Empowered by Water

by Kristopher Coulston

Illness and family emergencies are typically the cause for school absence in developed countries. Unfortunately, this is not the situation in drought-stricken countries, such as Niger. Water is scarce and girls spend hours walking miles just to satisfy their desperate need for it, even if the water sources they are gathering from are unsafe. The task of collecting water is most often delegated to women and young girls, forcing the women to forgo income-generating work and the girls to abandon their educational pursuits. Ready access to clean water can help girls achieve their educational aspirations, giving them the opportunity to create a bright future for themselves.

The idea of walking miles to gather water is unfathomable to most who live in a developed country, but for girls in Niger, survival is dependent on just that. The women and girls of Niger lose hours every day to the obligatory task of searching for and collecting safe water. The privilege of a daily routine that consists of waking up from a comfortable night’s sleep to eat breakfast and prepare for the school day ahead is nonexistent for girls in rural Niger thanks to a lack of ready access to clean water.

Young girls waiting for water

While many young Nigerien girls take on the incredible feat of making the long trek to gather water, the sources they gather their water from are often unsafe. Access to clean water plays a vital role in the health and development of children. Drinking from unsafe water sources comes with a multitude of risks including life-threatening disease and stunted growth. Even if families were located near a water source and girls did not have to spend hours collecting water, the deleterious consequences of drinking from unsanitary water sources would continue to impede successful educational outcomes for young girls in Niger.

Ready access to clean water makes a world of difference for those who live in drought-stricken countries like Niger. It means that men and women can provide for their families. It means that their daughters can pursue an education. A successful future awaits those girls who are given the opportunity to attend school. Women who complete their education see higher earnings, are more productive, and are enthusiastic about being involved in the political and economic discourse, creating the potential for progress in their communities. Ready access to clean water is key to Nigerien girls having the opportunity to pave the way to a bright and successful future for themselves, their families and communities.


More Than We Know: Discovering Nigerien Culture Through Art

By Jennifer Dees

As a writer, I feel that identity is tied to art.  I’ve wondered at the painter’s mind while staring at furious strokes of color. I’ve watched musicians lose themselves in a powerful song. And I’ve seen dance movements that express more than words ever could. So I set out to discover female Nigerienne artists and explore how these women empower themselves through their art.

My interested sparked when I came across a painter named Mariama. Her folk, abstract style is full of color and life, much like herself. According to an interview by Wali Africa, her fascination with bright colors comes from her cultural heritage. “If you give an African person some colors, most will pick the brightest, happiest colors. This is because that is what is in their hearts.” Her ethnicity is Tuareg, a seminomadic people whose women are confident, strong, and free.  Mariama  says that African people are full of life, that their greatest empowerment is their respect for themselves. This outlook definitely comes through in her paintings, which are in a style that I haven’t seen much of before.

Other artists express their beliefs and hopes through song. To me, to sing is to let your inhibitions fall away and to show what’s in your heart. Hamsou Garba is one such singer, and perhaps the most popular female singer in Niger. She hosts a radio talk show and uses her voice to cover themes like national unity, public health, and girls’ schooling. She strives to progress advance the rights of women and children as well as preserve traditions for future generations. Her music videos and style of singing are so unlike what I hear on the radio. It doesn’t feel like she’s playing out some story for the camera.

Another popular singer is Safiath, whose rich vocals has appeared in a variety of genres. She’s represented her country in international music events, many of her songs featuring themes such as children’s rights, education for girls, and leadership in Niger. According to an interview by Jeunesse Du Niger, she wishes that more people would be willing to listen to Nigerien music and less mainstream music. But whatever other people do, she is determined to push herself to do better. She maintains that “Good work forces respect.”

I carried oncontinued my research into what I was looking forward to the most: literature. I came across Hélène Kaziende. Her short story “Le Déserteur” won against a thousand competitors in an Africa No. 1 radio station competition. She was the first woman to write a political novel in Niger, and she currently teaches and promotes Nigerien literature and culture. She writes of struggle and imprisonment, of hope and changing fate. I read the first paragraph of Kaziende’s Aydia, a story about two girls who work to control their fate, one through labor and the other through school.  I was hooked, albeit surprised. I, an English major, who am is supposed to live and breathe literature, haven’t hasn’t looked far beyond the Hemingways and Hawthornes of this world, so discovering this story felt like a gateway to a new library;  I have so much more to read and so much more to learn.

These Nigerienne women have used art to express their souls, their beliefs, and their culture. This art is a fountain of perspective and meaning. Most of what we read in America is American or European literature. We watch American television and discuss American politics. Even when we hear of other countries, we hear it through American news channels. And that’s alright; it makes sense. But before I wrote this article, I didn’t realize how much of a bubble I was livinge in, and how much of the world people miss out on. Now I’ve recognized how easily a culture can be covered up and ignored. But mMusic, dance, literature, and other art forms may be the key to sharing the vast, rich cultures in of Niger. Not solely for the country’s benefit, but to connect ourselves to something fuller and greater than we already know.


Safiath interview: http://jeunesseduniger.blogspot.com/2013/03/safiath-une-artiste-engagee.html
Mariama interview: https://waliafrica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/nigerien-tuareg-art-meet-the-talented-mariama/

Annual Fundraiser

Click here or on any image to see and download these and more event photos.

On Sunday, September 10th, philanthropist, Stanley Black welcomed Wells Bring Hope back to his home for the fourth year in a row for its annual fundraiser. The day started off warm, but when it was time to sit down and listen to the talks, the clouds came in to cool us off, and the threat of thunderstorms never materialized, much to our relief.

Our event was a huge success, thanks to our generous donors, capable volunteers, and especially to Board Member, Carol Rosen who choreographed it all.

Thanks to the help of Marsha and Mark Hierbaum who contributed $30,000 in matching funds for Raise the Paddle, we raised enough money to fund 26 wells.

Guests nibbled on delicious food from Huntington Caterers and sipped wine generously discounted by The Wine House.

While everyone ate, drank, and chatted away, our fantastic volunteers enticed guests to bid in the silent auction.  The tables were loaded with exciting offerings and bidding for many items was fierce, especially for the Hollywood Bowl garden box, the Malibu Wine Safari, and a spa day at The Oaks at Ojai. Thanks to everyone who bid and made the auction lively and fun!

At the close of the silent auction, guests moved to the back lawn, where they were welcomed by Founder and President, Barbara Goldberg. This year we honored the women and girls of Niger who inspire our work. The more than life-size photos on easels of made them very real to our guests. Barbara announced the launch of our 10 Year Anniversary campaign, “500 in 10.” It reflects our goal to drill 500 wells in 10 years, giving us just 6 months to accomplish that in a race against climate change.

Stanley welcomed us all to his home, and then Barbara introduced WBH’s Nigerien-born Director of Microfinance, Hadiara Diallo, who talked about the extraordinary impact of the training that we give to women to start their own small businesses in every village where we drill a well.

Treasurer Larry Johnson spoke very movingly about his first trip to Niger last spring and the personal connection that he felt with the people he met, both our Rotary partners in Niamey and the rural villagers. Gil Garcetti closed with remarks about how he was touched by the hard lives of women and girls when he first went to West Africa in 2001 and how that motivated him to help change their lives.

Grant Snyder, auctioneer extraordinaire, took the stage for the fifth year in a row, helping us raise lots of money for wells.  He auctioned off exciting trips to Belize, Maui, and tempted donors with a week of skiing in Park City and playing “cowboy” at a dude ranch in Wyoming and flying on a private jet to some great California destinations. Once again Turkish Airlines gave us two business class tickets to any of their Africa destinations. They’ve supported us for the last five years and we so appreciate their generosity.

Thank you to all who came to support Wells Bring Hope’s nine great years!

To view and download all of these photos and more, please check out the album on the Wells Bring Hope Facebook page. Thanks to Debrah LeMattre and Aulona Gojani for their great photography!








What Sets Wells Bring Hope Apart

by Andi Claman

In my community, there are many opportunities to get involved. So why did I choose to dedicate my time to Wells Bring Hope?

At Chadwick High School, we call our Club Fair “Clubaganza.” It consists of dozens of tables decorated with posters and baked goods lined up along our main lawn, each one promoting a different club. I remember wandering through Clubaganza and stumbling upon Wells Bring Hope’s booth. It caught my attention for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t the baked goods that lured me in, but the cause. I’ve been involved with the club for a few years now, and am proud to say that now I’m the one behind that same table at Clubaganza relaying the message of WBH in an effort to recruit new members.

Andi Claman and another club member volunteering at WBH fundraiser

The first thing that came to mind when I learned about Wells Bring Hope’s efforts is how universal the need for safe water is. Everyone in the world needs clean, safe water to survive. This simple, basic need is something that all human beings have in common. In a world filled with countless unfair stereotypes, natural disasters and tragic warfare, something as simple as water has the power to unite us.

In addition to all the good Wells Bring Hope accomplishes by drilling wells, the organization also empowers women through its microfinance education program. Wells Bring Hope establishes these programs in every village where a well is drilled. This life-changing program teaches women crucial business skills. Many of the women involved in the program already possess a marketable skill that they are then able to profit from, and after a few months in the program, each woman can launch a small business. Clearly, Wells Bring Hope goes above and beyond with this transformative program.

Women selling homemade goods at market

Wells Bring Hope ensures that each well drilled is sustainable and will remain functioning. Wells Bring Hope works with every village for fifteen or more years after a well has been drilled to aid in the economic recovery of the village. Monthly visits ensure that the well is effectively serving its purpose, and well maintenance is taught to a committee where at least half of its members are women. The committee is then equipped with the information and tools necessary to handle any malfunctions that may occur.

Wells Bring Hope is unlike any other organization. It goes above and beyond in its efforts, allowing it to make a significant impact in any communities it enters. I hope you consider helping Wells Bring Hope to make an impact in many more communities in Niger.



Drought Differences: California vs. Niger

by Andrea Levin

Everything was parched and brittle. Once lush and green, yards turned brown and eventually gave way to swaths of dirt and swirling dust. As California entered its sixth year of drought, groundwater evaporated, reservoirs dried up, and water restrictions were implemented. For citizens, it meant not watering your lawn, except on pre-approved, designated days. We all did our part. We did what we could. If you saw someone wasting water, you spoke up.

The consequences of the drought were seen everywhere. Municipal fountains were turned off and public swimming pools were emptied. Trees were dying at an alarming rate. We still attempted to enjoy the great – albeit dry – outdoors. When my family and I went camping at Cachuma Lake Campgrounds, docks and piers were stuck, unmoving, in the mud.

My daughter and her friend walking across the bottom of Lake Cachuma.

And it was HOT: 2015 was the hottest year California had endured in 120 years of record-keeping. Dry brush and heat meant soon the wildfires would start. More than 3,800 fires scorched over 112,900 acres of land.

Finally, in 2016, a glimmer of hope. Meteorologists were predicting a fierce El Nino, a storm system that generally brings torrential rains. We hadn’t seen precipitation in months. Some kids had never even seen rain. If it did drizzle, it usually lasted a just minute. The children, excited to see “rain”, would run out of their houses and attempt to collect the paltry drops on their tongues. Our neighborhood hunkered down in anticipation of the storms. We reinforced our homes with sandbags and patched our roofs. Unfortunately, the downpour never arrived and the drought continued to mercilessly bear down on our state.

During the worst of it, we started to wonder what would happen if the rains never came. As a homeowner, I knew if the drought continued, we’d lose everything. After all, who would buy property in a dust bowl?

Eventually, our fears were put to rest. The rain did arrive, just later than expected, and in April of 2017, after days of record-setting rain, California was officially released from drought status. Throughout the ordeal, did our lives really change? For most of us, not really. During the 6-year ordeal we always had fresh water to drink, essential crops continued to grow (thanks to trucked-in water), and morning showers continued unabated, sending gallons of drinkable water down the drain.

California was able to easily overcome this historic drought. We are the lucky ones. In Niger, an ongoing drought has had a devastating effect on every facet of survival, from health to food production. And it has another cost we would never consider in California: Education. Instead of going to school, young girls are sent out daily to collect water to bring back to their village. The worse the drought, the farther they have to walk to find water, and the more school they miss.

There is hope, however. Despite the crushing drought, there are aquifers deep under the ground that offer an endless supply of clean, safe water, but reaching these aquifers is difficult, requiring skilled water engineers and heavy duty machinery. This is where Wells Bring Hope comes in. [Read about how we work.]
Thanks to our infrastructure and social supports, California’s drought was nothing more than an inconvenience to most residents. With your help, we can provide Nigeriens with the wells that they need to thrive despite the ongoing drought. Think you can’t make a difference? YOU CAN! Visit Wells Bring Hope and volunteer today!


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.