March 7, 2015

International Women’s Day

By Norma Gutierrez

International Women’s Day is a day for the world to reflect on the role of women and an occasion to congratulate all women around the world.  At Wells Bring Hope we are honored to work with the women of Niger and to empower them through microfinance programs that transform their lives. These women wake up every morning wanting to succeed and help the people around them. We see in them their readiness to start a new life, where walking for miles to get water is no longer on their agenda, and where their dream for a better future for their children can become a reality. 

On this special day we congratulate the women of Niger for having the courage to be empowered, the strength to inspire their children to dream, and the resolution to start a new life. We are honored to know such remarkable women, and to be a part of their new life and we look forward to doing more with them and for them in the future.

We would also like to thank and congratulate the inspiring women that make Wells Bring Hope a reality. From our founder to all of our volunteers, supporters, and donors, every woman that is involved in Wells Bring Hope is remarkable. All of the women that support us do so because it is in their heart to see a better world. The kindness and care that our women show is nothing short of extraordinary and life changing.

On this special day we want to thank you for your support, time, donations and maybe even sleepless nights where you have stayed up wanting to do more for the people of Niger. We want to congratulate all of you on your day and thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for being remarkable women.

Happy Women’s Day!


January 15, 2015

Wells Bring Empowerment

By Danielle Johnson

Two-thirds of Niger is covered by vast swathes of the Sahara desert. Droughts are common; food security issues are endemic and are further exacerbated by the increasing arrival of refugees fleeing northern Nigeria and northern Mali. These conditions, when coupled with prevalent infectious disease and one of the lowest sanitation coverage rates in the world, leave the West African nation of Niger with some of the highest rates of malnutrition and mortality in the world. Niger, a country roughly twice the size of France, is the poorest country on earth.

Roughly half the total population in Niger lack access to safe water and 90% of the population has no access to a simple toilet. The health implications are staggering. Some 12,000 children die each year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Niger. A 2010 USAID report indicated that over 20% of all deaths in Niger can be attributed to poor sanitation and hygiene alone. Here, water is everything and the burden of providing water falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women and girls.

In Africa, women and girls invest some 40 billion hours a year walking to fetch water for their families, which is often contaminated. They have no choice but to trek several miles in difficult conditions in search of water. They lower buckets by rope into deep wells, work that is both difficult and dangerous, and then begin their long journey home, lugging their precious cargo. Girls miss school to complete this task which traps them in a cycle of poverty that stifles their individual potential and hinders Niger’s development as a whole.

In Niger, approximately 85% of women are illiterate and 40% of girls are married before their 15th birthday. Niger is among the world’s top 15 countries with the worst maternal mortality rates, with one-third of maternal deaths occurring among girls between the ages of 15-19. These numbers demonstrate why education and economic empowerment of women are so critical. Study after study has proven that women are more likely to invest income in their children, fueling a virtuous cycle that helps to lift future generations out of poverty. Statistically, when girls are educated they marry later and are less likely to suffer complications or die in pregnancy and childbirth. They also tend to have healthier children and are more likely to send them to school.

In addition to providing water, women are largely in charge of planting, harvesting and milling cereals, all while caring for their children. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world, with more than 7 children born to each woman. These women are incredibly hardworking and resourceful yet most lack access to productive resources. Wells Bring Hope (WBH) is changing this by providing the women of Niger with the tools they need to better support themselves and their families.  The untapped potential of women and girls in Niger is just as much an opportunity as it is a tragedy.

Ironically, Niger has a plentiful supply of underground aquifers but lacks the ability to harness their potential. WBH is changing this, one well at a time. Once we drill a well, the impact on health and sanitation for the entire village is immediate and transformative. Infant mortality drops by up to 70%. Villagers are educated in good hygiene practices and sanitation. They learn how to protect water from contamination, how to prevent trachoma and how to use grey water to improve farming. Latrines are constructed. Infectious disease plummets. Perhaps just as importantly, once a village has an established safe water source girls are finally able to attend school. Women find themselves with 50% more free which they can now utilize to earn income. And when women work, economies grow.

WBH provides mircofinance education to women in every village. Women are taught how to manage money, but many must first learn how to count and do simple math. They then work together to form savings groups and become micro-entrepreneurs, starting businesses to earn income they will use to support themselves and their families. Their empowerment translates to an overall increase in economic productivity. This leads to improvements in the health and nutrition of the village as a whole, but especially for its most vulnerable demographic – their children.

Regional instability impacts Niger on nearly every border, with the violent networks of Boko Haram, AQIM, MUJAO and other extremist groups drawing the world’s attention in recent years. The world watched in horror in April 2014 when, in violent opposition of education, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. As Malala Yousafzai so bravely and famously testified, education disempowers terrorists and maintains the ability to transform a society. Regarding Yousafzai’s shooting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted, “the terrorists showed what frightens them most: a girl with a book.”

At current fertility rates the population of Niger will more than triple by 2050, making the nation’s youth more important than ever in securing a more stable and prosperous future. A burgeoning population will place added stress on already limited resources and lacking sanitation coverage. Improving sustainable access to safe water, improving proper sanitation and promoting good hygiene practices are critical and immediate needs WBH will continue to address in Niger. The longer term benefit of securing access to education for girls is critical to broader development efforts, which WBH is helping to make a reality in each village a well is drilled. Women who are empowered are more likely to stand up against injustice and contribute to ensuring economic and sociopolitical stability. An empowered woman becomes a force multiplier which is precisely why violent extremists are so afraid of girls with books.

November 20, 2014

The PEACE Fund’s Celebrity Tournament Was a Big Success!

by Barbara Goldberg


Thanks to Adrian Paul of The PEACE Fund for hosting an incredibly sucessful celebrity poker tournament, which raised enough money for Wells Bring Hope to drill two wells in Niger!


It was a very successful event by all measures. Poker-playing celebrities and even those who don’t play much, came out to support the event.

It was a lovely group of people who were clearly having a great time, both before and during play. People came in feeling very relaxed and happy to be there, mingling and connecting with those they knew and wanted to know while raising money for a good cause.


The tournament was put on for Microsoft employees, and Microsoft matched all the money that was raised, dollar for dollar.

We are so grateful to The PEACE Fund for making us the beneficiary of the event and allowing us to take part in something totally new to us. We are thrilled that our cause resonated with the guests, a number of whom expressed an interest in becoming more involved with Wells Bring Hope.


The tournament winner was none other than my son-in-law, Tom McCluskey! He hadn’t played poker in years but his heart was in the right place!!

September 24, 2014

Annual Fundraiser

As you drive east on Sunset Boulevard toward Beverly Hills, you’ll pass a house that's sure to catch your eye. Its life-sized, amusing sculptures can't be missed. You’ll ask yourself, “I wonder who lives there?” and “What else is behind those gates?”

The guests at Wells Bring Hope’s annual fundraiser had those questions answered for them last Sunday when they were welcomed to the home of philanthropist, Stanley Black.


It was a balmy afternoon, a perfect time to stroll the 2 ½ acres and feast one’s eyes on the many statues that dot the lawn.


Honorees, Mandana and Alan Azad had many of their friends join them.

Also joining us was Adrian Paul of The Highlander TV series and founder of The Peace Fund.

Guests nibbled on lots of delicious food from Craig’s Crew and the wine was flowing. Socha Tea treated us to three yummy iced teas that were a huge hit!

With close to 100 items in our silent auction, our guests had lots of ways to spend their donor dollars, including many travel and fine dining experiences.

At the close of the silent auction, guests moved to the back lawn, to be welcomed by Founder and President, Barbara Goldberg, who talked about the work of Wells Bring Hope and why it is worthy of their donor dollars.

After Barbara's remarks, Cultural Ambassador to UNESCO, Gil Garcetti, the man who inspired Wells Bring Hope, presented an award to honorees Mandana and Alan Azad, and Adrian Paul spoke about why The Peace Fund chose to support Wells Bring Hope.

Following Barbara's and Gil's remarks, Grant Snyder, auctioneer extraordinaire, took the stage to auction off some amazing trips—to Puerto Vallarta, Park City, and Napa plus two tickets to anywhere in the world, Business Class, on Turkish Airlines.

Thanks to our wonderful supporters and tireless volunteers, the event was a huge success!  We raised over $300,000 thanks to the help of Bill Bloomfield who matched funds that were donated for wells, in the amount of $25,000. Special thanks to Gigi and Alan Cheung of Panda Restaurant Group who donated eight wells that were matched by the Panda Foundation. We would also like to thank pro bono Event Planner and long-time friend of Barbara’s, Carol Rosen of Party Designs by Carol.

We are very grateful to Debrah Lemattre of Stretch Media for capturing the festive atmosphere and joyful donors in all of these terrific photographs!

*If you would like to see more photos or download any of those you see above, they will be available here until the end of the month.

July 17, 2014

Annual Volunteer BBQ

On July 13th, local Wells Bring Hope volunteers gathered at the home of Founder and President Barbara Goldberg for the annual summer barbecue. Special thanks to Jessica Isaac for taking these photos of all of our lovely volunteers!

We love it when our volunteers introduce their friends to Wells Bring Hope. As Barbara says, one of the best ways to support us is to "walk through the world with Wells Bring Hope!"

As always, Barbara provided a feast, and everyone ate ewll!

After everyone had eaten, we took some time to recognize a few extra special volunteers. First, Barbara presented long-time WBH supporter and current Director of Volunteer Management Ida Harding with the a lifetime achievement award for all she has done to help us save lives with safe water. Next Director of Operations Kate Cusimano presented Volunteer of the Year awards to webmaster Chuck Gooley and Director of Special Events Helen Rigg. Both Chuck and Helen are invaluable to Wells Bring Hope, and we couldn't be happier to have them on our team!

Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers; we could not do this without you!

June 26, 2014

Her Head

By Joan Murray

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

Near Ekuvukeni,
in Natal, South Africa,
a woman carries water on her head.
After a year of drought,
when one child in three is at risk of death,
she returns from a distant well,
carrying water on her head.

The pumpkins are gone,
the tomatoes withered,
yet the woman carries water on her head.
The cattle kraals are empty,
the goats gaunt-
no milk now for children,
but she is carrying water on her head.

The engineers have reversed the river:
those with power can keep their power,
but one woman is carrying water on her head.
In the homelands, where the dusty crowds
watch the empty roads for water trucks,
one woman trusts herself with treasure,
and carries water on her head.

The sun does not dissuade her,
not the dried earth that blows against her,
as she carries the water on her head.
In a huge and dirty pail,
with an idle handle,
resting on a narrow can,
this woman is carrying water on her head.

This woman, who girds her neck
with safety pins, this one
who carries water on her head,
trusts her own head to bring to her people
what they need now
between life and death:
She is carrying them water on her head.


From Looking for the Parade (W. W. Norton), used by permission of the author.

June 23, 2014

The Price of Water: Guatemala

by Stella Salguero-Ramirez

{source: Pedro Szekely}

The summer of 1998, I spent three months in Guatemala City with my family. The majority of my relatives live there, and I frequently go for two week visits to see my cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandmother. My memories from that summer include fun packed days visiting ruins in Antigua, traveling hours down spiraling dirt roads, lush green, scenic routes and distant volcanos that stirred an interest in hiking. That summer, however, was not spent on touristic expeditions. We didn’t rampantly capture every scenic second of our visit with our cameras; we spent our time like locals. To my mother and father, of course this was nostalgic, a return home; to me, it was culture shock. The sole intent of our trip was to spend as much time as possible with my fragile great-grandmother before her time came.

The weeks rolled by, and one thing that did not get easier was bathing. Showering was not an option. The showerheads at my mother’s childhood home did not work, and hot water was nonexistent as they didn’t have the means to purchase a water heater. I found myself unmotivated to bathe because my only option was a bath in freezing water. To an 8-year-old girl, diving into arctic cold water for hygiene purposes was not an appealing concept, so I opted to go days without a drop of water hitting my skin. My Tia Carmen would chase me around the terrace, forcing me wash myself. My cousins would all help her carry me down the terrace stairs to force me to the pila, a concrete t-shaped sink useful for washing clothes, dishes and stinky 8-year-old brats who refused to live a sanitary existence.

{source: Guatemala Through My Eyes}

Tia Carmen would heat the water for me on the stove, but I found the entire process daunting and excruciatingly uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to this process of bathing; I was refusing to conform to their ways, until it finally hit me. They were going out of their way to heat water on the stove and to convince me to practice basic hygiene. I was only there for three months; they had never left the country. Everyone was accustomed to small rations of water a day, but I could not wrap my mind around it.

To this day, Guatemala has an abundance of water. Rain pours in generous amount through the months of August and September. Enough water exists to supply the demand yet what is lacking is the appropriate management to disperse this supply to the entire population. According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, “94% now have access to improved water resources; 80% have improved sanitation facilities.” These statistics are a remarkable improvement, yet improvement shouldn’t end at the 80th percentile. Guatemala should continue to raise the bar to achieve 100% improved sanitation and safety for all. 

According to the Water Resources Assessment of Guatemala compiled, US Army Corps of Engineers explains that, “The quality of surface water resources is generally fresh except along the coastal areas of the country. However, based on established biological and chemical standards, every water body in the country should be considered contaminated. In agricultural areas, pesticides are a primary source of contamination. Sewage from Guatemala City has caused the Rio Villalobos, which receives 60 percent of the sewage, and the Rio Las Vacas, which receives the remaining 40 percent of the sewage, to be considered the most contaminated streams in the country.”

Contaminated water has detrimental effects on the lives of many and poses life-threatening challenges to many more, particularly children. Access to safe water must  increase to 100% around the world. Everyone has the right to safe water, food, and shelter. Increasing access to clean water can reduce deaths by more than 50% around the world. Every adult and child around the world should know what clean water tastes like. Let’s make this dream a reality!

June 20, 2014

School’s Out

By Bryan Langdo

Summer is here, and another school year has ended. For two whole months, my wife and I will have a break from the endless stream of homework, projects, emails, parent-teacher conferences, and other school events.  Our  kids will be free to swim, ride their bikes, and roam the woods behind our house. I'm especially happy for my daughter, who is just coming out of kindergarten.

{source: woodleywonderworks}

When I think back to my own year in kindergarten, I remember a lot of fun stuff: learning letters and listening to stories, making collages, playing with my friends. It was pretty laidback. My daughter, on the other hand, was given long lists of words to memorize, time-consuming projects, and a ton of homework—more than any five-year-old should have to deal with. So when a homework assignment was too much, or a project too big, I'd do what any responsible parent would do. I'd crumple it up and throw it in the trash. "Go outside and have fun!" I'd say.

{source: Hope Abrams}

I'm privileged that I can do such a thing, I know. The only reason I could, quite literally, throw out some of my child's education is because she was getting way more than she needed. She had a surplus of education at her disposal. It's the same thing with water. I can forget to turn off the faucet while scrubbing dishes (though I try not to) because I have more water than I need.

For many people around the world, and in Niger specifically, water and education are tightly linked, and neither is something to be casually thrown away. Over 60% of people in rural Niger don't have access to clean water. Those people must deal with the daily task of making multiple trips to a stream, a shallow well, or other water source, which is often filthy and often miles away.

This grueling task falls disproportionately on women and young girls. And since fetching water can take up to 50% of the day, the majority of girls in rural Niger don't have time to go to school. As a result, 85% of Nigerien women are illiterate. Without a proper education, these girls are unlikely to earn a decent living later in life, and the cycle of poverty continues.

That's why the work that Wells Bring Hope does is so important. When a well is drilled in a village, the women and girls in that village have their time back. The girls can go to school and receive an education, and the women receive microfinance support and can start small businesses with their freed up time. When you donate to Wells Bring Hope, you’re helping to provide both water and education to people—people who need it desperately. People who don’t have the luxury of throwing any of it away.

June 17, 2014

A Shower Alternative

by Jessi Johnson

{source: Steven Depolo}

There is increased awareness of the need for clean water in the world.  The global water crisis has become both a rallying point for many who strive to address the issues of lack of access to drinkable water and other limited resources.  When thinking about fighting about the water crisis, we usually think about the struggle for clean drinking water, and it can be easy to overlook another challenge faced by those lacking access to water – the inability to take a shower and bathe their children.

Many take for granted being able to wash themselves; for some countries, it is not only a matter of hygiene, but one of religion and ritual as well.  Being able to purify in water can hold great cultural significance.  The health benefits of staying clean are more obvious: decreased illnesses, improved immune strength, quicker recovery from illness, and better moods.  Being able to solve the global water crisis will lead to healthier bodies, inside and out.

For 23-year-old Ludwick Marishane, the power of the shower was just as essential as fresh drinking water.  The South African-born entrepreneur created “DryBath,” a germ-killing gel that allows a person to bathe without using a single drop of water – all one has to do is apply the lotion to skin and rub vigorously.  DryBath is a blend of cleansers, moisturizers, natural emollients, and fruit acids – to cleanse the skin and to prevent dryness, irritation and body odor. 

This amazing lotion isn’t just for the person too lazy to shower; it could become an essential tool in conserving clean water.  Water can take an entire day to gather, and the local water source may be polluted or dried up.  When water is limited and people are forced to choose between quenching their thirst or cleaning their bodies, most people will make the practical choice and cut out a “luxury” like showering.

Even for societies which don’t bathe regularly as a cultural norm, the DryBath is an opportunity to bring in a system of hygiene that will save water costs and improve health. When water doesn’t have to be used for bathing, the local population can use their limited resource of clean water for drinking and cooking. There are nearly 2 billion people in the world without access to clean water and adequate sanitation.   In contrast, urban communities consume an average of 21 gallons every time they turn on the shower.  DryBath provides a stopgap solution for communities without access to water, but may also be an important resource for places  that overindulge in water – cut back on water usage in urban societies, and more water could be available to rural ones. 

Marishane’s project is still in development, but its very existence offers hope.  While it is essential to increase access to clean drinking water around the world, perhaps there is also a way to simultaneously increase access to clean bathing?  After all, everyone has the right to feel clean, inside and out.

June 3, 2014

A Time for Reflection

by Shelton Owen

{Editor’s note: New blogger Shelton Owen reflects on the devastating tornadoes that struck the Midwest a few weeks ago, her thoughts turn from unpreventable tragedy to the entirely preventable problems faced by people in Niger who lack access to clean water.}

{source: Jonathan Bell}

As tornadoes sweep across the country, destroying anything and anyone in their path, people are left with broken hearts and crumbled hope. The surface of the earth is swept clean, taking out homes, schools, businesses, and many innocent lives. A horrific act of nature, unplanned and unwelcome, can shake the lives of many, turning the world upside down in a matter of seconds. Though right now the pain is raw, thoughts clouded by the grief, I truly believe there is something we can all learn from these experiences. It may take months or even years, but the struggles we must trek through in this life will shape us into warriors, filled with  wisdom and strong souls.

One of my favorite quotes of all time, a short but powerful string of words, is this, "Our scars remind us where we've been, but they don't have to dictate where we're going." Those affected by these recent storms have been gashed, wounds open and exposed. Over time, the cuts will begin to heal, the scabs will form, and eventually the scars will set in-permanent though they become more faint as time passes. This monster's victims will never forget what took place, but my prayer is that they can use their own pain as motivation to act-to change the things they can and accept those they cannot.

{source: Jonathan Bell}

As the rest of us in the country looks on, we often find ourselves reflecting upon our own lives, counting blessings and thinking about the "what ifs." Sometimes, it takes a core-shaking event like this to make us become aware of life's imperfections. When we face the reality that life isn't fair and not all things can be explained, it's easy to let it drag us down. My belief is that rather than focusing on the negative, it's so much more rewarding to turn this experience into something bigger-to go beyond. Rather than sitting in our comfortable homes, feeling devastated yet powerless, let's take action.

When it comes to preventing tornadoes, we truly don't have control, but when it comes to the epidemic occurring in the country of Niger, we are anything but helpless. Wells Bring Hope is an organization that makes a difference, which chooses to address the heartbreaking issue of limited access to sanitized drinking water. Wells Bring Hope is a network made up of everyday people who chose to take a step. The first step in the direction of success is to simply raise awareness. By eliminating what I call the "bubble mindset", we are able to have a global understanding of the shortfalls in water sanitation systems. What I mean by the "bubble mindset" is that when we focus on our own life and only what we see, we find ourselves forgetting the world outside of our scope, the people not necessarily near us but still in need. The people of Niger may be thousands of miles from you and me, but in reality, are we not all one?

{A World Vision staff member and a Nigerien child}

We are humans, humans that eat, drink, love, and hurt.  Through the work of Wells Bring Hope, your prayers, and donations, a change can be made. The daily obstacle to find safe, clean drinking water for their families is one that a multitude of people in Niger face, and one that can be eliminated. In fact, only 60% of the people in rural areas merely have access to a sanitized water source. It is clear measures must be taken to combat this prevalent issue. The task will take time, hard work, and the combined efforts of people like you and me, but it is anything but impossible.

Newer Posts   Older Posts