by Rita Brhel

Africa is a huge land mass, made up of 54 nations, 1.1 billion people, and some of the most iconic wild regions on earth.

Yet, as mind-blowingly beautiful as the pictures in our minds are of the savannas, the Sahara, the rainforests, and the pyramids, our thoughts often turn dark when they turn toward the people inhabiting this second-most populated continent. Africa is often recognized primarily for its regions of extreme poverty, the AIDS epidemic, frequent famines, and broken infrastructure.

Those challenges exist, but the people of Africa are resilient. They are creative problem-solvers, innovators, and dedicated change-makers. Wells Bring Hope believes passionately in community-driven solutions that free people from the burden of worrying about the most basic of needs.

Wells Bring Hope works because the tools we bring to communities in Niger depend on local engagement. The process begins with the basics: latrines. When paired with education and social pressure, the use of latrines quickly stems the contamination of groundwater by human waste.

Niger is the poorest country in the world. More than 40% of Nigeriens earn less than $1.25 per day, and life expectancy is limited to 55 years old.  61% of the people in Niger do no have access to clean water, and 96% are unable to have or unaware of good sanitation practices. This is a hard country to live in, but latrines are a solid first step toward better health for the people and their communities.

After we have helped the community to build latrines and begun the training on basic sanitation, we drill a well. This multi-day process is completed by professionally-trained locals and the water produced by the resulting well is lab-tested for contaminants.

We require the formation of a committee that will oversee well maintenance. This committee consists entirely of locals, half of whom must be women. Women in these communities typically do not have a voice in village concerns, so putting women in this kind of a leadership role is ground-breaking for the local culture. We’ve found that when women are involved in community affairs, the needs of the whole family becomes a priority.

Having a source of safe water in the village immediately eliminates the need for women to spend hours walking to a water point up to 6 miles away to provide for her family. She is safe from the dangers of rape during her water walks, and her children are not left home alone. Her daughters, who otherwise would accompany on her water walks, have time for education. Schools are reinvigorated.

Better still, every woman in the village now knows that the water she brings home won’t make her family sick. The risk of death during childhood from contaminated water is reduced by a whopping 70% when a well is drilled.

That is no small feat.

But we don’t stop there. Wells Bring Hope stays with each community for 15+ years, building upon the foundation we started with access to safe drinking water.

We recognize that changing generations worth of habits is tough. We train locals in sanitation and hygiene practices, particularly hand and face washing as well as water container and utensil cleaning. As a result, 50% fewer children die from diarrheal illness, and childhood deaths from respiratory infections drop by 25%.

We go on to teach drip farming, an irrigation technique that uses wastewater leftover from baths and utensil cleaning. This enables the women to grow vegetables and grains that improve the families’ diet and helps to ward off starvation during times of famine. In every village where we drill a well, we set up savings groups and provide the women with microfinance training that allows the women to become micro-entrepreneurs. They are able to use the time once spent walking for water to develop small businesses, and as a result, their self-confidence increases as does their influence within their homes and communities.

Positive social change is contagious. The structure of the culture changes, and the beginnings of a new Niger is borne.

This is what your small donation can do.

Every well costs $5,600 to drill, and every cent raised by Wells Bring Hope goes toward a new well. World Vision matches every dollar we raise, one for one, and during the next 15 years, contributes an additional $30,000 toward sanitation and hygiene education, micro-entrepreneurship training, and community building. This means that what you donate today will transform into an exponential growth over the next 1 1/2 decades.

Start a Water Circle today to change a village of lives tomorrow.