Wells Bring Hope: The Fulfillment of a Vision
Q. How did Wells Bring Hope get started?
A. Wells Bring Hope was founded in March 2008 by Barbara Goldberg after former L.A. County District Attorney, Gil Garcetti, spoke to the women of Salon Forum, a Los Angeles based group dedicated to personal and cultural enrichment that was founded by Barbara Goldberg in 1993. The group was inspired by Garcetti, who talked about the dire need for safe water in West Africa and the plight of women and girls who walk miles to get water. In 2009, Wells Bring Hope and Gil Garcetti formed a partnership dedicated to saving lives in West Africa.
Q. What is your mission and vision?
A. Wells Bring Hope (WBH) is committed to drilling wells to bring safe water and good sanitation to rural villages in Niger, West Africa, the poorest country in the world. Our vision is to save lives with safe water.
Q. What made you focus on water?
A. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “No other humanitarian intervention produces a more dramatic effect on lives than access to safe water and good sanitation.”
Q. How do you fulfill your mission and vision?
A. Wells Bring Hope drills deep water wells, often called “borehole” wells, because they go deep into the ground, to the depths of 250’-300,’ tapping into aquifers where water is clean, safe and plentiful.
Q. Why are these wells needed?
A. In West Africa, the most common cause of death and disease comes from contaminated water. One in seven children dies before the age of five. Babies often die from what to us would be a simple case of diarrhea. 40% of people in Niger have trachoma, which, when left untreated, causes blindness. Other water-borne diseases like guinea worm and bilharzia cause excruciating chronic pain, arrested development, and deformities.
Q. Why are you working in Niger?
A. Quite simply – because the need is great. Niger is tied with the Democratic Republic of Congo for last place, out of 187 countries, on the 2012 UN Development Index. Niger needs 11,000 wells, but the government can only fulfill 10% of that need. 44% of Nigeriens earn less than $1.25 a day. 61% in rural Niger have no access to clean water and 96% have no access to adequate sanitation. Life expectancy is 55 years.
Q. Who bears most of the burden of getting water?
A. Women and girls. They walk 4-6 miles a day, sometimes more in the dry season, in search of water that is often contaminated. The task is so labor intensive that girls must help their mothers and thus do not go to school. Women spend most of their day getting water, having little time to do anything else. They suffer chronic pain from this physical burden and constant stress from having so little time to get all their chores done.
Q. What happens when a well is drilled?
A. Lives are transformed instantly and dramatically. Childhood mortality drops by up to 65%. Water-borne diseases are virtually eliminated. Education becomes a reality for girls. There is hope for the future!
Q. Who drills the wells? Are you partnered with another organization?
A. At the outset, we wanted to ensure that the money we raised would go where it is most needed, not into the pockets of government officials. The best way to do that is to work with an NGO (non-governmental organization). We chose World Vision because it is highly respected and is the largest U.S.-based international relief and development organization, larger than CARE and Save the Children combined. World Vision has extensive experience in West Africa, having started with water development in Ghana in 1985. In Niger, we have a team of highly experienced water engineers with their own dedicated drilling equipment. In the area where we are drilling, the success rate, e.g., finding water the first time on the first drilling, is 80%.
Q. What else does Wells Bring Hope do as part of every well project?
« We continue to work with every village for 15+ years.
Drilling a well is only the first step to saving lives. People must be educated on good sanitation and proper hygiene and that is what we do in conjunction with our partner, World Vision. We install latrines and educate villagers about why it is important to use them and abandon the traditional practice of “grazing,” which contaminates the water supply.
It is an on-going process to monitor and ensure the health of a village. World Vision is on the ground in every area where we drill, and its Area Development Program personnel visit each village about once a month. This is critical to ensuring that a village thrives. Villagers learn drip farming and how to use the “gray water,” which enables them to grow vegetables and improve their diet. Women can even grow enough vegetables to sell in the local market.
« We give microfinance education to the women in every village.
An integral part of our project is teaching the women in villages where we drill how to handle money, form savings groups, and become micro-entrepreneurs. When women no longer have to spend much of their day getting water, they have the time to develop small businesses, and the education we provide allows them to do just that. As a result, the women are empowered, and the quality of life for their family noticeably improves.
« We help women to take leadership roles in the village.
Prior to drilling, a committee is formed in a village that is delegated to maintain the well, with each person having their own specific role. We require that roughly half of the people must be women. This is highly progressive, given that women have little or no say in village life before a well was drilled. When women have a voice in the community, their needs and concerns become a priority.
Q. How do you decide which villages get a well?
A: If a village has no clean water source, they have priority for getting a well. If they have only one or two water points but not enough for their community, they also qualify as in need. If a village has a high rate of water-borne disease, like guinea worm or trachoma, it has a higher priority on the list. Another factor that we consider is community participation and engagement. A village must express a need for safe water and provide some of their own money towards drilling it. The villagers also must help in site selection and agree to do the maintenance and repair work on an on-going basis.
Q. How long does a well last?
A. When talking about the longevity of a well, it is not the water supply that we are referencing but rather the life of the pump. Niger has a plentiful supply of underground aquifers, ranking 8th among all African nations and so running out of water is not a concern.
If a well is maintained efficiently over time, it will last about 25-30 years. Over time, parts wear out and need to be replaced. When a pump breaks down, people have no choice but to use the traditional water source they relied on before or appeal to another village for help. Therefore, villagers work very hard to quickly address any necessary repairs.
Q. Are your wells sustainable? What if they break down, what happens then?
A. The most important aspect of drilling a well is to ensure its sustainability. In many parts of the world, well-meaning organizations have provided wells but not a plan for sustainability. How do we sustain our wells? When a well is drilled, we begin the process of teaching villagers how to maintain it, and we empower them to take ownership of it. The villagers are the literal owners of the well, meaning that they are responsible for its maintenance. This is very important for building pride and a sense of responsibility. In addition, every family contributes a small amount for a maintenance fund, and the well committee is educated about maintenance and taught where to go for parts.
Q. How much does a well cost and does anyone match your donations?
A. We raise $5,600 for a well. World Vision matches everything we raise, dollar for dollar and then over the course of 15+ years adds even more (See next question about our financial model).
Q. Is it true that you have the best financial model of any water cause?
A. Yes. We have the best financial model of any NGO drilling wells anywhere in the world. We know that is a bold statement but here’s how it works. As noted above, we raise $5,600 for a well, which is matched by World Vision. Over the course of the next 15 years, World Vision funds provide for an additional $18,000-$22,000 worth of services to each village where a well is drilled. The result? Roughly $30,000 worth of life-transforming services delivered to a village, or 5 times the impact of the initial donation!
Q. How much of each donation money goes toward a well?
A. 100% of every donation goes directly to wells. Since its inception, WBH’s operating expenses have been funded by other sources, corporations and foundations, not donor dollars.
Q. Is a donation tax-deductible?
A. Yes. Wells Bring Hope is a 501(c)(3) non-profit California corporation, EIN #27-3123341.Your contribution is fully deductible according to the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.
Q. What have you accomplished?
A. Check out Our Progress page to see how many wells we’ve drilled and how many lives we’ve changed.
Q. How else can I help besides making a donation?
A. Wells Bring Hope’s Education Outreach program teaches children of all ages about the water crisis in West Africa and many schools have started fundraising projects on our behalf. Do you know a school that might help? They can start a “Water Circle,” their own fundraising project with a page on our website. Might your company consider funding wells? Are you a part of a church, synagogue, Rotary Club, or other community group that might support us? Do you have any other contacts who might be able to help us? Gil Garcetti and Barbara Goldberg are available for speaking engagements. There are also lots of volunteer opportunities for people of all ages and experience.
Q. How can I find out more information about “Wells Bring Hope”?
Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Flickr, and Pinterest. Go to our You Tube channel and watch some of the videos that we have filmed in Niger. These videos speak to the heart of our mission as they convey the problems and solutions in a very personal and emotional way. Brochures are available upon request. For more information, contact email@example.com