Hadiara Diallo’s Story

In Niger, West Africa, where I was born, the morning ritual for women and girls in rural villages begins before dawn by grabbing a container or bucket, and heading for the nearest water source. Bathing and laundry are done by the pond after the water supply quota has been met for the day.

This backbreaking job is what girls throughout Africa face as their destiny. It is the shackle that prevents them from being educated and empowered.

I was very fortunate to be born in the Niamey, the capital of Niger, and was thus spared much of the hard work suffered by my cousins living in rural villages. During summer breaks I visited my maternal grandmother in the region of Tera.

At a young age, I was struck by the dismal difference between the fate of my maternal cousins and that of my paternal ones. Access to clean water and education was the stark difference.

One family lived by the river Niger with a plentiful supply of safe water while my cousins had to walk about two miles to the nearest unsafe pond.

My female cousins were too busy helping my aunts with the daily chores, so they were denied a chance at an education and typically married as a pre-teen-11, 12 or 13 years of age. Isn't that hard to imagine?

Working with Wells Bring Hope as Director of Microfinance has given me the opportunity to directly help the women in my country by giving them the tools they need to help their families and impact their lives for generations to come.

When women no longer have to walk miles to get water, their time is freed up to work productively and earn money. Wherever we drill a well, we educate women to start their own small businesses. By providing microfinance education and later, microloans to women, as we do, we are offering long term, sustainable solutions.

Hadiara Diallo
Director of Microfinance

Sustaining Today’s Wells Beyond Tomorrow: Part 2 Technical Capacity

by Nick Baldry

I have a broken faucet. It’s the one in my front yard, used for hooking up the hose when I want to try and fight the California sun and keep my lawn green. Considering the importance of water to people in underserved communities around the world, it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that while they struggle to find clean water, I happily pour the stuff on the ground for the sake of improving the aesthetic appearance of my front yard.

Or at least I used to because, as I said, that faucet is broken and, as I’m not the most technically minded individual, it will probably stay in that state of disrepair. For me, this represents the mildest of mild inconveniences. If that faucet were my only source of clean water, it would be a different story. It would be life threatening.

As Wells Bring Hope’s wells are the only source of clean water in the communities we serve, a malfunction like the one my outdoor faucet suffered is life threatening. Diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and bilharzia become real threats to the health of people who don’t have access to clean water. That is why ensuring the sustainability of a well is a vital part of our intervention, and one key component of that process is making certain that the technology used in our hand pumps is appropriate to the area in which they are used.

This blog has already highlighted the consequences for the WASH sector when this principle is ignored. Cindy L. Kurland’s excellent case study of PlayPumps International (which can be found here if you haven’t already read it) highlights how an attention-grabbing project that drew funding from the U.S. government, the Case Foundation, and a number of celebrities began as a nonprofit marketing dream but quickly became a technical nightmare.

The notion was that the local children would play on a merry-go-round, which would generate the energy needed to draw water up from an underground well. Sounds like a great idea, right? Unfortunately, PlayPumps International failed to consider a few major flaws in their design.

· To meet PlayPumps’ stated targets, each pump would need to be in constant motion for 27 hours a day. Obviously, this creates an insurmountable problem.

· During periods of high demand for water, such as early morning and late evening, there were often too few children playing to meet the demand, and during inclement weather, there was no guarantee that children would want to play at all. This begins to make the PlayPump model look less like a fun solution to a serious problem and more like child labor.

· Due to the technical complexity of the PlayPump system, a malfunction would be nearly impossible for villagers to fix on their own. It cannot be overstated that a malfunctioning pump in a rural community creates a life-threatening problem.

Well’s Bring Hope’s drilling partner, World Vision, has over twenty years of experience installing hand pumps. This simpler design has a twofold benefit. First, it is less likely to break down at all. Secondly, if it does malfunction, it is much easier to bring back into service with the limited resources available in rural villages.

Another essential component of a technical sustainability program is ensuring that local residents have the skills required for resolving any problems related to a malfunctioning pump. According to the GLASS report for 2012, only 27 out of 69 responding countries reported that they had sufficient staff numbers to support their existing drinking-water systems. This means that even simple problems can lead to a well being out of service for prolonged periods of time or even abandoned completely.

When villagers are given ownership of their well and are given the resources and skills to resolve any issues that come up, the likelihood that the well will continue functioning over the long term are dramatically increased. Out of the 180 wells we have funded since 2008, all 180 are still functioning.

{souce: Gil Garcetti}

Our aim is that the wells we install in partnership with World Vision will remain functioning beyond their advertised lifespan. Making sure that the technology is simple and reliable and that the villagers have the technical capabilities needed to resolve any issues that do arise are huge steps toward achieving that long-term sustainability goal.

My inability to fix my broken faucet will, at worst, result in the withering of my lawn, and maybe a few angry neighbors, but when residents of a village in rural Africa cannot ensure that safe water will be provided, the consequences can be life-threatening.


Wells Bring Hope Holiday Party

On December 2, 2012, Wells Bring Hope Founder and President Barbara Goldberg once again opened her home to WBH supporters and volunteers for some holiday cheer and a celebration of a another successful year.

WBH Vice President Gil Garcetti announced that the organization has funded 180 wells since its inception in 2008. That's over 100,000 lives transformed by clean water!

The party was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.

Barbara used the party as an opportunity to announce the launch of Wells Bring Hope's new online store. Her granddaughter Lia was an obliging model of one of the WBH items available for sale in the new store!

Giving Tuesday

With Black Friday, Small Business, and Cyber Monday, it's easy to forget that the real joy of the season is found in the giving! Kick of the holiday season today by making a donation to Wells Bring Hope on this first national day of giving.

Water: Here and There

by Kristin Allen

Out of curiosity the other day, I asked a number of people to describe their basic life needs. I got a variety of answers: food, housing, the internet, their cell phone, HBO, and a daily Starbucks non-fat/half-caf/soy caramel latte. Not a single person mentioned “water.” To most of us, water is a “given.”

To be fair, before I became involved with Wells Bring Hope, I didn’t understand or appreciate how desperate the situation was, and how many people were living without clean, safe drinking water. You turned on the tap and water came out. Right?

Water is so abundant to us, that the water in the tap is frequently not even good enough. We want water that has added vitamins, or electrolytes, or comes from a special tropical island. In fact, I just came across one company selling bottled water (at $21 dollars for a case of 12 bottles!) designed to “stimulate your soul” by being “infused with Universal Energy.” Wow.

Water is almost a gimmick in the United States. However, in Niger, water is literally life……and frequently means death. 68% of Niger’s rural population has no access to clean, safe water.

I traveled to Niger in January 2012 with Wells Bring Hope. We visited a village without clean, safe water. We traveled to their local water source, which was a grimy, muddy hole where women and children stood for hours in line to pull up a bucket of polluted, filthy water for their families….if they were lucky.

Many stood for hours, only to learn that the water had dried up and they had to go home empty handed. The villagers knew that the water they were feeding their babies and children was dangerous, even deadly. 1 in 7 infants and children in Niger die before the age of 5 as a result of contaminated water. Many women we spoke with had lost a child, or multiple children, to water-related diseases…..that was their fate, they believed.

I often speak passionately to individuals and groups about the needs of the people of Niger, and I have been asked “Why do they stay if there is no water?” It seems like such an innocent question, but there is nothing more complex. It is like asking someone who lives in a crime-ridden neighborhood riddled with gang violence, why don’t they move, as if it were that simple. But where would they go? It takes resources to move. It takes a place to move to – room for an entire village. Unfortunately, not only is moving NOT an option, but Niger is being inundated with refugees from neighboring Mali who are fleeing from the violence of Al Qaeda. This is putting a strain on the already incredibly limited resources of the world’s second poorest country.

The only way to really address the problem is to help get clean, safe water to the villages through the drilling of borehole wells. I saw it happen. It was absolutely thrilling to watch the reactions of the people when a well drilled to 250-300 feet into the ground yielded life-saving water.

The village literally exploded with excitement. The people knew that it meant life, and the start of truly being able to live. They danced and reveled in the water as it shot up from the ground and rained down on them like liquid gold. I couldn’t help but join them in their dance of joy. I knew that my life had changed too, and that I would never, ever look at the water that flowed out of my tap in the same way again.

Schools Support Wells Bring Hope – L.A. High

by Rosario Lopez

I became a member of the Water Circle at my school, Los Angeles High, last year and gained great interest in the Interact Club that started it. I was introduced to it by our former club president, Dennis Ojogho. After engaging in the mission of the club, I became so passionate and excited to organize events to fundraise for our mission. I clearly remember the water walk we had last year. It was such a great experience, and I was so happy to know that all my peers helped out and participated. After Dennis graduated, I was privileged to take the position as President of the Water Circle.

As this year – my senior year, kicks off, our group is growing, and we have already had a successfully fundraiser. On Friday, October 5th, our school celebrated Hispanic Heritage month by hosting a club day event during lunch. The Water Circle signed up and we sold a Latin dessert (flan), Mexican candy bags, and refreshing pineapple juice. It was so much fun, and with the help of other members of the club, Ruben Amaya, Alan Bresnahan, Richard Dowdle and others, we raised more than $100. I am thrilled to continue the rest of the year with rewarding events and fundraisers, and I promise to do my job as the President of the Water Circle at L.A. High. Some upcoming activities will be held during our homecoming game on Friday October 26th, and we will also be fundraising at the Larchmont fair on Sunday October 28th.

Sustaining Today’s Wells Beyond Tomorrow: Part One Financial Sustainability

by Nick Baldry

As I write today it is hot: I have to remind myself that it is a luxury to be able to potter through to the kitchen and turn a conveniently located tap to get a glass of water. It's a luxury I have because the local infrastructure is well funded enough to keep it in good repair. Should that infrastructure fail, it would be an inconvenience rather than a disaster with bottled water available in abundance. Others are far less fortunate. The villagers Wells Bring Hope serves in rural Niger don’t have the option of buying a few liters of water from the nearest store. Their journey for water is likely to be many miles on a highly unsafe route, and the end result is water that is often unclean to the point of being life-threatening.

In such a context the sustainability of the wells that Wells Bring Hope drills is a hot topic. Once we provide a clean water supply, it would be cruel beyond imagination for that supply to fail down the line. We are not the only ones thinking along these lines as this summer’s release of the GLAAS 2012 report has prompted much discussion on sustainability across the WASH sector. It is worth looking at what processes Wells Bring Hope has in place to ensure that our wells are truly sustainable as well examining best practices in the broader WASH sector.

For Wells Bring Hope, sustainability means that a hand-pump well is still fully functional, without ongoing external support, at the end of its advertised life. In simpler terms, this means that the well is still working properly at least 20 years after installation.

One of the key factors in maintaining the sustainability of a well is ensuring that it is financially sustainable, a factor that is all too often neglected.

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

Between the first Glass report in 2010 and the most recent edition, WASH funding has risen slightly; however, there are major issues in terms of financial sustainability in the sector. The vast majority of funds are channeled into new capital expenditure and increasing capacity building while only 31% goes into operation and maintenance costs. While increasing capacity is a vital part of increasing access to clean water and sanitation, such lopsided investment means that today’s new wells may very well be joining the legions of non-functioning facilities in a few years’ time. In a recent webinar hosted by sustainableWASH.org Catarina Fonseca estimated that, at present, 40% of rural systems are non-functioning, that represents $744 million dollars’ worth of investment that is currently wasted as wells lie in disrepair, failing to provide their vital service to rural communities.

Wells Bring Hope has a track record far superior to the 40% failure rate quoted by Catalina Fonseca. Out of 174 wells drilled since 2008, 174 are fully operational at the time of writing. A large part of that is the result of the appropriate use of technology (an important topic, which will be expanded upon in a later blog), but another key component is the primary role that the local community takes in maintaining the well and ensuring its financial sustainability. Prior to drilling, a committee is established to run the well, and a small charge for service is levied on all users. The committee then uses this money for maintenance and any necessary repairs. Without this small, community-generated fund, repairing and maintaining the well would be impossible, and without this maintenance, the wells useful life would be dramatically reduced. In addition our partners at World Vision work with each village where we drill for at least 15 years. Part of that continued work includes monitoring and evaluating the well to ensure that it is in working order.

Drilling a well, holding a grand opening for a well, maybe even dedicating a well to a donor or someone of importance in the local community is the headline grabber, the glamour part of the job. That is a massively enjoyable part of what we do and that is why, in the broader WASH sector, the majority of funding goes to well drilling. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? Ensuring funding is in place long-term is not quite as thrilling. No one comes and pats you on the back for ensuring that a well has a long-term funding plan. That doesn’t change the fact that without making a well financially sustainable, the fanfare that went with your grand opening was merely a false dawn for the village where you drilled. The truth is that taking the time to make sure a new well will last is as important as drilling it in the first place.