The Niger Delta Avengers

by Vanesa Martin


Wells Bring Hope works only in Niger, the world’s poorest nation. In contrast to the extreme poverty in Niger, its neighbor to the south, Nigeria, is one of the richest countries in Africa. Nigeria owes its wealth to the fact that it is an oil-rich country, and a sizeable portion of the Nigerian population works within or near the lucrative oil drilling business that operates along the Niger Delta. Enormous, transnational corporations such as Exxon Mobil and Shell have faced widespread opposition from various players internationally given their reprehensible reputation for polluting the waters of the expansive river, which is a drinking and bathing source for many impoverished families in several countries, including Niger. Some of the results of this contamination have been a concerning rise in birth defects within areas in the river’s vicinity, as well as the inability to farm and fish near the water. Moreover, the community around the delta reaps none of the profits that hugely profitable corporations such as Exxon Mobil makes; electricity, for example, is still essentially non-existent despite the fact that Exxon Mobil was the second most profitable corporation of 2014.

In response to these facts, an activist group has recently been making itself known. The Niger Delta Avengers, which purportedly consists mostly of young and educated Nigerian citizens, has actively been attempting to shut down drilling operations by causing explosions at the refineries, as well as crude and gas lines. Their intentions, according to statements released by the group itself, are not to hurt innocent civilians but to take matters of environmental justice into their own hands when these corporations will not pay them any attention.

The Niger Delta is an oil-rich region in the southwestern part of Nigeria that has long been a source of dispute between the people that live in the area and those looking to profit off its natural resources. On their website, the Niger Delta Avengers have vowed to destroy both Chevron and Shell’s most important refineries in the Delta region for the sake of justice for their communities. Even if it means dealing a devastating blow to the Nigerian economy in the process—this is a prime example of the desperation and of the gravity brought about by the oppression of the concerns of locals. Despite the fact that this issue certainly affects Nigeria directly and severely, the repercussions are felt in neighboring countries that have rivers that connect and flow into the Delta, such as Niger and Cameroon. Currently, all three countries are suffering from political corruption, Boko Haram attacks, and a drought exacerbated by the effects of El Niño, but the violence and the adverse health effects caused by the polluted water is, in any case a sure sign of the importance of a reliable source of water.

source: {BBC Worldwide- Getty images}

By providing access to clean water to the communities of Niger, Wells Bring Hope can mitigate the problems faced by contaminated river water sources by accessing groundwater. It is difficult to solve political and economic conflicts like the one currently plaguing the Nigerian Delta region, but wells can go into effect much more rapidly and bring lasting and sustainable change to impoverished and innocent civilians locally.


Malnutrition: The Latest Crisis in Niger

Highlights from

The United Nations has sounded an alarm over the situation and says that malnutrition among children in the country has reached the emergency threshold: 15% suffering from acute malnutrition.

The UN agency revealed that between January and April, there were more than 176,000 children suffering from severe malnutrition but only 65,000 had been treated in nutritional health facilities. The agency estimates that there are about 1.1 million children suffering from malnutrition who can be treated in the nutritional health facilities.

The rate of malnutrition in the West African country has continued to deteriorate over the last 3 years, a trend that the country’s Ministry of Health attributes to lack of clean drinking water and poor hygiene.

The most affected regions are Zinder, Diffa, Maradi and Dosso. This comes at a time when the UN is facing low mobilization of funds to finance all its humanitarian programs in Niger, receiving only about $79 million out of the $316 million it requires.

When a well is drilled in a village, a plentiful supply of clean water enable people to grow crops and so their children don’t die from malnutrition. It’s just one more reason to support our work!


My Water Ritual

by Christine Eusebio

Every morning, I wake up and pour myself a glass of water. It’s what makes me feel refreshed before I start my day.

One morning, I pushed the button on my water cooler to fill my cup, and nothing came out. I was so used to having my morning cup of water that I almost panicked. I was overcome with a sense of urgency. Fortunately, we had a new, full barrel of water to replace the empty one, and I didn’t have to wait long for that glass of water. This event made me think about the big water issues around the world today.

In recent years, the issue of water scarcity has been a growing concern in many parts of the globe, particularly in poverty-stricken areas. Global warming and unpredictable weather changes have lead to a dramatic decrease in the fresh, clean water available for everyday use.

Rising temperatures in many parts of the world has caused severe dry weather, causing many water resources to dry up. According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than half of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed. Drastic weather changes have caused droughts as well as floods in many regions around the world.

As the world population rises, so does the need for water to sustain lives.
Water use has increased more than twice the rate of population in the last 100 years. According to the UN, by the year 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in regions with severe water scarcity. As a result, many will have no choice but to use unsafe water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

While some of these environmental changes are inevitable, there is still the possibility for change. When you help to drill a well in Niger, you ensure that the people of that village will have a sustainable source of safe, clean water that will not be impacted by drought or other changes in the weather. As a result, child mortality will decrease by 70%, and the village will be transformed.


The Middle Man

by Shelton Owen

{source: Human Rights Watch}

This month, Niger’s Foreign Minister made a rather large request of the European Union – one billion euros. This chunk of change would aid the fight to end illegal migration. As a major transit country for those fleeing tumultuous homelands, Niger has become home to a large number of migrants. The IOM estimates that up to 150,000 migrants will cross through Niger this year alone as they try to reach the Mediterranean Coast. Whether it’s driven by war and terrorist groups such as Boko Haram or simply the horrendous conditions of some African nations, the EU has been presented with an explosive migration crisis.

The request isn’t too far fetched, considering the EU has agreed to similar terms in prior situations. Last July, 1.15 billion euros were allocated to West Africa, a portion of which was intended for migration. Last month, Turkey struck a deal to disperse the flow of migrants from the Middle East. The task to limit this mass exodus is the result of a larger issue at hand – the chaotic, unsanitary conditions of impoverished nations. If homelands weren’t a threat to their own citizens, the urge to flee would diminish. For example, Syria, one of the main sources of refugees, has a staggering rape epidemic, a dire need for sanitary water, and an incredible imbalance of political power that has lead to war. This is the root of the problem, the driving force, the fountain from which other complications flow.

{source: Hubpages}

Niger is the poorest country in the world, yet its will to help fight this problem is commendable. It is inspiring to see a nation, regardless of their own challenges, working to help refugees from other countries. With the help of the EU, Niger will hopefully be able to meet the basic needs of the refugees who flow through the country while ensuring the safety of its own citizens.


Empowering Women to Reduce Population Growth

by Vanesa Martìn

{source: O. Omirin}

Total fertility rate is a measure used by demographers to describe the average number of children that women in a specified population have. Like many African countries, Niger’s fertility rate is high— so high in fact, that is is one of the top ten fastest growing countries in the world. The total fertility rate of the nation is 7.57, meaning that women in Niger women give birth to an average of 7 or 8 children during their lifetimes.

Some have suggested that this population growth is dismantling the development efforts in the country, and a 2012 article from The Economist stated that these increases in population were exacerbating the food crisis in the country.

It is important to take into account the many factors that contribute to Niger’s high fertility rate. Many families in Niger are reliant on subsistence farming for their food so having many children is an important part of maintaining the family’s livelihood. There are, of course, religious and cultural factors as well, and education about sex and family planning is limited. Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking reasons for the country’s high fertility is the fact that one in seven children does not survive to age five. At that rate, every mother in Niger is likely to experience the loss of a child (State of the World’s Mothers, 2012). Finally, a typical girl in Niger receives only four years of education, a fact which contributes greatly to early marriage and motherhood.

All in all, the rate at which Niger’s population is increasing is a concern for development efforts and is a clear contributor to poverty, but it does not have to be this way. When women and girls no longer have to walk for water, their lives are transformed. The girls go to school, and the women receive microfinance training that enables them to start small businesses. Girls delay marriage and motherhood, and women are valued for more than their reproductive abilities. Gradually, there will be a shift toward more formal employment and away from subsistence farming. These cultural shifts are correlated with a decreased fertility rate.

By contributing to Wells Bring Hope, you can have a real impact on issues of overpopulation, poverty, famine, education, health, and early marriage both by through the drilling of wells for immediate relief and access to water, and through the long-term efforts to empower the women of Niger.


An Afternoon of Jazz

On Sunday, May 1st, Linda and Judd Swarzman generously hosted Wells Bring Hope’s “Afternoon of Jazz” in their beautiful Encino home. It was a bluebird day as Wells Bring Hope supporters made preparations amid green grass and a waterfall flowing into the shimmering pool, all surrounded by colorful flowerbeds, a perfect setting for a lovely afternoon.

Friends old and new mixed and mingled, sipping wine, Arnold Palmers and thanks to our event sponsor, a new sparkling tequila TeQava, donated specially for our event. Everyone nibbled hors d’oeuvres passed by our charming volunteers.

An hour later, guests made their way to the tennis court for the performance. Our very gracious hostess, Linda Swarzman, welcomed everyone. She was followed by WBH Founder and President Barbara Goldberg who talked about what makes our cause special and worthy of support. Gil Garcetti, the man who inspired the start of WBH, added a personal story about how drilling a well in a village enables girls to go to school, something very dear to his heart.

Then it was time for the real show to begin! For the next hour, the Singers-in-Law, the Just-Us Quartet, and the Hearsay Horns delighted the crowd with classics from the Great American Songbook and jazz hits of the 50s, and 60s. All of these incredible musicians very generously donated their services to entertain us and help us save lives with safe water.

The evening ended with sweet treats for everyone. The colorful cake pops, handmade from a secret recipe by Jamie Gates, our Director of Special Events, were definitely the hit of the evening! Following close behind was another homemade treat, Laura Feit’s lemon bars!

This event would not have been possible without the generosity of Linda and Judd Swarzman and the talented musicians who donated their time. Special thanks to our event sponsors, Hard Rock Café, Whole Foods, TeQava, and Trader Joe’s for their food and beverages. And more special thanks to Jamie Gates of Lyniah Lifestyle and Event Management for choreographing the event so beautifully and to long-time supporter, Carol Rosen of Party Designs by Carol, who is always on hand to help make sure everything runs smoothly! Finally, thank you to Jess Isaac for documenting the day so beautifully. To view and download these and more photos, please click here (the download code is 3905).



When Water is the Problem and the Solution

By Vanesa Martín

{Source: The water project }

The climatic changes brought about by El Niño have caused unseasonal floods and droughts, and has led much of the southern and eastern African regions to be plunged into food insecurity thanks to failed crops. In some parts of Ethiopia, which was the hardest hit by such unexpectedly severe and erratic rainfall disruptions, about 4/5 of all crops withered. Zimbabwe recently declared itself in a state of crisis, and Kenya and Nigeria are likewise experiencing dramatic food shortages. The number of people now experiencing hunger has increased by the millions. To say the current situation is dire would be an understatement.

More and more attention has been given to climate change in recent years, but it is still not enough to mitigate its effects in the global south where the population still depends so much on the fruits of the earth and on weather patterns. Subsistence farming is the backbone of many African economies like Niger where it contributes 40% of the national GDP despite subpar soil and difficult terrain. With recent sporadic rainfall patterns, however, subsistence and commercial farming are compromised.

Despite the gravity of the situation, there is hope. Hydroponics, a system where plants are grown without soil, seems to be a promising alternative to traditional farming methods. Got Produce?, a hydroponics business based in California, has been establishing branches in developing countries around the world with apparent success. One of these locations, outside of Gaborone, Botswana, recently reported yields 300 times larger than what would have been possible with traditional farming.

In hydroponic farming, crops are suspended in nutrient-filled water within a larger greenhouse complex where pipes help to provide the roots with oxygen. It may sound counter-intuitive, but this process uses 98% less water and 100 times less land than traditional methods! Furthermore, the ability to grow crops indoors means that farmers are less impacted by current and future drought conditions. In an additional boon to the local economy, the business has been able to hire local youth and single mothers who would otherwise have been unemployed. Distribution is simplified, transportation costs and pollution are minimized, and access to healthy and organic fruits and vegetables is streamlined.

All in all, hydroponics is one possible solution to the problems created by climate change and exacerbated by El Niño, but businesses like Got Produce?, while innovative, require a great deal of infrastructure that is not always available in places like Niger. For the poorest country in the world, the best hope for a increased food security and protection from the effects of drought is a safe water source in every village. The deep water wells that we drill are not impacted by the drought cycle or climate change, and as a result, they provide a safe, reliable source of water for both drinking and farming, and with your support, Wells Bring Hope will continue to drill wells and transform lives in Niger.

Hope Springs Eternal…Or Does It?

By Barbara Goldberg

{source: Bartelby}

This was the opening line of an article by Elizabeth Bernstein that appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week and since the word “hope” is in our name, it caught my eye. As I think back seven years ago to when I first came up with the name, Wells Bring Hope, the word “hope” did not seem as prevalent in our consciousness, conversations, or in names or taglines for products and services as it is today. Over the years, I’ve noticed it being used more and more. The “why” for that is a subject for another day.

The point of the WSJ piece was that “hope” is an emotion that we need more of. It went on to say that hope is a crucial element in our physical and mental well-being. I found it interesting that psychologists found that people who are hopeful don’t just have a goal or wish but a strategy to achieve it. Hope is the belief that the future will be better than the present and that you have some power to make it so.

Or take the quiz and find out how hopeful you are!!

Answer the questions according to what is generally true for you, regardless of whether you’ve had a good week or a bad week. Place a number from 0 to 3 next to each question.

____ 1. There are people in my life who I completely trust.
____ 2. I will find ways to make my dreams come true.
____ 3. I do some of my best work when inspired by others.
____ 4. I believe there is a positive force somewhere in the universe.
____ 5. I’m capable of finding support from others when I need it.

Total your scores.
Low hopefulness: 0-9
Medium hopefulness: 10-12
High hopefulness: 13-15

Look more closely. Were your scores consistent across the different domains of hope? Each question covered a domain: Questions 1: Attachment, 2: Mastery, 3: Supported Mastery, 4: Spirituality, 5: Survival.

Help Women, Help the World

by Barbara Goldberg

Gender issues have come into sharp focus in recent years, particularly in Africa. The African Union declared 2016 to be “The Year of Human Rights with a Special Focus on Women’s Human Rights.” Gender was a priority in the Millennium Development Goals and continues to be so in the new Sustainable Development Goals.

However, without the empowerment of women at the grassroots level, the same hardships will continue to exist for women and girls. Legislation will not change what actually happens in the rural villages where we work, although laws protecting and supporting women are critical too.

Why is the work of Wells Bring Hope so profound? It’s because our working model includes the economic empowerment of women in a very tangible and reality-based way. We are the only safe water cause that trains women to start their own small businesses wherever we drill a well. Seeing the results of how we help women bears out why we must continue to support women and consequently the entire family on so many levels.

Improving their financial situation is a big part of it, but equally important is the ability to raise crops with their micro-loans which prevents them from dying of starvation during famines. And famines are occurring with increasing frequency due to global warming.

So, when you help fund a well you are doing the best that you can do to help women and girls in West Africa. Wells Bring Hope was started by women who wanted, to not only save lives with safe water, but equally, to end the burden of women and girls and give women the opportunity to help better the lives of their families.

What is Luxury?

by Barbara Goldberg

I started thinking about the upcoming 7 Gallon Challenge and what might be easy or difficult to cut back on. The easy one for me was fewer flushes a day. Living alone, no one else would be impacted by what sits for a while in my toilet!

Before I actually took the 7 Gallon Challenge, I decided to do a “test market”—going through my day, thinking consciously about my water usage and how it might feel to cut back on certain things. It didn’t take long to discover that the prospect of taking a short shower didn’t feel so great. As I stood under the hot, flowing water for a few minutes, my higher self said, “Enough, turn off the water!” But my body answered, “Don’t you dare!!”

I was luxuriating in the pleasure of a hot shower and didn’t want it to end. I suspect you can relate, yes? But is a hot shower really a “luxury?” For most of us, maybe not. We have ready access to water with the turn of a tap.

For the people in rural West Africa, better known as “the bush,” a hot shower is something most will never experience. I thought of this as I visited villages in Niger for the first time in 2009. We celebrated with people who had just been given a safe water well and their joy could not be contained.

Taking a shower after I came home, this thought struck me: the people who got a well in their village were fortunate for so many reasons, but they will never experience the pleasure of taking a hot shower. There is no plumbing in these remote villages, no hot water, no way to heat sufficient quantities of water for a shower.

A hot shower—such a small thing in comparison to the live-saving benefits of safe water—but yet it is still something these people will never have. It made me realize how fortunate I am to have been born in a developed country and to have, among the many good things in my life, the ability to luxuriate in a hot shower.