How Important is Water?

by Joshua V. Gilbert

In beginning this blog post, I asked myself one question, “How important is water?”

{source: lazlo-photo}

I get that it’s essential to our survival. I’ve been taught that since kindergarten. I saw 127 Hours. I know that James Franco’s biggest problem wasn’t his arm being stuck under a rock; it was trying to make a half bottle of water last for however many days 127 hours is. I know that in war, when supplies get cut off, it’s not the lack of guns or food that depletes an army; it’s the absence of potable water. I read The Hunger Games. I remember the advice to the tributes – “Forget the weapons. Find shelter and water.”

I understand that water is essential to the human body’s functioning. The question is, how much can I, or anyone, empathize with those who don’t have it? We can try. The first step is gaining perspective. Without perspective, empathy is impossible.

In an attempt to gain that perspective, I tried to imagine that drinkable water was unattainable to me. Just for one day. I tried to construct a fictional world where I could not just turn on the tap and have fresh, clean water flow into my glass. But I couldn’t. Life without water is just unthinkable for someone living in the in the 21st century United States. So, let’s look at this another way.

Imagine that you have plenty of water, but this is how your day unfolds…

1. You wake up and your cell phone is dead. You don’t have a land line anymore. Forget trying to find a pay phone to make a call (the internet is what you really want anyway, right?). You rush to the internet café, just to make sure you haven’t missed the end-of-the world, but the world is still whirling.

2. On your way to the office, your car dies because it’s out of oil. You hoof it a half mile to the nearest gas station, buy some oil, walk back and proceed to work.

3. You arrive to find that the internet is down. No one can even get online on their cell phones. The landlines aren’t working. In the conference room, your co-workers sit staring at each other, having no idea what to do.

4. After a totally unproductive day, you get home to find there is a black-out. Your family has nothing to eat but cold sandwiches. There is no microwave, no television, no internet games, no Facebook. Your wife is “unhappy” because the blackout occurred half way through the laundry cycle. The clothes had to be rinsed by hand and hang dried, all by the glow of a flashlight. Luckily you still have water, so your children can brush their teeth before bed, but a cold bath was not going to be on their agenda.

Sounds pretty horrible, right? I’d venture to guess that if any of us experienced a day like this, we’d tell all of our friends and loved ones that our “bad luck quota” for the year was expended in just one day. We’d post our tale on Facebook and Twitter. No one would believe it. But think about it: Is it any different from the daily life of a woman who must walk miles to find drinking water?

Imagine if every single day of your life you had to search for not even a basic human need but something you rely on to make your life easier and more comfortable like internet, electricity and motor oil? We could technically survive without them. Water on the other hand, is what sustains life. Think of it as an SAT question…

WATER is to THE HUMAN BODY as…
CELL PHONES are to OUR ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE
OIL is to a CAR
INTERNET/PHONES are to a BUSINESS
ELECTRICITY is to a HOME

If you were given advanced warning that your day would unravel as outlined above, and you could pay to make sure it did not, what would that be worth to you? $20? $50? $100?

We’re talking about one day. For the people of Niger West Africa this struggle is their daily life. And it doesn’t have to be.

Gardens Flourish in the African Desert


by Hadiara Diallo

As a seventh grader at the Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, CA, Kate McEvilly, was inspired when she first heard Gil Garcetti talk about the desperate need for safe water in West Africa. When she entered high school two years later and was able to formally start a club at her school, she officially launched the Wells Bring Hope Club. With her passion, drive, and determination, Kate attracted over 30 volunteers. One year later, they had raised enough money to drill a well in the village of Mossipaga in rural Niger, West Africa.

In mid-January 2013, I made a trip to Niger and visited that village to dedicate their well. On the certificate was a picture of the some of the members of Wells Bring Hope Club at Chadwick School.


The villagers welcomed us with great jubilation. Their joy was infectious as everyone chanted and shouted to express their appreciation. Getting safe water in their community was huge: it meant that babies would not die needlessly and that their children would have opportunities they only dreamed about.


The villagers were astounded to learn that it was group of teenagers who made their miracle of safe water possible. I told them about the hard work, creativity and dedication of these young people to initiate many fundraising drives in the effort to raise money for a well. The people of Mossipaga will be forever grateful for this gift and hope to someday personally welcome the students of Chadwick. After accomplishing their initial goal, these very determined students are now raising money for another well because they know how much safe water means in the developing world.


As Director of Microfinance for Wells Bring Hope, a major goal of my trip was to get a better understanding of how our microfinance program is progressing. When women no longer have to walk miles to get water, their time is freed up to earn money and improve the quality of life of their families.


One of the most important economic development activities that women can engage in is gardening. In Mossipaga, gardening is not about planting flowers and beautifying homes; gardening is a matter of survival. After the rainy season, there are no water sources available to sustain farming, so in the past, the land would stay idle for 8 to 9 months. Now, the women are able to grow these lifesaving gardens, providing food on a year-round basis.


The gardening activities fulfill two purposes. First, they provide food for the women’s families and improve their diets with the growing of vegetables. Second, they enable women to sell vegetables in the local market and become mini-entrepreneurs. The direct benefit of these gardens is evident: a healthier, stronger population, kids who are well nourished, and women who are newly empowered income-earners.


With help from agricultural technicians, the women are given some basic tools and taught ways to collect natural compost to enrich the soil. And what do they grow? Salad greens, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, okra, and cabbage. The women I spoke to were elated that they had been given the opportunity to be so productive, that they can earn money for the first time in their lives. They love their work and feel so much pride in their accomplishment.


Chadwick, this is a job well done, a well-deserved ‘A+’ in global citizenship!


If you'd like to support Chadwick in their efforts to fund a second well, please click below.

The Millenium Development Goals and Wells Bring Hope

by Jessica Isaac


Millennium Development Goals — How Safe Water Can Help


Millennium Development Goals – the phrase may sound complicated, but the motive behind it is simple and straightforward. MDGs, as they are referred to, are eight international development goals established by the United Nations following the Millennium Summit of 2000. All 193 United Nations member states have agreed to achieve the following eight goals by 2015:


1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger


2. Achieve universal primary education


3. Promote gender equality and empowering women


4. Reduce child mortality rates


5. Improve maternal health


6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases


7. Ensure environmental sustainability


8. Create a global partnership for development


The World Health Organization has reported some promising statistics regarding the progress of some of these goals, but we are a long way from achieving success. The three goals listed below are near and dear to us here at Wells Bring Hope because, as we know, access to safe drinking water is often the solution. Each well that is drilled in Niger not only brings Nigeriens one step closer to achieving goal 7 (environmental stability), but also helps reduce child mortality (goal 4) and makes it possible for women to become educated, thereby improving maternal health (goal 5). Each goal listed below has a minimum specified target that will satisfy the MDG as well as estimated statistics from the World Health Organization, which is tracking international progress.


1. Reduce Child Mortality (Goal #4)
Target: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

{photo by Barbara Goldberg}


Progress via WHO.int:
-In 2011, 6.9 million children under five died, compared with 12 million in 1990
-Between 1990 and 2011, under-five mortality declined by 41%, from an estimated rate of 87 deaths per 1000 live births to 51
-The global rate of decline has also accelerated in recent years – from 1.8% per annum during 1990–2000 to 3.2% during 2000–2011


Projection via WHO:
“Despite this improvement, the world is unlikely to achieve the MDG target of a two-thirds reduction in 1990 mortality levels by the year 2015.”


How Wells Bring Hope can help:
In West Africa, the most common cause of death and disease comes from contaminated water. Babies often die from diarrhea, an ailment that can be cured by replacing this contaminated water with clean, safe water.


2. Improve Maternal Health (Goal #5)
Targets: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio and achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health


Progress via WHO.int:
-a significant reduction in the number of maternal deaths – from an estimated 543 000 in 1990 to 287 000 in 2010


Projection via WHO.int:
“Despite a significant reduction in the number of maternal deaths the rate of decline is just over half that needed to achieve the MDG target of a three quarters reduction in the mortality ratio between 1990 and 2015. To reduce the number of maternal deaths, women need access to good-quality reproductive health care and effective interventions. In 2008, 63% of women aged 15–49 years who were married or in a consensual union were using some form of contraception, while 11% wanted to stop or postpone childbearing but were not using contraception.”

{photo by Gil Garcetti}


How Wells Bring Hope can help:
Women and girls bear the burden of walking 4-6 miles a day to reach a water source, usually contaminated. The task is labor intensive and prevents girls from going to school. Women spend most of their day getting water, having little time to do anything else. They suffer chronic pain from this physical burden and constant stress from having so little time to complete other tasks. When they have access to safe water, women are healthier and less likely to suffer complications during pregancy. In addition, when girls have the opportunity to go to school, they tend to marry and bear children later, drastically reducing the likelihood of maternal death as well as the chance of obstetric fistulas, a frequent consequence of early childbearing.


3. Ensure Environmental Sustainability (Goal #7)
Target: By 2015, halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation


Progress via WHO.int:
-In 2010, 89% of the population used an improved source of drinking-water compared with 76% in 1990
-Progress has been uneven in different regions.


Projection via WHO
“With regard to basic sanitation, current rates of progress are too slow for the MDG target to be met globally. The number of people living in urban areas without access to improved sanitation is increasing because of rapid growth in the size of urban populations.”


How Wells Bring Hope can help:
The most important aspect of drilling a well is to insure its sustainability. When a well is drilled, we begin the process of teaching villagers how to maintain it and take ownership of it. Ownership of the well belongs to the village and they are responsible for its maintenance. This is very important for building pride and a sense of responsibility. 100% of the wells drilled by Wells Bring Hope have been sustained and are fully functioning. In addition, WBH is well aware of the importance of sanitation. In every village where we drill a well, we also build latrines and educate the villagers about the importance of using them. We also provide ongoing education on hygiene, and we teach mothers and children the value of hand and face washing.


When you support Wells Bring Hope, you are supporting the progress of the Millenium Development Goals.

The Basics

by Christine Eusebio

{source: Nasa Goddard Photo and Video}


The ever-increasing presence of the internet in the day-to-day lives of people all around the world gives us the sense that our massive globe is not so big after all. However, even as our knowledge of the world expands, our physical existence is necessarily limited, and we can really only see the world through the prism of our own experiences.



The more we learn about ourselves, the more we realize how dependent we have become on the internet and technology. Checking emails is as much a part of our morning routine as brushing our teeth. Without our gadgets, we feel naked — like something is missing.


{source: blaircook}


With this intense focus on technology and connection, and with all of the convenience of our modern society, it is easy to forget that our actual, primitive needs are really very few. While we worry about the hustle and bustle of our daily schedule, while we panic about misplaced smartphones, the people of Niger worry about how they will get what we have in abundance: safe, clean water.



We are just minutes (even seconds) away from our water coolers at work and the filters on our faucets at home, so it easy to understand why access to water something that most Americans never worry about. The situation is quite different in West Africa. The women and girls of Niger have to walk many miles to get water, water that is often contaminated. As a result, they have time for little else, education is an unlikely dream, and 87% of Nigerien women are illiterate.



When a well is drilled, women’s time is suddenly free to pursue other productive activities like farming and raising livestock. These activities allow the women to earn money and provide for their families, an example which creates a positive, healthy atmosphere for their children, especially their daughters.

{photo by Gil Garcetti}


Support our cause. Don't let your compassion well run dry. Fill it with water.

Reducing Death and Disease with Safe Water

by Kristin Allen

My entire house is a germ-ridden nightmare. Both my 11-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son have the miserable stomach flu that is terrorizing everyone. It is not pretty here right now, to say the least. I am pumping them both full of liquids to keep them hydrated, and I am washing my hands about every 45 seconds, to try to keep myself from getting sick. It is no fun, but it made me think about the time I spent in Niger, West Africa, in January 2012. The trip broadened my understanding as to how having water – safe water – is essential to staying healthy, and how and, believe it or not, WHY people die when it is lacking.

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

The one thing I didn’t understand prior to my trip, is that when there is no safe water source in a village, the people do not die of the type of dehydration that is depicted in movies: lost in the desert with no water at all. Instead, what happens is that the villagers find a water source – however, contaminated – and use it to “survive”. Women and girls walk hours and miles a day to disgusting, disease-ridden water holes. One time, I saw a water hole that was simply a pit dug deep enough into the earth that water would simply seep in. The water that was pulled out was brown from the mud and other debris in the hole. At some point during the day, all of the water would be taken out, and there would be no water to be had until more seeped back in – typically the next day. Another time, I witnessed women fetching water from a small lake. It seemed like a better alternative, until I saw the livestock that were defecating and urinating into it as they drank from it themselves.

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

When water is such a scarce commodity, it takes women and girls hours a day to carry it back to the village, that it is used for one thing only: consumption. But consumption is a double-edged sword. Frequently, the contamination in the water causes terrible intestinal problems and diarrhea that then leads to severe dehydration. How can you possibly combat dehydration from diarrhea, when the only thing you can drink is the poison that caused it in the first place? This is why diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children under 5 years of age in Niger.

What about prevention of disease? When there is no safe water source in a village, the water is too precious to use for hygiene. It is second nature for me to wash and rewash my hands to try to prevent the flu from knocking me down, but this simple habit of hygiene is not an option for villagers in Niger who do not have a safe water source. However, once a village has a safe water source, the villagers can start to learn about the importance of hand-washing to eliminate and reduce illness and infection. Simply washing hands can cut the risk of diarrhea up to 50 percent.

{photo by Gil Garcetti}

Trachoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness, is spread from person to person. It is a huge problem in Niger. Trachoma is caused by bacteria, and one of the best ways to prevent it is by washing your face and hands – an impossibility when water is scarce. However, a village with safe water has the “luxury” of using water for hygiene. Diseases can be virtually eliminated by the villagers, simply because they are able to wash their faces and hands.

{photo by Barbara Goldberg}

Safe water creates an avalanche of benefits: Girls can go to school and avoid the permanent, crippling deformity and injury that results from the weight of water carried on their heads. Trachoma can be virtually eliminated in a village; and diarrhea doesn’t have to be so deadly. All of this from one, simple well.

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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.

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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!