The Meaning of Poverty

by Christine Eusebio

What comes to mind when we think of being poor?

Is it not having enough money? Not having the most expensive car? Or even not having the right name brand clothes? In West Africa, the definition is very simple.

The ten poorest countries in the world lie within this region of one of the largest continents on Earth. Seven nations in this area are currently troubled with political and social issues, and have been devastated by harsh climate changes. Niger is one of the most severely affected of those countries.

According to Oxford University’s poverty index, 92 percent of Niger’s population is trapped in what is called “multi-dimensional” poverty, the highest level in 109 countries studied. Niger was also ranked dead last on the UN’s 2015 Human Development Index.

To make matters worse, thanks to global warming, drought has created yet another crisis. Devastated crops have left little to eat for the 6 million people already suffering from food scarcity.

A river runs dry in Niger – {source: Bread for the World}

In Niger, many villagers cut back on meals during the “lean season”, which is a time when food stocks run low before harvest season, and the drought has extended this period. As a result, families go to bed hungry and malnourishment is rampant.

Many Nigerien mothers suffer unimaginable losses, watching as their young children starve to death. According to Save the Children, Niger has consistently been at or near the bottom of its rankings of the worst places in the world to be a mother. Many of these women wake up each day unable to feed their children.

{source: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection}

By 2040, 55 million people will live in Niger, considering the difficulties feeding the present population, the situation is likely to get worse.

It doesn’t have to be this way. When a well is drilled, the people in the village have access to a safe water source, but the benefits go far beyond this. Villagers are taught drip farming techniques, and the grey water is used to water vegetable gardens that supplement nutrition in times of famine. The food that these gardens provide is just one more life-saving benefit of a safe water well.


More for Christmas

By Nicholas Baldry

{Source: Hideya HAMANO}

It is highly likely that you are getting ready for Christmas just now. I know I am. Despite being an atheist I'm, frankly, very willing to get involved in any festival that revolves around eating vast quantities of food. Heck, I'm not American either, but come Thanksgiving I can be found shoveling vast amounts of turkey into my face like a castaway who has happened to drift ashore on the fourth Thursday in November after months at sea.

If you do celebrate Christmas, in all likelihood Christmas dinner is one of the most luxurious meals you will eat all year. You make an effort with what goes on your table. No oven ready pizza for you this festive day. Some quality meat; a gargantuan turkey, maybe a beautifully glazed ham, perhaps a gloriously marbled bit of beef or if you are of the vegetarian persuasion then a nut roast prepared in a creative manner designed to make you not miss the other stuff.

It's not just main dishes. Tables groan under the weight of mountains of sides. Desserts are piled so high you can hardly see your elderly grandmother on the other side of the table. Chocolates – yes, I know you said you'd only have one but it's mid morning and half the box is gone, how did that happen? Good wine, of course. Luxury! Luxury! And more luxury!

By the time you've troughed through this gastronomic orgy, no doubt you'll be feeling more than a little corpulent and perhaps a little thirsty. You will most likely waddle over to the faucet for a glass of water. And there it is. The greatest luxury on your Christmas dinner table. Looking innocuous among the shredded remains of the feast is a glass of clean, refreshing water, one that you can refill at any time. It's not just a Christmas miracle, it's something we look upon as a right, not the privilege it really is.

So if you too wind up eating the shame- inducing quantities I intend to eat, please think of those who do not experience feasts like Christmas or even clean water to drink. So this holiday season, please give the gift of clean water. Happy Holidays!

Heat Wave in Effect

By Jessica Isaac

{Source: Jessica Isaac}

I woke up this morning to the news that my daily routine may start getting a bit more challenging. See, I like to put on my running shoes and hit the pavement for a jog as early as possible, mostly to avoid heat exhaustion, but also to take advantage of that sweet spot between being awake, yet not alert enough to talk myself out of it.

Here was the news I received from the National Weather Service: “Excessive Heat Warning remains in effect. Maximum temperatures will reach 102 to 108 degrees in many locations in the valleys of Los Angeles.”

It was 8am and the temperature was already 90 degrees and steadily climbing. If I was going to stay true to my cardio commitment, I would need to be prepared. Surely, I should drink at least double my morning intake of 12 ounces of water, so I filled up my Brita filter pitcher as I guzzled my first glass.

{Source: Enid Martindale}

Then there was the air conditioning. I should make sure the AC was on so I would cool down quickly before my post-run shower. Check. With all my ducks in a row, it was time to muster up the motivation and brave the heat. 30 minutes later, feeling sweaty but accomplished, I resumed my usual workday in a comfortable 76 degrees with a tall glass of cold water.

So why am I telling you this? It’s not an attempt to brag about my “disciplined” exercise routine or my central AC.

It’s easy to forget that certain comforts we’ve come to expect as US citizens are not naturally occurring. Rather, they are luxuries that the whole of the human race is not afforded. This morning, the National Weather Service advised me to, “take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside [and] when possible, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening [and] drink plenty of water.”

What if a strenuous 4-6 mile walk in the direct sunlight was the only way anyone in my household could drink water? What if I didn’t have a cool, indoor space to recover when I began to overheat?

According to World Vision, during Niger’s hot season temperatures regularly reach 50 degrees Celsius (that’s 122 degrees Fahrenheit!). Nigerien women make this blazing 4-6 miles trek everyday with heavy buckets of water just to provide their families with barely enough water to survive the day.

If you are living in comfortable temperatures or enjoying a hydrating beverage in these continually sundrenched weeks, try not to take it for granted. Consider donating to help drill a well in a rural village in Niger that lacks easy access to a clean water source.


Annual Fundraiser

On Sunday, September 27th, local philanthropist Stanley Black welcomed Wells Bring Hope back for our annual fundraiser. Although it was a warm day, the canopy of trees provided much needed shade and the 2 ½ acre estate was a feast for the eyes. Cute little girls scampered across the lawn and wondered at the playful statues that they passed.

Guests nibbled on lots of delicious food from 2 French Chicks and the wine was flowing. Two yummy iced teas, peach and mixed berry, were a huge hit!
There were close to 50 silent auction items to choose from, fantastic restaurants like Fig & Olive, Upstairs2, Michael’s, and Hinoki & the Bird and hotels like the Lodge at Torrey Pines and the Fairmont Miramar.

While everyone chatted and perused the auction, our fantastic volunteers kept everything running smoothly.

At the close of the silent auction, guests moved to the back lawn, to be welcomed by Founder and President, Barbara Goldberg. She talked about the success of WBH’s economic development program for women, with women becoming mini-entrepreneurs after just 3-4 months of training. She also discussed how the team who visited Niger in February saw the impact of global warming and how it has led to children dying from dehydration in villages with no safe water.
After Barbara's remarks, Cultural Ambassador to UNESCO, Gil Garcetti, the man who inspired Wells Bring Hope, presented an award to honoree, Ida Harding, Wells Bring Hope’s Director of Volunteer Management. Ida has been with WBH from the start, and her passion for our cause makes her a “magnet” for others to join and support us.

Following Barbara's and Gil's remarks, Grant Snyder, auctioneer extraordinaire, took the stage to auction off some amazing trips—to Puerto Vallarta, Hawaii, Napa, a Wyoming dude ranch, plus two business class tickets to anywhere in the world courtesy of Turkish Airlines.

Thanks to our wonderful supporters and tireless volunteers, the event was a huge success! We raised enough for 25 wells, thanks to the help of Marsha and Mark Hierbaum who generously provided $25,000 in matching funds!

Dirty Water

By Vanesa Martin

The Sahel region, which includes Niger, is currently in crisis due to a host of interconnected issues affecting the area, including, unstable weather patterns, disease, an inconsistent food supply, along with political unrest and violent conflict. The area has recently been flooded by refugees fleeing from the conflicts in Nigeria and Mali, all while struggling under the continuing threat of the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram.

Government officials and military authority figures are under constant pressure, and in the face of such daunting obstacles, it is understandable that the international community sometimes forget that this region is home to many thousands of people with no access to clean water from a reliable source.

Safe water is simultaneously a need and a luxury unknown to many, and the lack of it claims the lives of 1 out of every 7 children in Niger before they turn 5. To put that into a more familiar perspective, let’s consider the fact that our modern day kindergarten classrooms have 30 students or more. At least 4 of these children would become gravely ill and die due to a lack of clean water.

To add to the tragedy, women and girls walk hours every day to obtain this often deadly water. It’s a cruel irony, sacrificing school or rest or work to walk to distant lakes, rivers, and wells for water that is potentially unsafe. These walks are arduous, upward of 4-6 miles, and are embarked on by the women and girls of the family. It is not uncommon for the females who make the trek for water to face sexual assault along the way.

It is for all of these reasons that Wells Bring Hope is so aptly named. The organization’s mission is to bring safe water to those communities who do not have access to it. Along with water comes sanitation, healthier diets, additional crops, and the chance for girls to stop walking and receive an education.

It’s been said that water is the source of life. We look for signs of water when investigating for life on other planets, and we established our earliest civilizations near sources of water. For the people of Niger—especially women and girls—water is a symbol of empowerment, freedom, health, and most of all, hope.

Join us at WBH by volunteering or starting a Water Circle today!



Looking Beyond

By Shelton Owen

As another school year starts up, I find myself slowly but surely falling back into the familiar routine that occupies August through May. This routine usually involves me groggily rolling out of bed after pressing snooze a few times on the alarm clock, attempting to make it to every possible sporting or social event, and staying up late to cram for a killer math test. As most privileged American teenagers, I sometimes think of school as a hassle rather than a blessing, as a requirement rather than an opportunity. The truth is, I get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of my own little microscopic world that I, mistakenly, block out the 7 billion people sharing this Earth with me.

In Niger, the so called “routine” of youth looks a bit different. For much of Niger's youth, school is a nonexistent or limited opportunity, cut short by the priority of survival. If a girl, in particular, makes it past primary school and goes on to secondary school, she is one of few and extremely fortunate, because meanwhile, the rest of Niger's female population is trekking miles in the blazing sun to gather water, water that is often contaminated. In fact, the “exceptions” who attend secondary school only account for 8.4% of total female population.

The female attendance ratio for primary school looks a bit brighter, coming in at 31%, but still has extensive room for improvement. The drop in participation from primary school on to the next level can be credited to a number of factors. The most common of these is young girls' role of gathering water trumping their commitment to education. When it comes down to gathering the liquid life thrives on or acquiring literacy, the decision makes itself.

Poverty and poor sanitation combine to build up barriers in the education system. As a result, Niger's female youth experiences these obstacles firsthand, with a minimal literacy rate of 15%. Aside from the quest for fresh drinking water, young women of this country are, due to cultural practices, subject to early marriage and pregnancy, which can lead to serious medical consequences. The statistics below highlight the significance of such situations:

-74.5% of children are married by age 18
-50.9% give birth by age 18

So, let us all step back for just a second and take off the blinders. When we open our eyes and look beyond our city's borders, our state's borders, and even our country's borders, suddenly our little world doesn't seem so small after all. It is then that we are capable of attaining a global perspective and recognizing the prevalent issues our neighbors in Niger face.

Thankfully, organizations like Wells Bring Hope contribute to raising awareness and educating fellow mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters, about the burdensome needs to be met, and the methods to do so. Whether it be writing a blog, offering monetary donations, or simply retweeting on social media to get the word out, anyone can dare to go beyond their comfort zone.

Join us at WBH by volunteering or starting a Water Circle today!

Walk for Hope

By Cassandra Ballard

I made it alive. I successfully finished my 100 mile hike in my goal of 8 days. The journey was not without trials, though. There were moments where I thought continuing was not an option and failure was a sure thing. Now, as I have almost recovered from the physical injuries, I am able to look back on my once-in-a-lifetime journey and see it for what it really was.

I started planning this ambitious trek when I was looking for the stillness in life, the simplicity. I wanted to shut out the excessive noise that so often comes with careers, being an adult, and living in a city like Los Angeles. Not only did I find complete peace in my journey but, I found the core of who I am and my strength. When one is faced with survival situations and stripped of all distractions that come with life, one is forced to rely on self-strength and God. I quickly had to face my own limits and push past what I thought I could not. I couldn't help but think of the women of Niger and what their strength must look like.

The mountain is unforgiving. I encountered things you find in books and movies: bears within feet from me, a bee-infested mountain side, swarms of mice at my camp when the sun went down, relentless mosquitoes, elevation gains that required your hands and feet, walking on the edge of a mountain inside a wind tunnel pushing 45 mph, and dealing with the most painful blisters that appeared early in my hike on every single toe. These are only a fraction of the obstacles I faced. The most prominent trial, though, was a drought that lasted two days on the mountain. I was forced to conserve what little water I did have in order to cook meals and the lack of drinking water quickly became terrifying. Of course, this only made me hear the voices of every Nigerien woman who lacks water on a daily basis. When I thought I could no longer walk, they told me I could. They told me I had to.

I went looking for self-discovery on the Wonderland. In addition, I found the crisis these women and girls are facing right now. I saw a glimpse of what life must be for them…and it must seem hopeless. It is solely up to me and you to make sure that not a single child has to go one day without water. I am honored to carry their burden until change happens. I am honored to have walked their walk.

To read more about Cassie's journey or to contribute to her Water Circle, go to

You Are Not Too Young to Change Your Nation: Obama’s Project to Empower Women

By Vanesa Martin

Just a pinch of sound logic is enough to realize that denying educational opportunities, justice, and equal rights to women oppresses approximately half of the world’s population. The oppression of women misuses the scarce resource that is human brainpower and vastly inhibits the possibility of prosperity for many developing nations. It’s an equation that does not add up. On the noble quest to end global poverty, we are casting aside the very individuals that experience it and could be empowered to contribute meaningfully to the solution.

It has taken the global community a frustratingly long time to admit this fact, and it has taken even longer—in fact, it is still a rough work in progress—to take action with respect to the empowerment of women. Recently, President Obama addressed this very fact in a region where the discrepancy between the treatment of males and females is substantial – Africa.

During his four-day trip to East Africa, President Obama declared that Tanzania and Malawi have joined the Let the Girls Learn movement to encourage and facilitate the school attendance for adolescent girls. The movement helps to identify key barriers keeping girls from completing their education and subsequently tackle them more effectively.

Tanzania and Malawi have joined with nine other African nations to participate in the DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe) partnership, where $210 million has been allocated for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the advancement of girls’ education and health.

Hopefully, with DREAMS, PEPFAR, and Let Girls Learn, the situation will change quickly. Hopefully, young people will be given the opportunities to prosper and play an important role in affecting change across the nation.

I saw the drastic need for change when I recently fulfilled my life-long dream to visit sub-Saharan Africa. On my volunteer trip to Tanzania, I was astounded by the differences between that nation and ours. Not only was the language, the culture, the currency, the weather, and the natural landscape completely different, but so was the attitude towards women.

My co-volunteers and I gave 3-4 hour lessons of English to native Swahili speakers every morning for a few weeks, and we were surprised by the demographic of the students who came to class. There were always boys and men of every age, ranging from young toddlers to grown men learning English for their businesses. In the weeks that I taught, there was only ever one woman who attended these classes.

When I asked, I was told that indeed, girls did attend school, but they were usually not allowed to attend the tutoring lessons over the summer or they did not have the time to spare. While I was relieved to hear that female school attendance was good, I was frustrated by the fact that these young men could receive further educational support but their female counterparts could not. It is with this newfound knowledge that I proudly applaud efforts to raise awareness and take action for the empowerment of girls through education and health.

Niger is not yet involved with any of these movements, but it is more than likely that positive results generated by these ongoing rallies in other African nations will encourage their implementation across the continent. For now, Wells Bring Hope continues to empower women by providing them with the tools they need to start their own business, generate income for their families, and begin to alleviate the extreme poverty that plagues Niger. Join us at WBH by volunteering or starting a Water Circle today!

Education and Girls in Niger

By Rania Mikhael

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela defined education as a weapon that can change the world; education is the most important way to measure civilization and the progress of nations.

Education is the raw material that helps people to gain a greater understanding of their own talents and unique abilities, and how to use them to the fullest. It also provides people with new skills that will have a definite impact on their future.

When children have access to at least a basic education, a new era is born, one that reduces poverty, brings new opportunities, fosters personal empowerment, and brings about improved health conditions.

The absence of education means a slow death for society and can result in inequality, poverty, and literal starvation. The people of Niger, the poorest country in the world, struggle each day to obtain the basic elements, food and water. Because they must work so hard to secure these most basic needs, education often falls by the wayside. This is particularly true for the girls in Niger, as they are the ones responsible for walking miles every day in search of water.

Below table shows the Niger Education Stats as per UNESCO



Adult Literacy Rate > Total 28.67 2005 14th Out of 15
Average Years of Schooling of Adults 1 2000 98th Out of 100
Children Out of School, Primary 1.05 million 2012 3rd Out of 64
Children Out of School, Primary per 1000 61.12 2012 2nd Out of 64
Children Out of School, Primary, Female 593,905 2012 3rd Out of 55
College and University > Share of Total Education Spending 14.37% 2011 38th Out of 60
Compulsary Education Duration 9 2012 55th Out of 109
Literacy > Total ‘population 28.7% 2005 11th Out of 11
Primary Education, Duration > Years 6 2012 47th Out of 200
Primary Education, Teachers Per 1000 3.08 2012 62nd Out of 76
Secondary Education, Duration > Years 7 2012 35th Out of 197












That’s where we come in. Wells Bring Hope is committed to supplying clean water to rural villages all over the Niger. When a well is drilled, girls no longer have to help their mothers get water and their time is freed up to go to school. Given access to an education, the boys and girls will thrive and may just go on to change the world for themselves.

Get involved by volunteering or starting a Water Circle today.


Wild Horses

By Caleb Gossett

Source: James Marvin Phelps

This is my first time writing a blog for Wells Bring Hope, having been a volunteer doing online research this summer before I go back to college. Recently I did some work with another organization that works to save wild horses. Although they are two very different organizations, the work that they do is more alike than different. Working with the horses helped to open my eyes to the severe conditions Wells Bring Hope is trying to alleviate.

When I was first approached about helping lead a youth expedition to assist in saving wild horses in the desert of Nevada, I was a bit bewildered. My first thought was: Are they serious? Are there even wild horses in Nevada? So I asked that very question.“Yeah, of course there are! We’ll be traveling just outside of Eureka, Nevada to an HMA.”

Eureka, Nevada? HMA? What are they talking about? I was way out of my depth. So I did some reading, asked some questions and I learned about the challenges facing supporters of wild horse preservation – a conflict that I had never even heard of, prior to this expedition. HMA is a Herd Management Area, basically an area of land for cattle that is regulated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

What I learned from this as I journeyed into the sparsely populated (Population: 610), scalding hot desert (100 degrees every day), is that horses can survive in some pretty extreme heat. While I haven’t been there to experience it firsthand, I know that the people of Niger live and work in the same brutal climate, with sandstorms sometimes making life even harder.

I also learned that the horses are brutally mistreated, underfed, and are not getting enough water. And, although the drought currently affecting the West Coast is partially at fault, much of the blame lies with people.

Essentially, it’s a conflict between the ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The ranchers want to use the BLM land so that they can graze their cattle less expensively and for more months per year.

What do you do with the horses you might ask? Good question! You kill them, according to the ranchers. From their perspective, horses don’t really DO anything. They’re just there.

But they are living creatures. And if you have ever had the pleasure of meeting a horse, you know that they’re something special–majestic, gentle, half-ton animals, you can’t help but get attached.

Having been moved by the suffering of horses, I became more in touch with the pain of the people of Niger who have no safe water, whose children die from contaminated water far too often. They’re suffering in ways far greater than the horses of Eureka, Nevada. They’re people like you and me and they need our help. Clean water is an integral part of survival and the wells that Wells Bring Hope provides are helping to save lives and bring happiness to so many people.