May 21, 2014

Wells Bring Hope vs. Boko Haram

by Barbara Goldberg

{photo by Ken Kilroy}

It’s impossible not to feel outrage at what has happened in Nigeria: 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in mid-April, and the government has been ineffectual in getting them back. The international community is finally paying attention after Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau threatened to “sell them in the marketplace” as slaves or child brides.

These were girls, ripe with hope and striving to get an education, who risked their lives to come to school for one day to take an exam, despite the fact that many schools in their region had closed because of the Boko Haram threat.

{photo by Ken Kilroy}

Here we are, a tiny nonprofit, thousands of miles away in Los Angeles viewing Boko Haram as our sworn enemy. Boko Haram fights to destroy what we so desperately try to bring about: education for girls. We work just across the border from Nigeria in Niger, a country where  girls are routinely deprived of an education because it falls to them to walk miles every day to collect water for their families. As a result, 85% of women in Niger, the poorest country in the world, cannot read or write. When we drill a well in a village, girls are immediately returned to the classroom because they no longer have to walk for water. This is one of the many transformative benefits of drilling a well.

The future success of developing countries throughout the world depends on having educated women in the work force. With almost half of the potential labor pool missing in action, countries like Niger have a hard time raising their standard of living and giving women what they deserve: an opportunity to work and better the lives of their children.

{photo by Ken Kilroy}

As Nicolas Kristof asked in the New York Times on May 11th, “Why are fanatics so terrified of girls’ education? Because there’s no force more powerful to transform a society. If you want to mire a nation in backwardness, manacle your daughters.”

As Kristof pointedly says, “To stick it to the Boko Haram, help educate a girl.” By supporting Wells Bring Hope you are supporting the education of girls. Fight Boko Haram by helping to drill a well and keep a girl in school.

May 5, 2014

Water Crisis?

by Bryan Langdo

{Mt. Tabor Reservoir, Portland Oregon, source: The Oregonian}

Water Officials in Portland, Oregon, recently decided to flush 38 million gallons of water from a reservoir after a man urinated in it. A similar event took place in 2011; that time, they flushed nearly 8 million gallons. Public safety was never at risk in either situation. Birds and other animals use the reservoir as a latrine as well, and it would take a lot of urine to have any impact on such a large body of water. In both events, the water was discarded simply because the idea that someone urinated in it is, well, “yucky.” The decision-makers in both instances knew they were going to face a lot of criticism no matter what they decided to do. They’d either be wasting water or supplying it to people who knew someone had peed in it. Ultimately, they flushed it because they can. As Portland Water Bureau spokesman David Shaff said, “It’s easy to replace those 38 million gallons of water.”

The whole thing says a lot about how privileged we are here in the U.S. If we think water is even slightly gross, we dump it. After all, there’s always plenty more where it came from.

Even when we do have water shortages in the U.S., the impact on our lives is minimal. We’re told to take shorter showers and refrain from washing our cars or watering our lawns. California is experiencing a drought right now, and all Governor Brown has asked is that people cut their use by 20%. And we rarely have to worry about being thirsty. Even if our tap water is of questionable quality, we can just buy bottled water or a filter to put on our faucet.

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

But for approximately 8 million people in rural Niger, the only water available is downright filthy, and even that is in short supply. It’s usually the same water animals swim in, and it’s often contaminated with bacteria and parasites that can lead to a number of horrible diseases, such as diarrhea, trachoma, and bilharzia. For Nigeriens, the water isn’t “yucky”—it’s dangerous and often deadly. With no other options, though, they have no choice but to risk drinking it. That’s why Wells Bring Hope is determined to drill the 11,000 more wells that are needed to provide everyone with the clean, safe water they need. When a village gets a well, the people in that village get access to clean water—something we in the U.S. often take for granted—and their lives are transformed. For them, water isn't about washing cars or watering lawns. It's about survival—another thing many of us take for granted.


April 24, 2014

Women and Water

By Kathleen Treat, Chair of Strong Women, Strong World

My recent trip to Niger was unlike any other trip I have taken.  I find myself explaining it by calling it “simple.”  The needs are so basic and fundamental that they need little explanation.  There is not a lot of context to grasp.  It’s very clear.

I knew, intellectually, what it meant when dealing with the issue of women and water.  I’ve been to communities where women have to walk long distances to fetch water for their family.  It was one of many hardships that women bore as they tried to provide for their children.

But Niger was different.  It was raw.  It took that knowledge I had in my head and moved it to my gut.  As I rode hour after hour through a barren landscape, the needs became simpler and more gut wrenching.  Water is life.  Water is everything.  There are no other needs if there is no water.  There are no other choices if there is no water.

We visited several pump sites in the communities.  The joy around them was palpable.  One woman told us that the stagnant water source the community had been using had tested positive for Cholera.  The government had told them that they couldn’t use it.  But it was the only water available, and so they used it.  Without water, there are no options.

The most exciting thing for me on the trip is what we were calling “WASH +”.  Women in these communities spent 6-8 hours hunting for water every day.  When a pump came, that time was instantly freed up.  For the first time, they had the opportunity to look at their other needs, to have some choices.  In these communities, World Vision was introducing women’s savings groups (as the “plus”) to the WASH program.  The women were able to come together and be trained in the first steps of, what is essentially, community banking.  They would pool the small amount of money they had, make loans to each other, and share in the profits that they all made.

It was astounding to see the changes.  They were able to grow better food for their families, send their children to school, and earn the respect of their husbands.  They had hope for the first time, and they were embracing it.

It was very simple:  provide clean water, provide instruction, and watch while their entrepreneurial spirits ignited.

April 21, 2014

Water Wars

by Jessi Johnson

{source: dopamineharper}

It may seem silly right now to imagine war breaking out over a cup of water – but with decreasing access to clean water in developing countries, increased competition for resources, and 3.4 million people dying every year from water-related diseases, that cup of water suddenly has a lot more significance. 

The correlations between human conflict and environmental issues are complex.  Environmental factors are rarely the sole reason for conflict, but issues such as access to and availability of clean water inevitably lead to clashes or violence.  Environmental degradation, poorly designed trade and aid policies, and reckless exploitation of natural resources imperil human security. 

Struggles over the “earth’s most precious resource” are rising steadily in many countries, and tackling this challenge has the attention of major political forums, from the White House to the CIA, the Pentagon, USAID, UFO, and the African Union.  Competition over resources such as water and energy will worsen tensions between different ethnic, cultural, and political groups of people, both within and across borders, and could escalate regional conflicts into even broader ones, especially within developing states.  Water security is fast becoming one of the most important debates at any major political gathering; “A sustainable and safe supply of water is necessary to the development and security of every nation,” says Rajiv Shah, a USAID administrator.

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

According to the U.S. State Department, a high percentage of developing countries, especially fragile states in West Africa, will experience the water shortages, poor water quality, floods, or lack of water security that lead to instability, tension, even state failure.  While these problems within country are harrowing enough, water security has greater intercontinental consequences: “Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth” (DNI, 2012). 

When a country fails to supply usable water to its people, the population suffers. Healthy crops cannot grow, or they grow with the help of polluted water.  These crops and the polluted water itself in turn sicken the people who are then unable to work and contribute to economic growth.  Famine and an increase in water-related illnesses can result, furthering the decline in cultural and economic growth.  The economic stability of the country threatens the entire infrastructure, which has a domino effect on the stability of surrounding nations, either through trade, border violence, or swelling immigrant numbers of people trying to find fresh water.   Developing countries lose power on the global stage, affecting future prospects for growth.  With so much increased tension, war is often not far off. 

While drilling a well in West Africa may seem like a small step to some, it has a ripple effect, which touches the lives of every bordering country.  Access to clean water can soothe tensions, lead to a healthy—and working—population, and stimulate economic growth.  There is a crucial need to understand the links between environmental change, natural resources, and human safety in order to stave off further conflict.  A glass of clean water is not something to be taken for granted; it is a key step toward improving security.

March 25, 2014

Water, Water, Everywhere?

by Lauren Cohen

This past Saturday was World Water Day, a day to be grateful for our access to clean drinking water and a time to turn our attention to the millions of people who are so fortunate.

Globally speaking, fresh water is an endangered resource. Droughts are common and water is scarce. According to the U.S. State Department, the domestic need for fresh water will exceed supply by 40 percent by the year 2030. While people are aware of the global water shortage to some extent,  many do not realize the implications for the impoverished residents of undeveloped countries.

Source: Allan Foster

Here are some facts and figures about the lack of safe water wells and sanitation:
• Approximately 1.8 million people die every year from diarrheal diseases; 90% are children under 5 years old.
• 500 million people are at risk from trachoma due in large part to the lack of face and body washing.
• Every year there are 1.5 million cases of clinical Hepatitis A, a disease which is often transmitted through water or unwashed food.
• On average, women in Africa and Asia have to walk 3.7 miles every day to collect water.
• Almost 4 million people die each year from water-related diseases.
• 70% of the world is covered in water, but only 1% is drinkable.
• 768 million people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water and 2.5 billion people live without proper sanitation
• Across the globe, every day, 1,400 children die from diseases directly linked to unsafe water or a lack of basic sanitation facilities.

So we know that many people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and we know that when water is unsafe and sanitation is non-existent, death and disease are the result. But what can we do? As individuals, we can start by being cognizant of global water conditions and helping to spread awareness. Sweeping the globe with knowledge about water will help bring this issue to the forefront, and help to generate the will necessary to bring clean drinking water to those in need. To see how you can work with us, plase visit our Get Involved page; or consider making a donation today.


March 19, 2014

I Am Sandra Bullock

by Jessica Isaac

photo credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Living 3 miles from the Dolby Digital Theater in Hollywood, it’s impossible for me to ignore film awards season. Hollywood Blvd, the lifeline of Tinseltown and my main cross street, has been flowing with glitz, glamor, and gridlock for weeks in preparation for the world-famous Oscars Ceremony. When I tuned-in to the awards show, hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, I felt proud to live in the midst of the excitement being broadcast to millions around the world. Comfortably gathered around the TV with a few film-buff friends, I laughed, critiqued, and snacked the night away as DeGeneres took light-hearted jabs at the millionaire audience members.

After ordering a pizza for the first few star-studded rows, DeGeneres looked to Best Actress nominee Sandra Bullock to foot the bill, stating, “Sandy […] you’ve got a lot of money, you can tip him.” This likely got a lot of people wondering just how much money Sandra Bullock was paid to star in the blockbuster hit Gravity, but anyone who has spotted a tabloid cover in line at the grocery store should already have a ball-park number in mind.

Knowing celebrity salaries makes it easy for us to point fingers and deflect the attention away from ourselves. Sure, “Sandy’s” bank account could likely fund significantly more charitable projects than mine could, and who knows, maybe it already does -- but that’s not the point of this blog. Unfortunately, Miss Bullock’s checking account has nothing to do with my own, and that's ok. While Sandra Bullock may have more money than I do -- globally speaking, we aren't so different.

In an effort to put my financial status into perspective, and prove I am no different than Sandra Bullock (humor me here), I’d like to use Sandy's pay rate to show you all just how fortunate we are here in the United States, as compared to those in an impoverished country like Niger.

Here are some random income stats to get you thinking:
According to Time Magazine, Sandra Bullock was paid $20 million up front for her role in Gravity.  According to my current pay stubs, I make $24,000 per year.  Anyone familiar with math knows this is a significant gap. To be more precise, my yearly income is less than 1% of Sandra Bullock’s paycheck for Gravity (.1% to be exact).

According to, the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in the United States is $52,340. A little bit more than mine, but still less than 1% of Sandra Bullock’s income. According to World Vision, the Gross National Income of a person in Niger is $360 per year. This is less than 1% of the GNI per capita in the United States (.7% to be exact). The conclusion here, folks, is that, on average, those in Niger make roughly the same percentage of our income that we make of Sandra Bullock’s income. And, let’s face it, Sandra Bullock is RICH. To a Nigerien, you are rich.

What is my point in telling you all of this? Maybe you, like me, often don’t donate to charities like Wells Bring Hope because you think the amount you can afford is too small to make a difference. As someone near the low-income bracket, I often clutch my wallet and assume someone more “well-off” will foot the bill. Next time I think I'm not fortunate like Jennifer Lawrence, or successful like Brad Pitt, I hope I choose to, instead, think of what my contribution can mean to a Nigerien whose income is approximately 1% of mine.



March 7, 2014

Equality for Women is Progress for All

by Matt Baldry

Saturday, March 8th is International Women’s Day. Over the last couple of decades the UN, who first officially observed this day in 1977, has promoted different themes each year. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring Change.’ This theme can certainly be recognized in Niger, and it is only fitting to look at a Nigerien woman who embodies the truth of this statement. Hadijatou Mani Koraou is an inspiring Nigerien figure who managed to break free from the shackles of slavery and gain her independence, making a better life for herself and her family. Crucially, her case shows not just the importance of personal independence, but also the necessity of financial independence for women.

At the age of 12, Mani was sold into slavery for the equivalent of $500 and forced to “marry” her master. For the next nine years, Mani endured forced labor, physical abuse, and sexual assault at the hands of her master. A human rights organization helped Mani to get ‘Liberation Certificate’ in August 2005, but her former master still would not allow her to leave, claiming that she was his wife. When she managed to escape on the pretext of visiting her sick mother, she married a man of her choice.

Hadijatou Mani Koraou with one of her children

Mani came to international attention in 2008 when she successfully charged the Nigerien government with failing to follows its own laws and international obligations to protect her, and all citizens, from slavery. When the courts found in her favour, Mani was awarded 10m CFA francs, equal to $19,750 at 2008 exchange rates. With this money she was able to build a home and buy cows and goats, which provide an income for herself and her family. It also means her children will be able to go to school and get the education that she was denied. This money will obviously allow Mani to have a better life, but future generations will also feel the benefits of the ruling well into the future.

Although Mani’s situation is an extreme one, she has used her settlement to make her and her family financially independent. Her story helps to demonstrate the importance of financial independence for women in Nigerien communities. Wells Bring Hope has long recognized that financial independence for women is crucial to the wellbeing of all in the community. That is why, along with funding new wells, Wells Bring Hope has been providing microfinance education to women, which allows them to to start savings groups and ultimately begin their own business ventures. They can use skills they already have, such as raising chickens and goats as Mani has done with her settlement, to make extra money.

By encouraging these ventures, Wells Bring Hope is helping these women to become role models for their children and other villagers. Mani has shown that the idea of ‘equality for women is progress for all’ cannot be denied. With her freedom, she transformed not only her life, but the lives of her children as well. This is true for women across Niger and around the world, where economic equality and opportunity for women fosters progress for all.

February 20, 2014

A Father-To-Be Reflects on Child Mortality

By Nick Baldry

I’m using the Wells Bring Hope Blog to boast. I’m going to be a father, yay for me! I will resist the urge to delve into every detail of my wife’s pregnancy, even though every change, every developmental stage is fascinating to me. I will resist because I know that we are not the only ones who have ever had a child, and keeping people up to date with day-by-day progress is not some sort of world service, documenting a never before seen phenomenon.

In truth, our child will be one of approximately 134 million born worldwide in 2014. Some will be born into wealth and stability, some into grinding poverty fraught with danger. My wife and I are already feeling the need to protect our child, a natural instinct that takes hold of every parent. We are fortunate enough to have access to things like healthcare, food, adequate shelter as well as quality water and sanitation. With these tools our as yet unborn child is already miles ahead of many of his fellow 2014ers in the survival stakes. Losing him for any reason is the stuff of nightmares, the sort of heart-wrenching experience no parent should ever go through.

Tragically, losing a child is something millions of parents endure every year. A disproportionate number of parents in sub-Saharan Africa have to cope with outliving their offspring, the region sees half of all child deaths worldwide according to Save the Children. Thankfully, the news is not all bleak. Late last year, Save the Children reported that the child mortality rate has been dropping dramatically in Niger. In 1990, 326 children died before their fifth birthday per 1,000 live births; by 2013 that figure had fallen to 114 per 1,000 live births. A rate of 114 deaths per 1,000 is still staggeringly high – the US saw just 7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, in the same year Sudan saw 79 deaths per 1,000 live births and Afghanistan 99 per 1,000 – but Niger’s progress is impressive.

Niger’s progress in the area of childhood mortality is no accident. Concerted efforts have been made to increase access to healthcare and bednet coverage in rural areas, provide immunizations, promote breastfeeding, and improve nutrition programs. Wells Bring Hope has made its own contribution. The 268 wells our donors have funded over the last five years have helped over 174,000 people, young and old, get access to clean, safe water. Water that saves lives.

My son will face challenges during his life, we all do at some point, but there are millions of infants worldwide who face a fight for their lives from the moment they are born. They face dangers that are the stuff of history books in the West. I’ll be doing everything I can to protect my first-born, to give him the best possible start in life. By providing safe water to thousands of children throughout rural Niger Wells Bring Hope is providing parents with the tools to do just that for their children.

February 18, 2014

One Donor’s Success Story

A couple of years ago, Marcy Norton heard Gil Garcetti speak about the water crisis and the work that Wells Bring Hope is doing to combat it. When her next birthday rolled around, Marcy, along with her mother Rita, decided to start a Water Circle with the goal of raising enough money to fund a well. A little over a year later, she reached her goal! In celebration of her success, she sent the following email out to her friends and family:


Dear wonderful and generous friends and relatives,

I'm so excited to be sending this e-mail to each of you who is receiving it because I have fabulous news, and each of you helped to make it possible!!!

You may recall that when I was experiencing my unbelievable birthday in March of 2012, I wrote to you and said that rather than having another expensive party to celebrate the event, Mom and I were hoping to do something a bit more meaningful. 

We’d recently learned of a wonderful charity called Wells Bring Hope which provides deep water wells to bring clean water to poor villages in Niger, West Africa. A well costs $5,600 and we asked you to be generous. Each of you was wonderful enough to contribute to my well (which I now refer to as "our well" since you made it possible along with us!). 

When my Mom was very ill last year, I sent you all a solicitation from Wells Bring Hope asking you to contribute to honor someone on Mother's Day. I asked that you help us raise the final $470 to reach our goal of drilling the first well as a way of sending her "get well" wishes. Many of you again responded generously, and we made it well past our goal -- hooray!!!  And thank you!!!

The big news is that our first well was actually completed and is serving approximately 2,000 people living in the village of Darey, Niger (the poorest country on earth)!!!

I recently received a report about the village, which includes a photograph of some of the villagers of Darey celebrating around OUR ACTUAL WELL, for you to see what we've all accomplished together!  It's one thing to write a check to good, helping organizations and to know that your money is going to a "good cause"; it's quite another to know what your money was actually used for and to see the specific place and people who are being helped. 

I hope this is as meaningful to you as it is for us!  What an amazing thought -- a whole village's life has been changed forever because of your help and our combined generosity!!!  With their time freed up, women are working and earning money and they feel empowered; girls are going to school; people are healthier; babies aren't dying!!!  And we all made it happen!!!  We can't thank you enough for making this dream come true!  It truly is an example of the Hebrew/Jewish idea of "tikkun olam" ("healing/repairing the world").

I really was only planning to write this to share the good news of the completion of our first well and to thank you so very, very much once again for your help in making this happen; I was NOT planning to hit you up for more!!!  However, if you're as inspired as we are by the realization of what we've all accomplished, and if you'd like to make an additional donation toward the next well, I'm sending you the link to contribute to the "Water Circle" that Mom and I set up for our specific fundraising campaign. Please consider making another generous donation (and sharing this link with your own generous friends and relatives) at my Water Circle page.


With Love,

Marcy and Rita


February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Spread a little love this Valentine's Day...



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