART Centre in Mzuzu.
In 2015, Jim left Malawi to begin working with local churches to try and establish similar SMART Centres in both Juba, South Sudan and Niamey, Niger. Today Jim is based in Niamey, working with the Hausa communities of Central and Eastern Niger, and also try to work quarter-time to establish a Centre in Juba for training South Sudanese technicians originating primarily from the eastern half of the country.