JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When Logan Cooke first saw the photo, he was stunned.
Two glasses filled with water, one clear and the other a cloudy white with particles of … stuff … suspended throughout. Cooke was floored that the people in the small Kenyan village of Three Rivers had been drinking and cooking with the latter their entire lives.
“That’s all they knew,” said Cooke, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ fourth-year punter. “We drink water every day, drink half a Dasani bottle and chuck it in the garbage, and we just don’t think about that stuff.
“It just looks like you went to the pond out there. They’re in two glass cups. One you can’t even see through it, obviously, it’s like brown dirt water, and the other one’s clear. It looks like Aquafina. Just the difference in it, it’s wild. And those kids didn’t know any different.”
No one in the village has to use the brown water any longer after the construction of a well.
Cooke and his wife, Mary, partnered with New York-based Zoe Ministries to build the well, and it’s the cause that Cooke is promoting Sunday in the NFL’s annual My Cause My Cleats program, which allows NFL players to pick a cause that’s important to them and represent it with custom-designed cleats.
Cooke is one of 48 Jaguars players and coaches who will be wearing custom cleats or sneakers during Sunday’s game at the Los Angeles Rams. Cooke’s black-and-white cleats have the Zoe Ministries logo on the side and a drawing of a well near the heel.
Cooke said his wife, who is a nurse, had been interested in international mission work for a while and had hoped to travel to Africa to spend time at some clinics. Cooke had done some mission work in the States before and that got him interested in doing an international mission.
He was scheduled to go on a Fellowship of Christian Athletes-sponsored trip to Africa with other NFL players to run some camps in June 2020 before the pandemic scuttled those plans.
Then came the opportunity to help with the well, and Cooke said he and his wife quickly agreed. Cooke, whose 43.3 net yards per punt average is fourth in the NFL, said he wanted to keep his monetary contribution to the project private.
There was a first attempt at a well at another village, but the drilling did not find water and the project moved to Three Rivers, near the Ugandan border. Cooke said he and his wife received pictures of the progress and finally got the ones they wanted to see.
“They sent pictures of them starting to drill [the first well], and kids around there were fired up and excited. We were pumped and got word a month later they actually didn’t hit water,” Cooke said. “… The next pictures we got from that village was them drilling and water just shooting up like oil. It was awesome.”
Cooke said he and his wife and son, Cooper, who was born on Oct. 11, are hoping to make a trip to Africa this summer to see the well and spend time helping any way they can. Even though his only experience has been through photos, Cooke said what he has seen has been a powerful reminder of how lucky most of us are.
“Once you got pictures back and kind of saw where they live, and, like, they’re so behind times, it’s incredible,” he said. “They’re still in huts. The kids, I mean, they’re so happy over there, too, and it makes me feel so terrible for ever being discouraged over here or feeling pity for myself.”
Talking about the photo of those two glasses of water, however, had him smiling as much as the kids in some of the other photos he’s received.
“It was cool to see kind of the difference from the water they were drinking,” Cooke said. “They were walking miles every day to get river water. It was nasty and contaminated stuff.”