Refugee Response Plan

by Michelle Wolf

The homes in my neighborhood typically sell pretty quickly. As each home is put up for sale, and that “SOLD” sign is inevitably hung, I find myself worrying about who is moving in. We’ll share an alley, the leaves from their maple trees will gracefully float into my treeless yard. I will hear the social gatherings organized in their backyards, and come to know their lawn-mowing habits.  But one thing I do not have to worry about is sharing scarce vital resources. My home is fully equipped with water, food, electricity, and gas. There won’t be food shortages in our local grocery stores. I won’t worry whether or not this new family is connected to a terrorist group or if my medical care will suffer. I am able to sleep in the comfort of my own bed at the end of each day. It’s much different for those living in Diffa, Niger.

On-going Boko Haram conflict in Nigeria continues to force Nigerian families from their homes in search of refuge in southeastern Niger. An astonishing 50% of the native population of Diffa has been displaced, forced to the outskirts of towns or to isolated areas along Route Nationale 1, a main highway connecting eastern Niger western Niger. Tension between internally displaced Nigeriens and refugees continues to rise as scare resources are further depleted. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has outlined a response plan that is already being implemented. The key priority is to enhance social cohesion and peaceful coexistence by several cluster responses, while also strengthening institutional, community, and individual resilience. [site: NIGERIA – RRRP 2017: Niger at a glance]

Region refugee response plan (RRRP) partners will identify the most vulnerable households and provide them with adequate shelter so that families can live in dignity. Families will also be provided with Non-Food Items (NFI) kits, which contain basic household items. In addition, increased security measures will be put in place to protect at-risk children, particularly those who have been separated from their families and are unaccompanied. Registration and documentation of the population will be carried out to track movements and reduce the risk of statelessness.

Health sectors will aim to reduce mortality rates by providing access to medical services, vaccines, and free health clinic services to persons of concern. Cash for work programs will also be implemented. Strategic planning is underway to ensure equal access to uninterrupted education.

Access to basic needs and resources is extremely limited in Niger. The increase in displacement within the country is weakening the already vulnerable health of this nation. The plan set in place by UNHCR will strengthen the resiliency of the population and aid in providing vulnerable persons with the support necessary to remain self-sufficient during this time of crisis.

Stay tuned for more coverage on the Niger Refugee Response Plan from Michelle Wolf

Sweating with a Smile

by Shelton Owen

A month ago, when I griped, “I’m hungry,” it probably meant that it was one o’clock and I had’t eaten since my muffin that morning. When I moaned, “I’m burning up,” I was probably lying by my pool trying to get a tan. Even today as I write this blog, I’m sitting in the comfort of my air-conditioned and spacious home, unaffected by the raging heat outside these brick walls. Though my physical environment remains the same, the outlook in my mind and gratitude in my heart is strikingly different from that of the girl who sat on this couch last month. I have witnessed the desperation in a homeless man’s eyes as he crawled out from under a pile of trash and sprinted to me for a sack of food. My hands have painted the cheek of a child who was both deaf and mute. My outlook on the world has been altered forever.

Arriving in the scarcely populated town of San Martin, El Salvador was a bit of a shock.  Before me sat what can only be described as a shack — dirt floors, tin roof, no indoor plumbing, and a stifling lack of fresh air. Sweat dripped off every inch of my body, wet concrete coated my arms, and the remains of a four year old’s fingernail painting job stained my nail beds. Yet, the biggest smile spread wide across my face. In the midst of this widespread poverty, joy thrived. The children squealed as they chased a soccer ball, the neighbors waved as we passed by, and tears of gratitude filled the eyes of a mother as she thanked us for constructing her family’s new concrete home. Though they had such minimal material wealth, they were content. No one was worried about not having the newest iPhone, no one bickered about politics, and above all, not one complaint was uttered. I proudly attest I learned one of my greatest life lessons from men and women with an elementary level education.

Leading up to my departure, I was told by former team members that “while you may set out to bless these people, it is you who will be blessed.” As I flew home to my life of luxury, those words of wisdom rang true. It wasn’t my wifi or king sized bed that I yearned for, it was another chance to make memories like the treasured ones I have of dancing to Justin Bieber at San Martin, an orphanage for adults with special needs. I could babble all day about my experience and it still wouldn’t encompass the impact this country and these people have had on my heart. I hope to give a glimpse of my trip through these pictures, and I leave you with a challenge to have your life touched through a service experience of your own.

There are two types of servants: senders and doers. My hope is at any given time we find ourselves in one of those two categories. You may not be able to travel to El Salvador or Niger, or even within your own state to serve someone in need, and that’s perfectly fine, but support someone who can! Whether it is time, effort, or money that you can donate, I promise your gift is worthy and your love is felt. It was a privilege to be a “doer” for the people of El Salvador, as it is a privilege to be a “sender” for the dedicated Wells Bring Hope team in Niger by writing on this blog and raising awareness.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”-Winston Churchill


Wells Bring Hope Club

by Andi Claman

I am fortunate enough to say that, like most American girls my age, I don’t spend much time worrying about where my water comes from. Even during the extreme drought in California, the water ran from my faucet as if nothing was out of the ordinary.

This is not the case for those who live in Niger, the poorest country in the world. Access to safe water is extremely limited. Women and girls often walk four to six miles a day just to find water, water that is often contaminated. Most of the time, I have to walk four to six steps to the nearest faucet, and I can rest assured that the water is clean and safe to drink. This is not something I take for granted, because I recognize how fortunate I am to be able to so easily access this precious resource.

The lack of awareness among people my age regarding the situation involving water in Niger is alarming. With many things going on in the busy lives of high school students, it is easy to forget that the world faces so many difficulties outside one’s life.

I was drawn to the Wells Bring Hope club at my school as a freshman because of all the good that Wells Bring Hope does.

The Club’s mission statement is: “Wells Bring Home is a club that has two purposes. The first is educating the Chadwick community about the need for clean water and the impact clean water has in Niger. The second purpose is to raise money to purchase well(s) in Africa. Through discussion, fundraising, education, and fun activities, we hope to make Wells Bring Hope part of the community for years to come.” Since our club was founded five years ago, we’ve raised enough money to drill four wells, and we’re well on our way to funding a fifth!

Now, in my junior year, I am leading the club, and we’ve had numerous accomplishments throughout the year. We carried out a school-wide coin drive where we raised money for Wells Bring Hope. We participated in the annual fundraiser, created a club Instagram (@chadwickwellsbringhope), and hosted Barbara Goldberg, the founder of Wells Bring Hope, came to Chadwick to give a presentation about the organization.  I know that her talk had an impact on the students because after the presentation, I was greeted with many bright-eyed students wanting to learn more and eager to get involved.

Picture: Barbara Goldberg presenting to a group of about 50 students and teachers about Wells Bring Hope.

If you are a high school student reading this, I hope you consider starting a Wells Bring Hope Club at your school. For me, its all about creating an inclusive environment where people who want to make a difference in our world can come together to raise awareness and funds for the Wells Bring Hope Organization. If your high school days are behind you, I hope you consider supporting Wells Bring Hope in any way that you see fit. You can support our Water Circle here.




Meet the Blog Team

Shelton Owen is from Calvert City, Kentucky. She’s currently a senior in high school and will be attending the University of Alabama in the fall of 2017. As a sophomore, she was interested in expanding her horizons and volunteering with an international non-profit. Her interest was sparked when coming across Wells Bring Hope’s request for a blog team writer, seeing as she’s always possessed a love for writing. After reading about the organization’s mission and the influential work they do in Niger, specifically for the neglected female population, she knew she had found her niche. It has been a blessing to spread awareness and educate others, as well as herself, through blog posts and is looking forward to seeing where this journey leads.

Michelle Wolf is a writer based out of a 1930s English Tudor in Saint Paul, MN. As a contributor to Wells Bring Hope, she aims to bring a broader global awareness of the plight of Nigeriens and West Africans. Michelle received her undergraduate degree from Winona State University in Winona, MN, majoring in English Creative Writing. She spent her college career writing poetry, reading literature she deemed intellectually appropriate, and relaxing on a pastel floral couch while watching Lifetime movies and eating popcorn. In her spare time Michelle enjoys running at a comfortable pace, organizing her life-changing spiral bound bullet journal, dressing her American Girl dolls in seasonally appropriate attire, and snuggling with her three-year old son.

Meghan Rees is the Blog Team Manager and comes to us with a strong writing experience and passion for blogging. Meghan graduated from Miami University with a major in Communications, but has taken a career path in sales in Chicago. She loves working with WBH as it allows her to give back while also providing a creative outlet. Outside of her career and WBH, she is part of a volunteer tutor program and spends most weekends watching or attending football games.

Jennifer Dees graduated from Utah Valley University with an emphasis in Writing Studies. While studying, she gained extensive experience managing publications, along with tutoring students in writing and reading. She discovered she enjoys writing for the web, and when she stumbled across Wells Bring Hope, she knew she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with such a high-impact organization. Jennifer is grateful and excited to be one of the bloggers. She also enjoys reading, asking hypothetical questions (if you were cloned, how would you share your life?), and standing in the wind.

Andrea Levin is a television writer and comedian who has written for the Ellen DeGeneres Show and won a Writing Emmy for CBS The Talk. Her passion is traveling the world to gain understanding and perspective about different cultures. She feels grateful every day to have access to clean water …and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Andi Claman is a senior at Chadwick High School. She runs a Wells Bring Hope Club at her school, and her other interests include tennis, environmental activism, and women’s rights. She feels passionate about changing the world for the better, one step at a time, and does her best to spread kindness whenever possible.


The Downside of an Eternal Summer

by Jennifer Dees

We’re midsummer. Kids have been swimming for months. They’ve found out whether their skin is the type that tans or sunburns. They’ve gone to too many sleepovers to count. And at some point, usually around now, they’re checking the calendar for the day school starts. When I was a kid, I’d even open a pretend school and write my own math problems. The last day of school, I told myself I never wanted to go back, but with so much time on my hands, without opportunities to challenge myself or develop my brain, I eventually became bored. The thought of eternal summer no longer seemed appealing. Fortunately, school always came back around, and I’ve learned and grown so much because of it. For some girls, such as those growing up in Niger, life is one hot, endless summer.

In Niger, when a girl gets up in the morning, she may see a group of children, more boys than girls, gathering. They are going to learn something today at school, but she won’t know what it is. Her many siblings are thirsty, and the day is going be sweltering. If she doesn’t leave now, they’ll be without water for the day. Of course she must choose her family, choose water. Does she really have a choice? She sets off to the nearest water source. For a rural village without a well, this means walking for miles. When she and the other women and girls arrive at the river or, they find the murky, brown water is perceptibly lower. She fills a container with water and carries the heavy load back to her village. By now, it’s too late to go to school, and she gets on with other household chores.

The next day will begin and end in much the same way. According to a 2013 UNICEF report, 57.4% of Nigerien girls are enrolled in primary school, but only 9.6% make it to secondary school.. According to a 2009 report by Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, barriers to educational achievement start when children are young, when thousands of neural connections are growing per second. How much a child learns early on will have an impact on how easily their brains can make connections in the future.

Education is key to self-sufficiency. When girls go to school, they gain skills to earn an income, and they learn how to take care of their health and finances. They feel empowered and hopeful enough about their future to resist early marriages that they might otherwise be pressured into. When Wells Bring Hope drills a well in a village, school is in. Education becomes a reality for the girls in the village. People might not think of education as a resource. It is not as essential as water when it comes to survival, but when it comes to lasting change and improvement, education has the power to transform these girls’ lives.

Think You Could Deal With Even One Day Without Water?

by Andrea Levin

We’ve become accustomed to switching on a light or instantaneously locating all the restaurants in a 1 mile radius on an app. But anyone who’s ever gone without electricity or their smartphone becomes profoundly aware of how easily we can take things for granted. Imagine if you had that same realization when it comes to water?  Not only are humans made of primarily water, we literally can’t live without it. Think you could make it a full day without water?

Here’s how your hypothetical water-free day might play out:

First, if you’re like most people, you wake up with pretty rank breath. Of course without water you’re not going to be able to brush your teeth — but you can improvise — I mean it’s only one day, right? Just scrub your teeth with some toothpaste on your finger and spit it out. Now use the bathroom. Don’t worry about remembering to flush, there’s no point since there’s no water. Washing your hands after isn’t happening either. Yuck. Anyway, it’s time to hop in the shower, or it least it would’ve been. Might as well just get dressed and grab breakfast.

If you’re used to coffee in the morning, surprise, it’s not happening — and in this experiment you’re not allowed to drink ANY liquids –for example milk and juice are mostly water.  But no time to worry about that, you’re going to miss your train to work. It’s already hot out there, but don’t grab that water bottle on your way out!

Now you’re at work — no hanging out around the water cooler for you. Just put your head down and get your work done. By late afternoon you’re probably getting pretty thirsty. Your body might be starting to show signs of very mild dehydration: Dry sticky mouth, maybe a slight headache.

OK, full disclosure, I lied to you, in this experiment there IS water you can drink. Problem is, it’s probably contaminated (and you have to walk 5 miles to get it!)  Take a swig and there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with a nasty waterborne illness like diarrhea (or worse) that will really, dare I say, cramp your style.

When you get home it’s the same deal, no using water for cooking, no shower, no brushing your teeth –and of course no glass of refreshing, clean water before bed.  It might be hard to sleep because you probably have a throbbing headache, your muscles ache and you might feel dizzy. If you did partake in the contaminated water you could be on your way to an illness that if not treated you could literally kill you.

Now imagine this scenario every day. This hypothetical is a reality for 17 million people in Niger, one of the poorest countries on the African continent. In this parched location young girls, instead of going to school, walk miles each day in search of a water source to bring back to their communities. Sometimes they come home empty-handed.

This is where Wells Bring Hope comes in, partnering with World Vision to bring relief through a well that taps the fresh, clean water that flows hundreds of feet underground. Raise a glass of water to that.

Start a Water Circle today to change a village of lives tomorrow.




by Michelle Wolf

Contaminated drinking water and nonexistent sanitation have created a health crisis in the Diffa region in southeastern Niger. Waterborne illness is a fact of life for many Nigeriens, but the supply of clean, safe drinking water in the southern part of Niger is almost unfathomably low.

In April, the Niger Ministry of Health declared an outbreak of the Hepatitis E virus (HEV) in the Diffa region of Niger. Cases of jaundice among pregnant women have been noted by Mere-Enfant de Diffa (Mother and Child Center) since January.

Woman nursing and preparing food

HEV is a liver disease that is contracted from unclean drinking water. Water is contaminated with fecal matter and transferred person-to-person. What is usually an acute but brief illness with 1% mortality rate can be deadly for those with a compromised immune system.

By May 3, 282 suspected cases of HEV had been noted in Niger. Of those suspected cases, 27 of the infected people have since died. By June 11, 186 women were admitted to the main and pediatric health center in Diffa. Pregnant women are more susceptible to severe infection, acute liver failure and have a 10% – 30% mortality rate once exposed. There is also a high risk of transmitting HEV to the fetus. 34 pregnant women have died due to severe complications related to HEV.

Young woman with children and jerry cans

Clean drinking water and proper sanitation are key for HEV prevention. Efforts to bolster improve access to safe water and bolster sanitation have been delayed due to insufficient funds and a lack of coordination between NGOs. Doctors without Borders, however, has been able to provide emergency sanitation and hygiene measures to 11 sites in Diffa. Other teams are working on 130 functional water points to ensure that water is chlorinated and that the jerry cans used to transport water are cleaned and replaced.

The government is working to create new programs to diminish this disease. WASH activities and awareness are volunteer-led efforts, strongly supported by the humanitarian organizations. With nearly 250,000 displaced people in Niger, the need of clean water is tremendous.








A Universal Sound

by Shelton Owen

Hope. Fear. Joy. Pain. These emotions have no borders or bias, no specific target or scope. Every race, gender, culture, and religious group is familiar with these essential human emotions. How enlightening is it to realize that we are all connected, each one of us at the mercy of our innate emotional responses? Third grade teachers don’t pass out books titled What is Pain?, yet each of us could pass the pop quiz on the signs and symptoms experienced when tragedy strikes.

As I have been preparing for my upcoming service trip to El Salvador, I’ve found myself worrying about how I’ll connect with the people of this nation whose lives seem so starkly different from my own: their Spanish to my English, their poverty to my privilege, and their homes 2,532 miles away from my Kentucky life. However, as my team was recently packing up the clothes, hygiene items, toys, etc. that we will be distributing, the missing piece of the puzzle locked into place. Whether I say “Good morning” or “Buenos días” isn’t important, it is the love and service I have to offer that will truly forge a connection. I’ve heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words” countless times, but it wasn’t until now that I realized that this phrase I never paid any mind to is actually very applicable to my current situation. Though our lips may speak different syllables and sounds, our hearts are programmed to sing a similar tune. Who doesn’t feel the warmth of a smile? Who doesn’t swell with gratitude when they receive a thoughtful gift?

Author Deepak Chopra once wrote, “If love is universal, no one can be left out.” “No one” means not the men and women of El Salvador nor the men and women of Niger. The 17 million people of Niger who don’t have access to adequate sanitation, those people are should not be left out. Wells Bring Hope turns “can’ts into cans and dreams into plans” by constructing wells that provide clean water. Change doesn’t happen when we comment on the injustice of 10,000 children dying every year from diarrhea and disease associated with unsafe water, the difference is made when steps are taken towards a solution. The funding of close to 450 wells, the training to ensure well maintenance, and the micro-financing of women to start small businesses-that is what speaks loud and clear for all the world to hear.

The sound of love and progress bounces off the walls and echoes through the nation, fostering hope for a better tomorrow and increasing our motivation to keep fighting for to ensure that everyone has access to basic human rights like safe water and adequate sanitation. Neither Africans nor Americans require a translator to interpret this message of empowerment.

“People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.“-Maya Angelou

In twenty years, as clean water splashes against the skin of a young girl in Niger, refreshing her after a day in the sweltering sun, Wells Bring Hope’s legacy will live on. The gift of education is a gift that keeps giving from generation to generation as women in WBH training programs pass on the lessons learned to their daughters and set a living example of self sufficiency. Give the gift that never goes out of style-the gift of love-by jumping on board and joining WBH’s efforts today!


Grocery Day

by Jennifer Dees

You know when you get home from the grocery store, and you realize that if you put five bags on each arm, you won’t have to make another trip? And then you struggle with the doorknob because you somehow always forget there’s a door? And when you finally drop it all onto the counter, your arms have red marks and your fingers have already gone numb?

Count yourself lucky that the walk was only from your garage to your kitchen.

In Niger, West Africa, it’s the women and girls who are responsible for walking miles every day to find water. If the sources they’ve gone to before haven’t dried up, they return carrying gallons of water. That effort causes severe pain, not to mention the hours walking in over 100 degree weather.

Back at your home, imagine you discover the bananas have turned brown, the bread is moldy, and the cans of soup have flies in them. Of course they go straight in the trash.

Meanwhile, 61 percent of Nigeriens would be surprised to discover clean water. The brown water only serves to hide the dangerous contaminants, which lead to disease, birth defects, and death. In fact, 1 in 7 children in Niger die before the age of five. Mothers give this water to their children knowing it will may make them sick, but they have no other choice.

You return to the store, file an extensive complaint, and return with fresh food (probably not from the same store). I tend to go overboard when I shop without a list, picking up whatever looks good. There are so many options; I can get pineapples and avocados in places where they don’t grow.

In some places in Niger, it rains as little as two centimeters annually, which makes it difficult to grow food most of the year. Most people survive off livestock or food from markets, something that is unfeasible for a family with little income. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the average Nigerian eats a thousand calories fewer a day than the average American. Many women would love the opportunity to grow and sell their own food, but without enough water, it’s simply not possible.

When you’re done shopping, you have the rest of the day to work, spend time with loved ones, or pursue other interests. You probably don’t plan on grocery shopping again for at least a week.

The process of getting water takes up nearly half a day in Niger, time the women could be using to earn money or care for their young children, and time the girls should be using to go to school. According to a UNESCO report, only 62% of Nigerien girls completed primary school in 2015. The African Bureau Information Center reports that, on average, girls who were enrolled in school drop out within five years. With the daily burden of retrieving water, the women and girls of Niger lose much of their freedom and hope for future generations.

Wells Bring Hope’s mission is drilling wells to provide clean, safe water to Nigerien villages, but that is just the beginning of the transformation. We educate villagers on sanitation and hygiene practices. We provide well maintenance training to community members to ensure sustainability. We help the women to establish savings groups, and we provide them with micro-finance training. Armed with that training and the time that they no longer spend walking for water, the women start their own small businesses, including selling produce grown with water from the new well. Girls can return to the classroom. In short, entire communities are transformed.

These are goals that you can help achieve. It can be easy to take resources for granted when they’re just a quick drive away at the local supermarket. To help yourself and your friends understand a little more about what it’s like for people in Niger, you can start a Water Circle. All donations go directly to drilling wells that immediately start improving the lives of everyone in the village. And with your help, we can give a generation of Nigeriens hope for their futures.




Bringing Clean Water to Niger

by Michelle Wolf

It’s difficult to imagine living a life without clean water. In First World countries, clean water is a basic need that is accessible and taken for granted. Clean water is an assumed right. Cities are held accountable for collecting and filtering water before that water enters homes. In places like Niger, clean, safe water is not assumed. What should be a basic human right is often privilege, a luxury that can’t be counted on.

Board member Ida Harding has been associated with Wells Bring Hope since the beginning. She was with the founder Barbara Goldberg when the idea was planted during a presentation by former Los Angeles district attorney Gil Garcetti. Ida has traveled to villages in Niger on several occasions and witnessed first-hand the positive effect clean water has on the population.

Within a year of its inception, Wells Bring Hope had raised enough money to drill 10 borehole wells in Nigerien villages. After the wells were drilled, Barbara and Ida, along with a small group of other women, were inspired to travel to Niger to see the results of their work and to personally experience what it’s like in a village without safe water.

The Nigerien women that Barbara and Ida met during their visits have overcome unfathomable challenges. On one trip to Niger, they met a woman who had watched 11 of her 12 children die from illnesses that could have been prevented if clean water had been available. On another trip, they met a woman who had to choose between walking for hours to retrieve water for the village and caring for her three-year old daughter who was dying of diarrhea.

Woman getting water from dirty stream.

In villages without safe water, homes are often made of limber straw. Fields are bare and families have no crops or livestock. Children’s faces are caked with dirt and dust.

The difference clean water makes is immense. The threat of diarrhea and other waterborne illnesses is eliminated when a well is drilled. Girls who once walked hours to fetch water are able to attend school. Women prepare meals with clean water, are able to spend more time with their children, and with the micro-financing training Wells Bring Hope provides, they can use their newly available time to start small businesses. Buildings that were once made with straw are can be built with strong bricks. The children are healthy and clean, and villagers are happy.

Young women celebrating new well.

Today, Wells Bring Hope has funded close to 450 wells. The services we bring to villages have directly affected more than half a million lives and will continue to do so for generations to come. Please consider donating your time and, if you are able, money to Wells Bring Hope. 100% of all donations go directly to well projects that provide the basic need of water to Nigerien villages.