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An African Reflects on Clean and Dirty Water

by Hadiara Diallo

Recently, I looked at pictures of clean and dirty water taken during my last trip to Niger, West Africa. There were a few shots of the surrounding village of Tchibarey. These photos remind me that while much of Africa struggles to find clean water sources, during the wettest season, the ‘marigaux’’ encircling the village was high enough to force us to get out of the car and walk through the water embankment so we could get to the village. Although locals were happy for the rain, one can’t help but wonder why countries throughout Africa are not taking better advantage of methods to recapture water for future use.

By sharing my pictures, I thought you might get a clear idea about what water looks like in my part of the world, which is further described by Pete Brach in his blog: Why Clean Water for Africa? Certainly, the adage: ‘’A picture speaks a thousand words” truly applies in this situation. So, while my blog Struggling To Find Clean Water In West Africa describes dismal conditions, pictures of the muddied murk of dirty water drive the point home most directly. Please take a quick look at them and see what people in Tchibarey and many West African villages use for cooking, bathing and drinking! Do you not agree that everyone living in Africa and elsewhere has a right to clean drinking water?

In Niger, the consumption of unsafe water is the source of many ills for the population in the areas of health, employment and education. By donating money or time to Wells Bring Hope, you are helping Africans move out of poverty and into jobs. Please join us in our fight to bring clean water to Niger, West Africa, the third poorest country in the world.

Empowerment for Women

by Sophie Glander

Bringing empowerment to women allows for greater expressions of caring attentiveness within communities. It follows then, to create lasting change, greater attention must be put on helping women cultivate their potential. They must be empowered and given the chance to feel proud of who and what they are.

Fati Harouna, a 39 year old Nigerien women is a great example of wholesome pride. She reads, writes and understands math. Thanks to micro-financing, she is also an accomplished business owner. Kenyan Vivian Onano is yet another promising example. Kenyan has moved from living in an impoverished village to being a sophomore at Carthage College, Wisconsin. Otherwise, her fate might have matched 50% of Nigerien girls who marry men 3 times their age.

While it is all well and good to discuss the importance of empowering women, that is where it often ends. Wells need to be drilled if this dream is to become a reality. Improving education and training is another prime mover that will cement a brighter future. Quoting the great Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

In many cases, particularly in remote villages, funding education without drilling a well is wasteful. However, without the heavy burden of fetching water, many girls will be free to become literate, discover their talents, learn new skills and develop into women who can empower their village, their country and their world.

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform”. – Diane Mariechild


The Revenge of Water

by Barbara Goldberg

In the July 29th issue of “The Week,” one of my favorite publications, an eye-opening article appeared with the above title, excerpted from a book by Charles Fishman, “The Big Thirst.” “Water warriors” like me and others spend a lot of time thinking and writing about the lack of safe water in the developing world. But what about water in our own backyard? Was there a time in the history of the United States when people died of unsafe water? Absolutely. And what did we as a nation do about it? Plenty. Unfortunately, many governments in the developing world can’t afford to help their people adequately and so they suffer.

The following excerpts from the above mentioned article are noteworthy:

In the decade from 1905 to 1915, as dozens of water systems around the U.S. installed filters and chlorination systems, we went through a revolution that profoundly improved water, and human life, forever. Between 1900 and 1940, mortality rates in the United States fell 40 percent.

How much did clean water matter? Simple filtration and chlorination of city water supplies reduced overall mortality in U.S. cities by 13 percent. Clean water cut child mortality in half. From 1900 to 1940, U.S. life expectancy at birth went from 47 years to 63 years. In just 40 years, the life span of the average American was extended 16 years.

That first water revolution ushered in an era—the one we think we still live in—in which water was unlimited, free, and safe. And once it was unlimited, free, and safe, we could stop thinking about it. The fact that it was unfailingly available “on demand” meant that we would use it more, even as we thought about it less.

The figures are dramatic. In 1955, the U.S. Geological Survey said that rural Americans without running water in their homes used 10 gallons a day per person. (That same year, each cow used 20 gallons per day.) For newly “electrified” farm families, with pumps, and for city families, that number was already 60 gallons per person. Today, it’s 100 gallons per person at home.

The ease with which water enters and leaves our lives allows us an indifference to our water supply. We are utterly ignorant of our own watermark, of the amount of water required to float us through the day, and we are utterly indifferent to the mark our daily lives leave on the water supply.

Right now, 40 percent of the world’s 6.9 billion people don’t have easy access to clean water. By 2050, there will be 2.4 billion more people on the planet. They will be thirsty.

The three things that we have taken to be the natural state of our water supply—abundant, cheap, and safe—will not be present together in the decades ahead. We may have water that is abundant and cheap, but it will be “reuse water,” for things like lawn watering or car washing, not for drinking; we will certainly have drinking water that is safe, and it may be abundant, but it will not be thoughtlessly inexpensive.


by Amanda Silver-Westrick

Imagine if, here in the United States, all of the water pipes in your house
disappeared one day. Now imagine that the only way to get water for the
household was to make a daily two-hour trek on foot to the closest river. Your
daughters, your mother, and your sisters were suddenly responsible for this task,
and you helplessly watched them walk away in the mornings with empty buckets.

Your female family members would start to develop health problems from the
walk itself, including neck and shoulder pain from carrying heavy containers
of water. When in dire need of water, you might have to send your young
daughter to the river alone, and she might encounter snakes, wild dogs, or other
dangerous animals. Sexual predators might also frequent these paths, knowing
that young women pass by every day. And as you helplessly watch the females of
your family walk home from their long journey laden with the heavy weight of their
sloshing buckets, you would feel the pain of knowing you had no choice but to send
them out tomorrow and every day after that.

This nightmare is a daily reality in most of rural Africa. The search for clean water
is all-consuming and arduous, and mostly unsuccessful. Once the women reach
Africa’s rivers and lakes, they often have no choice but to fill their buckets with
brown, murky water, teeming with parasites and bacteria like schistosomiasis
and cholera. Development projects that bring clean, accessible water to African
villages eradicate more than just water-borne illnesses. They also help to keep
local women safe and healthy.

Why Clean Water for Africa

by Pete Brach

Why is providing clean water so important and why Africa? First and foremost,
water with pathogens kills 4,900 African children per day. This translates into
more than one child per minute! This is a travesty considering that clean water
for the people of Africa significantly improves health conditions, combats hunger,
increases educational opportunities for allows girls to go to school, frees up
time for women to establish small businesses and cumulatively improves the

It is astonishing that one third of Africa’s population has no access to clean
water. Almost two-thirds have no access to proper sanitation. The result:
widespread suffering from malaria, typhoid, dysentery, diarrhea and other
diseases. Using global statistics as a benchmark, the occupation of an estimated
50% of all hospital beds in Africa results from waterborne diseases!

Women and girls in Niger, West Africa break their backs walking miles a day to
fetch water, water so dirty that no one living in a developed nation would dream
of giving it to their children. For these women, their only choice is to give their
very young water that may be contaminated and pray they survive!
Grim statistics state that one out of four of their children will not live to see their
5th birthday. 40% of the population has trachoma which, when left untreated,
leads to blindness. Some will be victims of guinea worm – an extremely painful
condition; a worm, sometimes several feet long, lives under the skin.

Wells Bring Hope!

A quote from our President, Barbara Goldberg: “…in some small villages in Niger
there is hope. Drill a well 300 feet into the ground and lives are transformed
instantly.” When a clean water well is drilled in a village in West Africa,
tremendous joy abounds. They see it as a miracle and hope for their future. You
can see it in the video on our Home page.

Some quotes from that video

“When we started pumping water, the chief of the community, he is eighty years
old…when he saw water coming out from that pump, he started crying. He was
saying that he could not imagine in his life that one day his village would get
clean water like this.”

“Everything will be alright now that we have got good water. We won’t be sick.
Our children won’t die.” (From a woman who lost 11 out of 12 children from
contaminated water.)

“Now we are so happy, it cut out more than half our work.”

“Now we don’t have to ask our men for money.”

“In Africa people say that to educate a girl is to educate a whole nation.”

A donation of $30 provides one child in Niger, West Africa access to a
clean water for 30+ years!

Our Founder


After her first child was born, Barbara Responsive Research, Inc. and spent over thirty years as a marketing consultant to Fortune 500 companies including Bank of America, Coca Cola, American Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, General Mills, IBM, and 3M to name a few.


Barbara had a son in 1975 and moved to Los Angeles where she continued to work and raise her family.


In 1993, she founded Salon Forum, a non-business venture, to bring the many women she knew together for monthly events in her home that supported personal enrichment and connection. After a feature article on it appeared in The Los Angeles Times in 2007, Salon Forum’s mailing list grew to over 800 women.


In February, 2008, former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti spoke to the women of Salon Forum. His powerful works about and moving photographs of the water crisis in West Africa and the plight of women and girls touched Barbara deeply. An email the next day to the other women in the audience confirmed what she suspected – many felt a desire to take action. With little thought about how what she was doing might impact her life, Barbara jumped in with both feet and told Gil that the women of Salon Forum were taking up the clause.


A native New Yorker, Barbara began a rewarding career in marketing and advertising on Madison Avenue in the era of “Mad Men.” and has a few of her own stories to tell. Early on, a pioneering opportunity came along in the area of new product development in a stimulating “think tank,” trailblazing in the area of consumer research.

Since beginning Wells Bring Hope in 2008, Barbara has devoted her full time to saving lives with safe water in West Africa.

Barbara believes strongly that life can take surprising twists and turns – she had always been open to walking down a new path. As a risk taker with an adventuresome spirit, the idea of taking up a cause that inspired her and others seemed like a natural step, despite the fact that she was approaching a time in life when most people are thinking about retirement and slowing down. Barbara saw WBH as an opportunity to use the skills she had honed in her career to help make a difference in the lives of others.

Barbara has always valued her freedom, taking time to travel to remote, far-off places for relaxation and adventure. A relatively late grandmother of three girls, she came to understand why friends talked endlessly about their grandkids. As the head an almost all-volunteer organization of mostly “20-30-somethings,” she values the opportunity to mentor and support a great team of water warriors.


Beware of Do Gooders Bearing Money and Gizmos

by Cindy L. Kurland

The recent “Frontline” expose of much-trumped PlayPumps International’s failure compared to the quiet success of Wells Bring Hope is an excellent example of the wrong way and right way to do something. It also illustrates how a daffy idea can grab the media’s attention, attract big name support and money, waste millions of dollars in the process then crumple and die.

The brainchild of Trevor Field, described as “a billboard executive in South Africa,” the idea was to use roundabouts (a merry-go-round-like piece of playground equipment that children run next to and then jump on) to pump water into an above ground storage tank. The four sides of the tank would have advertisements and public service announcements that would support the maintenance of the pump.

Amidst great fanfare that included, ironically, an inspiring, feel-good segment on “Frontline,” then First Lady Laura Bush gushed about PlayPumps, the United States donated $10 million, the Case Foundation gave $5 million and rapper J-Zee performed as part of a $60 million fundraising effort.

In contrast, Wells Bring Hope (WBH) was rather quietly founded in March of 2008, by a small group of women, after hearing acclaimed photographer Gil Garcetti describe the West African water crisis, chronicled in his recently-published book, Water Is Key: A Better Future for Africa.”

As of March 2010, Wells Bring Hope has funded 34 wells in Niger pronounced (knee zhare5) selected because, according to the UN Development Index, it is THE poorest country in the world.

The two extremely divergent paths taken by PlayPumps and WBH explains the demise of one and success of the other.

After carefully researching NGO’s working on water in West Africa, Wells Bring Hope partnered with World Vision, because they had 20 years’ experience successfully drilling wells in that region. PlayPumps relied on the “Save the Children” Foundation, which had no expertise in this field, to handle its drilling in Mozambique.

World Vision doesn’t begin drilling before the village invests a small amount of their own money in the project and the chief forms a committee of village elders and women to administrate the well. Villagers pay a small amount for the water, which goes toward the well’s maintenance, and people are trained to repair it, so they take full ownership of their well.

A key element in PlayPumps’ failure is the very daffiness of the proposal. Everyone loved the novelty of the idea—having water pumped as children play–but

– No body bothered to determine how much spinning on a roundabout was needed to supply a village with water—“The Guardian” newspaper estimated that 27 hours of “play” per day was needed to provide the targeted daily water needs of 2,500.

– And, nobody actually observed children (without the presence of cameras) to see just how long any of them played on a roundabout—one observer said “the kids hated the pump and it was chore.”

Another flaw was PlayPumps’ reliance on advertising revenue which, logically, directed well construction away from the poorest, neediest areas. Jean Case, writing about the error of donating $5 million to PlayPumps, acknowledged that they “perform best in certain community settings, such as at large primary schools.” Another observer determined that a large school setting was the only appropriate application.

After a WBH well is drilled, World Vision continues to work with a village for 15 years, training people to administer and maintain the well and educating them on proper hygiene and good sanitation. In contrast, PlayPumps drilled wells and then moved on, leaving the villages with no infrastructure or plan for maintaining something that, unlike standard wells with hand pumps, required unique knowledge and parts that are not readily available.
After extensively reviewing the massive failure in person, a colleague of hydrologist and hydro-philanthropist, Michael E. ‘Aquadoc’ Campana concluded in “Hydro- philanthropy” that a number of things can be learned from PlayPumps’ failure:
1) appropriate, sustainable technology is critical;
2) locals need to buy in and have ownership;
3) think things through before acting;
4) if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (replacing functional hand pumps in some places); and
5) beware of do-gooders bearing money and gizmos.”
Not surprisingly, the above “conclusions” are the bedrock of Wells Bring Hope and World Vision’s approach to providing safe water in the developing world.

My Sweet Journey to Senegal

by Amanda Silver-Westrick

Last summer, I lived in Senegal, West Africa, for two months. I lived with a Senegalese family, took sustainable international development classes with local university students, and conducted personal field research on water issues in the rural town of Guede-Chantier (“Geh-day Shon-tee-ay”).

Guede-Chantier is a small village in the northern-most region of Senegal. It lies on the Doue River, very close to the Mauritanian border. The town has about 7,000 inhabitants total and is 100% Muslim. Working with a group of five other students researching water-related topics, I interviewed over 250 men, women and children.

In Guede, fetching water is always the responsibility of women, and locals explained that the Koran instructs women to obey their husbands and therefore bring them whatever they need, including water. The walk to fetch water from the river can take up to four hours a day.

Young girls drop out of school at a much earlier age than boys because they are expected to stay home to help their mothers fetch water and do chores. Also, the women get water-borne illnesses, including schistosomiasis and cholera, much more often than the men, because women spend more time in the river; they wash clothes, fill buckets with water, and bathing children. These findings made me realize, more than ever before, that female empowerment and clean water accessibility in developing nations are irreversibly intertwined.

My African voyage was intense and full of ups and downs. I think it’s just the nature of the trip. It was hot and dusty and foreign, and both emotionally and physically exhausting. But some moments were absolutely precious and will stay with me always, held carefully close to my heart to forever remind me about the important things in life.

One of these took place during an interview with a group of influential men in the community. They explained that the open wells were drying up faster than in previous years, and that many families were getting sick from the river water. By this point, many of us researchers were growing disheartened, overwhelmed by the many obstacles to clean water in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the end of the discussion, we gathered ourselves and thanked them for taking the time to speak with us. One of the older men, with warm, perceptive eyes and a grandfatherly smile, told us: “We welcome you into our village and our homes. We know that you’ve come from very far away to help us. You come with love in your hearts, and we’re so very excited to have you here.” I almost cried, but instead smiled and shook his hand with both of mine.

Annual Summer Volunteers’ Summer BBQ

It was a perfect L.A. summer day in a Japanese garden, and the mood of serenity was overshadowed by the excitement of knowing that our combined efforts have funded 63 wells and three more coming soon.

On hand to celebrate with us was the inspiration for our cause, Gil Garcetti, who talked about his recent trip to Niger with supporters, Ken Kilroy and his son Ross.

We were also thrilled to meet one of our newest volunteers, Hadiara Diallo, on the right below, who was born in Niger and talked about her childhood experiences there. (To read about them: Susanah Ngwuta, a volunteer for over a year, and from Nigeria, also writes on this blog.about her experiences growing up in West Africa.

Our Director of Marketing, Pete Brach, talked about the importance of going onto our Facebook page and “sharing” the contents with their friends, and helping to spread the word. On hand also was Jennifer Duarte, Director of Special Events, right, and Bex Dumler, who works closely with her.