Niger Feels the Strain of Refugees

by Kate Cusimano

Today is World Refugee Day, a time to reflect on the struggles faced by the millions of people who are forcibly displaced each year. This year, the refugee crisis dominating the headlines is in the Sahel region of West Africa, a part of the world that is already suffering immensely from drought, famine, and the conditions associated with extreme poverty.

Since the beginning of the year, hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in an attempt to escape the sectarian violence that is dominating Northern Mali. Over forty thousand of these refugees have streamed into Niger, and as many as 50 new families arrive every day. This has created an untenable situation in which the population of the border region of Tillabéri must share already scant resources with the newly arrived refugees.

ICRC/I. Djadi via All Africa

In an effort to help provide some relief, Wells Bring Hope has adjusted our drilling plan in order to direct additional resources to Niger’s border region. Our original drilling plan called for 10 wells to be drilled in Tillabéri over the course of the year, but as a result of our accelerated plan, we drilled 23 wells in Tillabéri in the first quarter alone.

References

Ayoub, Abed. “Fight to Survive in Niger.” Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 20 June 2012.

“Niger: Local Population and Malian Refugees Hard Hit by Food Crisis.” All Africa. The International Committee of the Red Cross, 1 June 2012.

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Daughters Sold as Conditions in Niger Worsen

By Jessica Isaac

As the drought continues to affect Niger and the wider Sahel region of Africa, more and more parents are resorting to desperate measures to keep their families alive. For some parents, selling off their young daughters for marriage has become a means of survival.

photo by Gil Garcetti

This heightened incidence of child marriage is due, in part, to a food shortage stretching across the sub-Saharan region. This shortage, caused by a recent drought, is expected to worsen in the coming months. By selling their daughters, families have fewer mouths to feed and boost their survival chances as a whole. Unfortunately, not only do these young brides often end up in towns where they are vulnerable to abuse and sex trafficking, but they will most likely be forced to bear children at a very young age, increasing their risk of death.

Just how young are these child brides?

A recent article from our partners at World Vision documents child protection specialist Fatima Soumana's encounter with a 7-year-old girl sold as a bride to a family's 20-year-old son. Another case shows a 13-year-old girl whose father sold her in exchange for 20 goats. After she was rescued from the marriage by a local judge, Touayi Oumar, the girl's mother, was relieved.

“Children know nothing of the duties of marriage and having sex with a man is sometimes difficult even for an older women,” Oumar said. “How can a child be expected to do that?”

Wells Bring Hope strives to help these young girls live childhoods free of the fear of being sold as brides. By drilling wells in villages affected by this crisis, girls get the chance to be educated, marry later in life, and have children later, thus reducing the risk of death due to early child birth.

Donate now to give hope to the daughters of Niger.

Wordy Wednesday

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

Out and About with WBH

On May 24, WBH Founder and President Barbara Goldberg attended the first meeting of the newly relaunched Westside Women’s Network of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. The meeting's organizer was Marion Claire, well-known speaking coach and longtime friend of Barbara and Wells Bring Hope. Also in attendance was another Wells Bring Hope supporter, highly respected Beverly Hills physician Dr. Cathie-Ann Lippman.

Barbara with Tyla Tingle, Dr. Cathie-Ann Lippman and Marion Claire

The featured speaker was Tyla Tingle, an incredible inspiration who climbed Mt. Kilamanjaro just 14 months after undergoing surgery for breast cancer. It was a great opportunity to spread the word about our cause and connect with some terrific women. And Barbara won a rafflea big basket of goodies!

Wordy Wednesday

Walking for Water
photo by Gil Garcetti

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Bel Air Crest Event – May 17, 2012

On May 17, Firouzeh Banki and Curtis Estes graciously hosted an event in honor of Wells Bring Hope at the lovely clubhouse in the Bel Air Crest community. The evening was a great success, thanks to our hosts, dedicated volunteers, longtime supporters and new friends!

From 6:30 to 8:30, guests mingled, dined and learned about Wells Bring Hope’s work. Special thanks to Jillian Ezra of Ezra Productions for her photography and to Daniel Yadlosky for his video work.

Flower arrangements by Bouvardia
Catering by Craig’s Crew

Gil Garcetti, former L.A. District Attorney and Vice President of Wells Bring Hope, kicked off the evening’s presentations by describing his first visit to West Africa. Gil shared photographs and anecdotes from that and subsequent trips as he explained that “water is key” to changing lives in Niger and throughout West Africa. Following Gil’s remarks, WBH Founder and President Barbara Goldberg introduced a newly released video on the transformative effects of the microloans that women receive when a well is drilled. During Barbara’s presentation, longtime Wells Bring Hope supporter Laurie Adami presented her with a check for $5,600 to fund a well. This will be the second well that Laurie and her family have funded!

Following the presentations, Wells Bring Hope necklaces and copies of Gil’s book, Water is Key, were raffled off as guests continued to enjoy the evening.

Over the course of the evening, several guests committed to starting Water Circles. Thanks to the generosity of friends both old and new, we raised over $20,000—enough for close to four wells! Thank you, Bel Air Crest, for welcoming Wells Bring Hope into your community.

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Students Support Wells Bring Hope

This is the first in a series of blogs that will spotlight the great work being done by schools and students working tirelessly alongside Wells Bring Hope to bring safe water to the people of Niger.

Chadwick School’s Wells Bring Hope Club

I am a student in 9th grade

By Kate McEvilly

I am a student in ninth grade at Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, California. When I was in seventh grade, Gil Garcetti came to talk to us about leadership. He also told us about Wells Bring Hope and the work it is doing to bring safe water to villages in Niger, West Africa. Mr. Garcetti and Wells Bring Hope inspired me because of the life-changing impact that a well has on a village and the way that clean water decreases mortality and improves the health of all the people in the village. Additionally, I was moved by how the well changed the lives of girls in the villages who could now go to school rather than spend their days carrying water for miles and miles. I knew that I wanted to do something to help, so I started a Water Circle with Wells Bring Hope.

In the summer between seventh and eighth grade, I wrote 100 letters to actors, musicians and celebrities asking them to donate an autographed picture or some other item that a middle school student would like for a student auction. Twelve of them responded. I also asked some families to donate In ‘N Out lunches where students could pay to eat lunch with their favorite teacher. My classmates and I put on the auction where students could buy tickets for items they wanted and we then selected a winner for each item. Many of the items that we raffled off came from the letters I had written. They included autographs from Nolan Gould from Modern Family, Rashida Jones from Parks and Recreation, and the entire cast of The Office. We also raffled off a signed script from The Middle’s Patricia Heaton, DVD packages, and more. We raised over $1,000 in 30 minutes!

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Chadwick School’s Wells Bring Hope Club

Once I got to high school, I officially started a Wells Bring Hope club. We went from a club of one and slowly grew to a group of over 25 committed members who are enthusaistic and dedicated to fundraising for Wells Bring Hope. Our first event of the year was a bake sale where we raised $500! This year we held an expanded auction, so instead of only raffling off items for one day, we gave students the opportunity to buy food and tickets for a week. During our week-long event, we raised awareness of Wells Bring Hope through discussion at school assemblies, posters around school, and decorated water droplets placed in heavily travelled areas. We had a donut day and a frozen yogurt day and sold baked goods and drinks during a school event.

We also put the following video together to raise awareness about Wells Bring Hope and the auction.

In addition to Coldplay tickets and drumheads signed by Blink 182 and My Chemical Romance, we auctioned off a shoutout from Fox 11 morning news. Senior Andrew Knox won and used the shoutout to ask his friend Erin to the prom. Luckily, she said yes!

As a result of our week-long effort, we raised over $2,500, and I am very happy to say that we have raised enough money for our first well and have a good start towards our second well! I believe that we have been able to have success fundraising because we really raised awareness in our small community about the importance of clean water and the impact of a good education. Although it sometimes seemed impossible to tie down all of the auction items, we worked hard and saw results. It is simply amazing that the result of all of this is that one village will now have a well. We really hope that other schools, organizations, communities, companies and individuals will gain interest in Wells Bring Hope and develop the same passion that my members and I have gained by learning more and more about the impact of clean, safe water on communities and, specifically, the women and children of Niger.

On May 4, we presented a check for $5,600—the cost of one well—to Barbara Goldberg, the president and founder of Wells Bring Hope. In return, she honored us with a plaque commemorating our efforts.

We are so thrilled to have already donated a well through Wells Bring Hope, and know it won’t be long before we are presenting another check for another well. If you want to help us reach our goal of funding a second well, you can donate to our Water Circle by clicking here. Thank you so much for your help!

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Wordy Wednesday

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

Mother’s Day in Niger

photo by Barbara Goldberg

A Recent Study Ranks Niger as the Worst Place to Be A Mother

Save the Children has released its 13th annual State of the World's Mothers Report, listing Niger as the worst country in the world to be a mother. The organization ranked 165 countries based on a number of factors, bringing to light the day-to-day struggles that lead to long term and sometimes fatal consequences in a mother's life. Most factors had to do with malnutrition, a problem that can often be solved by one simple thing: easy access to clean water.

With Mother's Day fast approaching we are all reminded of what it means to be a good mother. If you are lucky enough to have a loving mother whom you cherish, you understand the reason for this May holiday. Perhaps when you're picking out the best and brightest bouquet at the local florist, you are reminded of your childhood and the sacrifices your mother made to give you the best and brightest future. Unfortunately, as this report proves, many women are not given the opportunity to go above and beyond for their children. More often, they fall short of providing the basic necessities for their children due to circumstances that are out of their control.

Here are some statistics that demonstrate the grave state of mothers in Niger and other parts of the world:

-In Niger, 1 in 5 children dies before his or her 5th birthday

-171 million children (27% of ALL children in the world) are irreversibly mentally and physically stunted due to malnutrition

-In Niger, almost every mother will lose at least one child in her lifetime.

-Malnutrition is the cause of death of 2.6 million children a year

-Breastfed children are 6 times more likely to survive the early months of childhood

Nigerien women will walk for miles everyday to find and carry back as much water as they can to provide for their families. Because of this, mothers are often unable to breastfeed their babies, a necessary component of nourishment in the most crucial stages of the babies' lives. Human breast milk provides all the nutrients newborns need for healthy development and also provides antibodies that protect against illness.

This daily journey to find water also leaves no time for women to maintain jobs, earn income, or receive education about health and nutrition. The lack of water in Niger also trickles down to agriculture, making it difficult for villages to grow food and provide necessary nutrients to children and child-bearing women. Nearly half of stunted children were irreversibly effected in utero due to the malnourished state of the mother, often due to lack of clean water.

photo by Gil Garcetti

To put it simply, drilling a well in a Nigerien village frees up roughly 50% of a mother's time. If nothing else, this gives her time to 1. breastfeed and 2. become educated in things like: how to provide long term nutrition to her family and how to obtain the skills necessary for earning an income. These two simple things could mean life or death to a child in Niger, and we can help.

This Mother's Day, we encourage you to see your own nurturing mother in the women of Niger. Take the time to think of the ways you can honor these mothers along with your own.

If you choose to donate in honor of your mother, grandmother, or other important woman in your life, we will send her a customized donation certificate featuring the photo above. Thank you, as always, for helping us save lives with safe water.

References:
Save the Children

Report offers a bit of good news for American moms

Kevin Kilroy is ABC 7’s Cool Kid of the Week

Kevin Kilroy has long been one of our most inspiring supporters. We've been singing her praises ever since she raised enough money for two wells in a single weekend! In the year or so since she became passionate about saving lives with safe water, Kevin has raised over $40,000 and in in so doing, she has transformed the lives of thousands of people. This week, we're proud to say that we're not the only ones talking about how amazing Kevin is – ABC Eyewitness News chose her as their Cool Kid of the Week! Congratulations, Kevin! It's a much-deserved honor.