June 10, 2015

Million Dollar Round Table Foundation Grant

Through its charitable giving, the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table Foundation aims to build stronger families and communities around the globe. WBH supporter Judd Swarzman is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, and on Wednesday, June 3rd , he and his wife Linda presented Wells Bring Hope with a $5,000 grant from the MDRT Foundation.

This grant, along with $600 in donations from other donors, will supply a rural village in Niger, West Africa with the life-saving gift of a safe-water well. We are incredibly grateful to the MDRT Foundation for the incredible work that they are doing around the globe.

We are very grateful to both Linda and Judd for initiating this grant and advocating for it. They have been loyal supporters of our cause and we greatly appreciate their support. We are proud to be the recipients of this grant.

June 4, 2015

First Annual Donor Appreciation Event

On the evening of Wednesday, June 3rd, the clouds parted and the sun appeared just in time for Wells Bring Hope’s First Annual Donor Appreciation Event. About fifty of Wells Bring Hope’s most enthusiastic supporters braved rush hour traffic to join us for dinner in Culver City. Ed Keebler, WBH’s newest board member, and his partner, Anne Dalton, generously hosted the evening at their fabulous restaurant – Bucato.

It was a time for mingling on the outdoor patio over wine, meeting other WBH committed donors and volunteers who shared the same appreciation for our work.

Guests enjoyed a four-course feast that began with home baked bread and olives that some of us couldn’t stop eating! Dinner also included two scrumptious pastas that Bucato makes in house and juicy Jidori chicken with kale.

A short video was shown based on a recent WBH team trip to Niger, revealing the enormous success of our economic development program for women.  On a sad note, Founder, Barbara Goldberg revealed that the cycle of drought and famine is now almost a yearly occurrence, resulting in a more urgent need for clean water.  To address this, WBH has set an ambitious goal of drilling 250 wells in the next three years.

The evening ended with the presentation of a $5,000 grant from the Million Dollar Round Table by Linda and Judd Swarzman. Thank you to all of our generous supporters and Nichole Carlson, our marvelous Director of Special Events, for making the evening such a success!


June 1, 2015

Social Justice in 3rd Grade

By Barbara Goldberg

{Barbara Goldberg with 3rd graders at NOW Academy}

One of the best invitations I’ve ever received was from a third grade class, made up of 7 and 8 year olds at NOW (New Open World) Academy. The invitation said that I, along with a few others, had been recognized as a “local hero” who has fought for social justice, and they wanted to present me with the “NOWbel Peace Prize.” What an honor!

{Invitation to NOWbel Prize Awards}

The invitation was handwritten and drawn by Romeo Sanchez, and it said this:

Dear NOWbel Prize Winner,
My name is Romeo Sanchez and I am a third grade student at New Open World Academy. Our school believes in social justice. We believe social justice is when we help others to make this world a better place for everybody.  We would love to know what social justice means to you because we know that you do great things for others. Since we read many biographies, we thought it would be awesome and meaningful if we could interview and write a biography about our hero. That would be you!

Could you please visit our class so we can interview you? My hero is Martin Luther King because he was doing good things for people on the street and in different countries. Who is your hero? When I grow up, I want to be a soccer player so I can teach kids how to play soccer. Do you have any advice for me? I hope to meet you soon.

Romeo Sanchez

{Barbara Goldberg and Romeo Sanchez}

On May 22nd, I met with and was interviewed by his class. I told them that my social justice hero was Nelson Mandela because he fought for equal rights for his people in South Africa for many, many years, suffering great personal hardship. He never gave up and finally achieved his goal of putting an end to apartheid.

I told them about the lack of safe water in Niger, about babies dying from unsafe water, and especially about girls their own age who could not get an education because they had to walk to find water. They readily understood what I said and thanked me for my dedication.

The award said: “In recognition for going above and beyond to make a positive difference and inspiring our children to take action.”

It was a joy to spend time with these kids because they have a vision of how to make the world a better place. They know the importance of working to make a positive difference in the lives of those less fortunate. One might look at them and think that they are among the less fortunate but I’d say these are very lucky kids to be educated in such a positive atmosphere, in a small class, by a dedicated teacher, Ryoko Matsui.

Note: NOW Academy is located in Koreatown in Los Angeles, where the Ambassador Hotel used to be. It is one of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, a Title 1 school where 100% of its students qualify for free breakfast, lunch and other services.

May 12, 2015

I Lived Mad Men

By Barbara Goldberg

This week, when I was interviewed by Mother Love on LA Talk Radio, she asked me how I got into my first career, advertising. I told her that my best friend in high school had a father who knew someone high up at a Madison Avenue ad agency and he was going to get her a job there.  That never happened but it planted a seed in my head: advertising sounded very glamorous—a place to be.  It sure was.

As I was watching Mad Men last week, with only two more shows to go, I was astounded to realize how closely they re-created the very exciting world of advertising. It was the perfect backdrop to depict individual angst and the search for meaning in life.

Last week’s episode depicted the agency, Sterling, Cooper, merging with the industry giant Mc Erickson, where I had worked during same period in New York. I watched, wide-eyed as they mentioned “Carl, the associate creative director.” That was my friend and colleague, Carl Abrams, who held that title.  Then they rattled off a few of McCann’s clients, NCR, Hilton International, all of whom were my clients at McCann!  Matthew Weiner must be commended for portraying the accuracy of that time and place.  Too bad he didn’t call me to consult for the show!

Mad Men aficionados will recall that when Sterling, Cooper announced the merger of their agency with McCann Erickson, there were moans and groans from the Creative department. That’s because McCann, being the largest ad agency in the world at the time, was not known for brilliant creative work. Unlike Doyle, Dane and Bernbach and Ogilvy & Mather who were known for innovative and memorable ad campaigns, McCann was run by “the suits,” the account executives who “managed” the clients. That meant taking them out to the best restaurants in town for their famous three martini lunches. I learned quickly that you never tried to plan a meeting with these guys in the afternoon— you’d find them with heads on their desks, out cold.

There was a vicious scene in last week’s episode of “Mad Men” when Joan, who rose to become a successful account executive with her own clients, challenged the top management of McCann. She was crushed, brutally, and even though she walked away with half a million dollars (that’s1970 dollars!), all that she had worked for fizzled. While that scenario likely came out of Matthew Weiner’s head, it was completely in character with the mentality of that agency. Women were not held in high regard.

How did I get to a lofty position of Research Director as a 26-year-old woman?  It’s not what you think. More to come on that...

April 27, 2015

NGO’S Must Choose Carefully Who They Get into Bed With

By: Barbara Goldberg

Someone who recently found out about our cause posed this question: "What are the politics and priorities of the government of Niger?" It's an excellent question because many governments in the developing world are corrupt and notoriously guilty of siphoning off aid funds to enrich their own bank accounts. Some, like Nigeria, do little to ensure the safety of their people.

So what can we say about Niger, the country where Wells Bring Hope works exclusively?

  • It is a democracy and dedicated to preventing Boko Haram from making any inroads into their country.
  • It is part of a West African coalition helping the Nigerian government on wiping out Boko Haram.
  • Since it is the poorest country in the world, the government has limited resources to help its people and so it falls to NGO's like us to help deliver basic human services like safe water. The government greatly values our work and cooperates at all levels.
  • Several years ago, there was a coup because the president liked being in office and even though his term was up, he was determined to stay. They threw him out.
  • From what I know, it is far less corrupt than other African nations, particularly Nigeria which is known for its corruption. Is it immune from corruption? I think not. But neither is our government!

April 24, 2015

What you don’t know about Africa

By Barbara Goldberg

Most of us know little about the continent of Africa, and particularly how it compares to the rest of the world. Take a look at 8 maps that will change the way you look at Africa.

See how the world would look if it was measured by its wealth. Read how modern slavery is defined and where it is concentrated. See the dramatic difference between North and South Africa.

Snapshots of the planet at night from NASA reveal the energy poverty of Africa compared to the rest of the world. And, as you'll read, energy poverty translates to poor health care, stifled economic growth, toxic fumes, limited or no education, and a lack of safety. This, we know and have seen first-hand in our visits to Niger. Take a look at these maps. It's an eye-opener!

April 20, 2015

Can you imagineā€¦?

By Barbara Goldberg

On April 13th CBS NEWS featured this: “Woman walks Paris marathon with bucket on head.”

It featured a Gambian woman, Siabatou Sanneh, who wore a sandwich board that said, "In Africa women walk this distance each day for drinking water" as she carried a jerrycan of water on her head while walking the route of the 39th Paris Marathon in Paris, on April 12, 2015, to raise awareness for the cause of charity "Water for Africa."

Sanneh used the 39th Paris Marathon as a platform to bring awareness to the plight of women in her homeland and on behalf of the charity Water for Africa.  She and her two daughters walk eight kilometers, or five miles every day with a bucket containing 20 liters of water, weighing about 44 lbs. This is what the women who Wells Bring Hope serves in Niger do everyday day of their lives—they walk 4-6 miles carrying 40-50 lbs. of water.

On our most recent trip to Niger we learned something new and unbearably heart-breaking. On previous trips, we sought out women who had lost children due to contaminated water, wanting to talk with them to better understand the depth of this tragedy.

What we didn’t know until now is this: it is not unusual for pregnant women to miscarry because of the physically-demanding work of walking miles while carrying water. A month ago, I met women who experienced this—more to follow on their sad stories.

I also didn’t know that after a woman delivers a baby, in three days she is back out there walking to get water. Can you imagine?

April 15, 2015

Economic Development for Women in Niger: A Success Story

By Barbara Goldberg

I’m happy to report that Wells Bring Hope’s water projects in Niger are all going well, all fully operational, putting an end to death and disease from contaminated water. 328 wells have been funded with four more to come within the week.

Although you may have read about incursions into Niger by the Boko Haram a few months ago, the military successfully pushed them back. Niger is committed, along with neighboring countries, Chad and Cameroon, to eradicating them, not only in their own country but in northern Nigeria too. The area impacted was in the far southeastern part of Niger, where we do not have any wells. Our wells and partners on the ground have not been affected, except for the heightened security measures that were put in place about a year ago. This meant that wherever we traveled, we were accompanied by 10 armed guards from the Nigerien military.

What excited me most on this trip to Niger was the phenomenal  success of the economic development program for women that we helped to set up with our partner, World Vision, 2 ½ years ago. It is designed to educate women in an environment where they can be supported and are able to support each other in learning how to start and run a small business. After women no longer have to walk miles to carry water, they want to work and earn money. However, they lack the skills and resources to accomplish that. The vehicle for making this happen is the “savings group.”

Here’s how it works: about 25 women in a given village come together and form a savings group. They typically meet once a week and a World Vision facilitator works to educate them on business “basics”. Each woman contributes a small amount of money to their “bank” and they take turns making loans to each other.

In just a matter of months, the savings groups show results, with women starting their own small businesses, selling food they cook, raising vegetables, animals and more. The pay-back rate is 100%!

We listened to many success stories, but obviously the greatest triumph is that these women are able to provide economic security for their family where in the past they were always struggling for survival.

There are strong psychological benefits for these women: they are truly transformed, feeling successful, accomplished, proud and confident in their own abilities for the first time in their lives. It is evident in the way in which they hold themselves and speak.

What fascinated us was how marriages become true partnerships, with the women’s contribution helping take the burden off their husbands to support the family. Some of us hypothesized that maybe the men resented the success of their wives, but quite the opposite is true—they feel relieved and greatly appreciate what their wives are doing.

As marital relationships improve, the kids are happier too and feel so proud of their mom’s accomplishments. These mothers serve as role models for their girls who want to do the same when they grow up, and many of the older ones had started helping their mothers after school. The sons want their future wives to do exactly the same as their mothers are doing. Thus, the examples set by these women will serve to end the downward spiral of poverty and continue to very quickly transform lives for generations to come.

We felt proud too, that we helped make this program happen and continue to support it to bring about lasting change in the lives of the people of rural Niger.

April 13, 2015

Around the World in 31 days!

By Barbara Goldberg

I shouldn’t complain. I did a “dream” vacation to Raja Ampat, a remote area in northern Indonesia, flying west from Los Angeles, where, at your toe tips, is the best snorkeling and diving in the world. I spent 11 days on a 120ft boat with a small group and several times a day we plunged into a fantasy world of crystal clear water, pristine corals and exotic fish. After six days more of floating around in another paradise, North Sulawesi, it was time to get myself to Niger.

Getting to Niger from Singapore is NOT something I’d want to do again. After over-nighting in Singapore, I began a hopscotch journey—first to Frankfurt, then backtracking to Istanbul and finally into Niger at 11 pm more than one day later.   The good news—none of my flights were late, the bad—a couple of long layovers. 

Upon my arrival in Niger, I found out that our youngest team member, 18 year old Kate McEvilly was still en route. Due to a tight connection, she missed a flight, resulting in a 55 hour agonizing journey to get to Niger. We welcomed her with open arms and a soft bed to catch up on her zzzz’s.  Kate was a trouper, given that this was her first trip to Africa and the developing world. What a start!!

In a forgotten era, Niger was under control of the French, and so every morning our breakfast buffet included fresh baked croissants, addictive French bread, and the freshest-tasting yogurt, not to mention the scrumptious cheese! We even took some “to go,” much to the dismay of the waiters.

No one goes to Niger as a tourist, unless you are French and going to the very picturesque northern desert. However, since some kidnappings of French tourists a few years ago, even they have stopped coming.

There is only one other tourist site worth seeing in Niger: a giraffe preserve. On previous trips we had no time to visit and the wistful joke between us was, “maybe next time we’ll get to the giraffe park!” We had no hope this year since we’d be traveling with armed guards and they are expensive. However, we had a free day before our work in the field was scheduled to begin and our World Vision partners surprised us with a visit.

Unlike game preserves in other parts of Africa, there was nobody there, not one vehicle or tourist. For many years, theses giraffes competed with the local villagers for food and so their numbers dwindled. In the 19th century, thousands of them lived in West Africa, from Mauritania to Niger. Twenty years ago, fewer than 50 remained because of hunting, deforestation and development and they were heading for extinction.
However, thanks to efforts by the Nigerien government, the herd has come back to about 300 in this game preserve alone! They hang out in an area of about 40 square miles, although they have 650 square miles to roam. 

With the help of our guide, we found them quickly and they didn’t run from us even when we moved as they moved, grazing at one tree or another. We were mesmerized as they ambled slowly on their way, stopping to nuzzle each other, sometimes necks intertwined. The simple, child-like pleasure of watching animals was a very peaceful start to the intensity of the week that was to come.

April 9, 2015

What Matters Is Sustainability

By Kelsey Miller

Poverty in Africa has been a concern of the international community for a long time. For many years, governments, NGOs and global citizen’s energies centered around providing food, water, and shelter through the giving of monetary gifts or tangible products to help people survive. But, while providing access to these essential needs is important for many African communities, giving these things is not the solution for eradicating their poverty.

When any given aid runs out, those problems still exist and those on the receiving end are left in the exact same predicament. Thus, these communities become dependent upon the provisions given to them by the international community. When those who provided the aid see no tangible improvement in the lives of recipients, they can become disenchanted with their mission.

It takes a more comprehensive approach to providing aid to ensure lasting change in quality of life, or sustainability of any project designed to help people in the developing world. Accordingly, addressing structural inequalities and insecurities through aid relief, but with an emphasis on sustainable solutions, makes these countries independent from the developed world. In essence, sustainability means meeting the present needs of those in poverty but it also aims to create manageable processes of productivity, which will guarantee the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The mission and activities of Wells Bring Hope focus on not merely drilling wells but to ensure sustainability and create an atmosphere to promote long-term success on many levels. Niger, where WBH works exclusively, is the poorest country in the world and suffers from chronic water scarcity issues; 61% of rural residents have no access to clean water while 98% lack access to basic sanitation. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of wells end up failing due to poor technology or construction, lack of rural community involvement and lack of follow up.  To avoid such an outcome, Wells Bring Hope gives oversight of the wells to the community, but, only after it provides both the tools and knowledge for them to do that. By effectively addressing this one main component, i.e. water, it enables the people on their own to take control of their future.

In villages where there is no access to water, girls will often have to walk 4-6 miles a day to get water for their families. When a well was installed at the high school in the village of Simiri CEG, the lives of girls in particular were improved because they did not have to walk miles to retrieve water and thus could actually go school and become educated. In a country where few children go beyond primary school, the Simiri CEG students are now thriving due to access to water.

While giving money and tangible things like food can be a great short-term relief mechanism, sustainability creates conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony. As shown through Wells Bring Hope's success, this sustainable solution empowers villages in Niger to make greater strides in lifting themselves from poverty by fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

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