March 25, 2014

Water, Water, Everywhere?

by Lauren Cohen

This past Saturday was World Water Day, a day to be grateful for our access to clean drinking water and a time to turn our attention to the millions of people who are so fortunate.

Globally speaking, fresh water is an endangered resource. Droughts are common and water is scarce. According to the U.S. State Department, the domestic need for fresh water will exceed supply by 40 percent by the year 2030. While people are aware of the global water shortage to some extent,  many do not realize the implications for the impoverished residents of undeveloped countries.

Source: Allan Foster

Here are some facts and figures about the lack of safe water wells and sanitation:
• Approximately 1.8 million people die every year from diarrheal diseases; 90% are children under 5 years old.
• 500 million people are at risk from trachoma due in large part to the lack of face and body washing.
• Every year there are 1.5 million cases of clinical Hepatitis A, a disease which is often transmitted through water or unwashed food.
• On average, women in Africa and Asia have to walk 3.7 miles every day to collect water.
• Almost 4 million people die each year from water-related diseases.
• 70% of the world is covered in water, but only 1% is drinkable.
• 768 million people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water and 2.5 billion people live without proper sanitation
• Across the globe, every day, 1,400 children die from diseases directly linked to unsafe water or a lack of basic sanitation facilities.

So we know that many people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and we know that when water is unsafe and sanitation is non-existent, death and disease are the result. But what can we do? As individuals, we can start by being cognizant of global water conditions and helping to spread awareness. Sweeping the globe with knowledge about water will help bring this issue to the forefront, and help to generate the will necessary to bring clean drinking water to those in need. To see how you can work with us, plase visit our Get Involved page; or consider making a donation today.
 

Sources:
http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/factsfigures04/en/
http://matadornetwork.com/change/40-shocking-facts-about-water/
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/world-water-day-10-devastating-facts/blog/44430/
http://www.state.gov/e/oes/water/ica/index.htm
http://www.energy.ca.gov/research/iaw/water.html
http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/
http://www.unicefusa.org/work/water/

March 19, 2014

I Am Sandra Bullock

by Jessica Isaac

photo credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Living 3 miles from the Dolby Digital Theater in Hollywood, it’s impossible for me to ignore film awards season. Hollywood Blvd, the lifeline of Tinseltown and my main cross street, has been flowing with glitz, glamor, and gridlock for weeks in preparation for the world-famous Oscars Ceremony. When I tuned-in to the awards show, hosted by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, I felt proud to live in the midst of the excitement being broadcast to millions around the world. Comfortably gathered around the TV with a few film-buff friends, I laughed, critiqued, and snacked the night away as DeGeneres took light-hearted jabs at the millionaire audience members.

After ordering a pizza for the first few star-studded rows, DeGeneres looked to Best Actress nominee Sandra Bullock to foot the bill, stating, “Sandy […] you’ve got a lot of money, you can tip him.” This likely got a lot of people wondering just how much money Sandra Bullock was paid to star in the blockbuster hit Gravity, but anyone who has spotted a tabloid cover in line at the grocery store should already have a ball-park number in mind.

Knowing celebrity salaries makes it easy for us to point fingers and deflect the attention away from ourselves. Sure, “Sandy’s” bank account could likely fund significantly more charitable projects than mine could, and who knows, maybe it already does -- but that’s not the point of this blog. Unfortunately, Miss Bullock’s checking account has nothing to do with my own, and that's ok. While Sandra Bullock may have more money than I do -- globally speaking, we aren't so different.

In an effort to put my financial status into perspective, and prove I am no different than Sandra Bullock (humor me here), I’d like to use Sandy's pay rate to show you all just how fortunate we are here in the United States, as compared to those in an impoverished country like Niger.

Here are some random income stats to get you thinking:
According to Time Magazine, Sandra Bullock was paid $20 million up front for her role in Gravity.  According to my current pay stubs, I make $24,000 per year.  Anyone familiar with math knows this is a significant gap. To be more precise, my yearly income is less than 1% of Sandra Bullock’s paycheck for Gravity (.1% to be exact).

According to worldbank.org, the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in the United States is $52,340. A little bit more than mine, but still less than 1% of Sandra Bullock’s income. According to World Vision, the Gross National Income of a person in Niger is $360 per year. This is less than 1% of the GNI per capita in the United States (.7% to be exact). The conclusion here, folks, is that, on average, those in Niger make roughly the same percentage of our income that we make of Sandra Bullock’s income. And, let’s face it, Sandra Bullock is RICH. To a Nigerien, you are rich.

What is my point in telling you all of this? Maybe you, like me, often don’t donate to charities like Wells Bring Hope because you think the amount you can afford is too small to make a difference. As someone near the low-income bracket, I often clutch my wallet and assume someone more “well-off” will foot the bill. Next time I think I'm not fortunate like Jennifer Lawrence, or successful like Brad Pitt, I hope I choose to, instead, think of what my contribution can mean to a Nigerien whose income is approximately 1% of mine.

 

 

March 7, 2014

Equality for Women is Progress for All

by Matt Baldry

Saturday, March 8th is International Women’s Day. Over the last couple of decades the UN, who first officially observed this day in 1977, has promoted different themes each year. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring Change.’ This theme can certainly be recognized in Niger, and it is only fitting to look at a Nigerien woman who embodies the truth of this statement. Hadijatou Mani Koraou is an inspiring Nigerien figure who managed to break free from the shackles of slavery and gain her independence, making a better life for herself and her family. Crucially, her case shows not just the importance of personal independence, but also the necessity of financial independence for women.

At the age of 12, Mani was sold into slavery for the equivalent of $500 and forced to “marry” her master. For the next nine years, Mani endured forced labor, physical abuse, and sexual assault at the hands of her master. A human rights organization helped Mani to get ‘Liberation Certificate’ in August 2005, but her former master still would not allow her to leave, claiming that she was his wife. When she managed to escape on the pretext of visiting her sick mother, she married a man of her choice.

Hadijatou Mani Koraou with one of her children

Mani came to international attention in 2008 when she successfully charged the Nigerien government with failing to follows its own laws and international obligations to protect her, and all citizens, from slavery. When the courts found in her favour, Mani was awarded 10m CFA francs, equal to $19,750 at 2008 exchange rates. With this money she was able to build a home and buy cows and goats, which provide an income for herself and her family. It also means her children will be able to go to school and get the education that she was denied. This money will obviously allow Mani to have a better life, but future generations will also feel the benefits of the ruling well into the future.

Although Mani’s situation is an extreme one, she has used her settlement to make her and her family financially independent. Her story helps to demonstrate the importance of financial independence for women in Nigerien communities. Wells Bring Hope has long recognized that financial independence for women is crucial to the wellbeing of all in the community. That is why, along with funding new wells, Wells Bring Hope has been providing microfinance education to women, which allows them to to start savings groups and ultimately begin their own business ventures. They can use skills they already have, such as raising chickens and goats as Mani has done with her settlement, to make extra money.

By encouraging these ventures, Wells Bring Hope is helping these women to become role models for their children and other villagers. Mani has shown that the idea of ‘equality for women is progress for all’ cannot be denied. With her freedom, she transformed not only her life, but the lives of her children as well. This is true for women across Niger and around the world, where economic equality and opportunity for women fosters progress for all.

February 20, 2014

A Father-To-Be Reflects on Child Mortality

By Nick Baldry


I’m using the Wells Bring Hope Blog to boast. I’m going to be a father, yay for me! I will resist the urge to delve into every detail of my wife’s pregnancy, even though every change, every developmental stage is fascinating to me. I will resist because I know that we are not the only ones who have ever had a child, and keeping people up to date with day-by-day progress is not some sort of world service, documenting a never before seen phenomenon.

In truth, our child will be one of approximately 134 million born worldwide in 2014. Some will be born into wealth and stability, some into grinding poverty fraught with danger. My wife and I are already feeling the need to protect our child, a natural instinct that takes hold of every parent. We are fortunate enough to have access to things like healthcare, food, adequate shelter as well as quality water and sanitation. With these tools our as yet unborn child is already miles ahead of many of his fellow 2014ers in the survival stakes. Losing him for any reason is the stuff of nightmares, the sort of heart-wrenching experience no parent should ever go through.


Tragically, losing a child is something millions of parents endure every year. A disproportionate number of parents in sub-Saharan Africa have to cope with outliving their offspring, the region sees half of all child deaths worldwide according to Save the Children. Thankfully, the news is not all bleak. Late last year, Save the Children reported that the child mortality rate has been dropping dramatically in Niger. In 1990, 326 children died before their fifth birthday per 1,000 live births; by 2013 that figure had fallen to 114 per 1,000 live births. A rate of 114 deaths per 1,000 is still staggeringly high – the US saw just 7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, in the same year Sudan saw 79 deaths per 1,000 live births and Afghanistan 99 per 1,000 – but Niger’s progress is impressive.

Niger’s progress in the area of childhood mortality is no accident. Concerted efforts have been made to increase access to healthcare and bednet coverage in rural areas, provide immunizations, promote breastfeeding, and improve nutrition programs. Wells Bring Hope has made its own contribution. The 268 wells our donors have funded over the last five years have helped over 174,000 people, young and old, get access to clean, safe water. Water that saves lives.

My son will face challenges during his life, we all do at some point, but there are millions of infants worldwide who face a fight for their lives from the moment they are born. They face dangers that are the stuff of history books in the West. I’ll be doing everything I can to protect my first-born, to give him the best possible start in life. By providing safe water to thousands of children throughout rural Niger Wells Bring Hope is providing parents with the tools to do just that for their children.

February 18, 2014

One Donor’s Success Story

A couple of years ago, Marcy Norton heard Gil Garcetti speak about the water crisis and the work that Wells Bring Hope is doing to combat it. When her next birthday rolled around, Marcy, along with her mother Rita, decided to start a Water Circle with the goal of raising enough money to fund a well. A little over a year later, she reached her goal! In celebration of her success, she sent the following email out to her friends and family:

 

Dear wonderful and generous friends and relatives,

I'm so excited to be sending this e-mail to each of you who is receiving it because I have fabulous news, and each of you helped to make it possible!!!

You may recall that when I was experiencing my unbelievable birthday in March of 2012, I wrote to you and said that rather than having another expensive party to celebrate the event, Mom and I were hoping to do something a bit more meaningful. 

We’d recently learned of a wonderful charity called Wells Bring Hope which provides deep water wells to bring clean water to poor villages in Niger, West Africa. A well costs $5,600 and we asked you to be generous. Each of you was wonderful enough to contribute to my well (which I now refer to as "our well" since you made it possible along with us!). 

When my Mom was very ill last year, I sent you all a solicitation from Wells Bring Hope asking you to contribute to honor someone on Mother's Day. I asked that you help us raise the final $470 to reach our goal of drilling the first well as a way of sending her "get well" wishes. Many of you again responded generously, and we made it well past our goal -- hooray!!!  And thank you!!!

The big news is that our first well was actually completed and is serving approximately 2,000 people living in the village of Darey, Niger (the poorest country on earth)!!!

I recently received a report about the village, which includes a photograph of some of the villagers of Darey celebrating around OUR ACTUAL WELL, for you to see what we've all accomplished together!  It's one thing to write a check to good, helping organizations and to know that your money is going to a "good cause"; it's quite another to know what your money was actually used for and to see the specific place and people who are being helped. 

I hope this is as meaningful to you as it is for us!  What an amazing thought -- a whole village's life has been changed forever because of your help and our combined generosity!!!  With their time freed up, women are working and earning money and they feel empowered; girls are going to school; people are healthier; babies aren't dying!!!  And we all made it happen!!!  We can't thank you enough for making this dream come true!  It truly is an example of the Hebrew/Jewish idea of "tikkun olam" ("healing/repairing the world").

I really was only planning to write this to share the good news of the completion of our first well and to thank you so very, very much once again for your help in making this happen; I was NOT planning to hit you up for more!!!  However, if you're as inspired as we are by the realization of what we've all accomplished, and if you'd like to make an additional donation toward the next well, I'm sending you the link to contribute to the "Water Circle" that Mom and I set up for our specific fundraising campaign. Please consider making another generous donation (and sharing this link with your own generous friends and relatives) at my Water Circle page.

THANK YOU!!!  THANK YOU!!!  THANK YOU!!!

With Love,

Marcy and Rita

 

February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Spread a little love this Valentine's Day...

 
 

 

February 6, 2014

Shower Power and Greywater

by  Stella Salguero-Ramirez

Showering is no longer a soothing experience for me. I used to think in the shower, sing in the shower; sometimes I would even fall asleep in the shower. Now the only thing that keeps circulating my mind is “why did I even do that?” We all do it. We’re all guilty of falling into the trap of a warm, enticing, pore-opening experience, but when we realize that many people in the world don’t have this luxury, why exploit it? Becoming aware of how much water we use on a daily basis is crucial. It all depends on the showerhead you’re using, but on average we’re using around 3-5 gallons a MINUTE! I know some people that love to take hour-long showers! The people of Niger would be horrified to see all of that priceless water disappearing down the drains of our showers. While we can’t send any water that we conserve to West Africa, being conscientious and acknowledging that water is a precious gift is so important because while we are fortunate to live in a country where we have safe, clean water in abundance, it is not an inexhaustible resource.

Whenever we drill a well, we teach the people living in the village how to make use of every droplet of water. Water is scarce, and every single drop counts. One of the ways we do this is by teaching them that the water that has been used for washing should not be discarded because while it is no longer potable, it can still serve a valuable purpose. This use of greywater, the water collected from hand washing stations, dish washing, and other household washing, is essential in drought-ridden West Africa. In every village where we drill, we teach the villagers how to use this greywater to nurture their gardens using the technique of drip water irrigation. This simple form of technology increases the efficiency of water usage and produces incredible benefits. This system relies on simple buckets or trash bins- to act as water reservoirs- and drip tape, which is placed between every other row of crops. The drip tape is attached to the water source, and allows for low-pressure water to trickle down to the soil, nourish the vegetation, and ultimately deliver produce that is packed with nutritious benefits to supplement the villagers’ diets.

The next time you are tempted to linger in the shower, take a moment to reflect on the value of this resource that we so often take for granted. Better yet, challenge yourself to take shorter showers, and make a donation to Wells Bring Hope for every day that you don’t reach your goal!

Sources
Shower Facts
Man of Peace Development – Drip Irrigation in Africa
Drip Irrigation Improves Africa Food Production 

January 29, 2014

Gatawane, Niger - Another Village Transformed

by Hadiara Diallo

In early January of 2013, I traveled to Niger, West Africa to follow up on the work of Wells Bring Hope and spend time with its local partner, World Vision. The visit led me to some remarkable, hard-working women who had benefited from a well that we drilled and I was fortunate to be able to witness some of the work that they are not able to do, with their time freed up from walking for water.

The desolate landscape and rocky roads make for challenging travel.

One of our many stops was Gatawane in the region of Tillaberi. The village is two hours north of the capital of Niamey and close to the Malian border. The main road leading to Gatawane was in great condition, but as soon as we saw the sign announcing our intended destination, we veered onto an unpaved, rocky road to meet the people of Gatawane who were eagerly expecting us.


Months earlier, the village had received the life-saving gift of a borehole well that is now providing clean, safe water to the whole village. Close to 1,650 lives have been transformed since the drilling of this well. My arrival, along with the World Vision staff, was a chance for the villagers to express their gratitude and a chance for me to reveal to the village that their benefactor was as we dedicated the well to the Adami/Robertson family. Laurie, Ben and Gus have been staunch supporters of Wells Bring Hope for several years, and this is the second well that they have provided for the people of rural Niger. 

Gatawane is a very special place because from 2004 to 2011, the area has seen environmental changes that have negatively impacted life and livelihood for the local population. The region has registered decreasing rains as well as very high and dry winds that erode the ground and make the land infertile. A locust invasion depleted several harvests, and due to the proximity to the Malian border, bovine theft is not uncommon. This series of disasters was interrupted in the later part of 2012 when Wells Bring Hope funded the drilling of a much-needed borehole well. This ray of hope marks the beginning of the end of many of the village’s problems.



Now that the women have easy access to safe water, their days are no longer consumed with walking endless miles to retrieve water that is dirty, murky, and often contaminated. The children of Gatawane will now avoid the deadly diseases that are associated with unsafe water, and the girls of the village are now free to attend school.
As soon as we arrived in Gatawane, we were lead toward the new well. As we walked towards it, I could feel the ground shaking as the women of the village stomped and danced in celebration and gratitude. There is a special sound uttered by the women of Gatawane to express their sheer joy; it is not a whistle, nor is it a chirping sound, rather it is a kind of indescribable special expression that makes everyone want to join in the excitement by clapping and dancing.

The village chief, the mayor, and local dignitaries from neighboring villages were present along with a crowd of mostly women who delayed beginning their work in the garden so they could participate in this memorable event. After our introductions, I walked through the crowd and displayed the Wells Bring Hope certificate showing the picture of the Adami/Robertson family. I then handed the certificate to the village chief and told him about this family’s long-standing involvement with our organization and their enduring support for the women of Niger. 
I spoke about their dedication to the cause, which led to this second well for the people of Niger. All of the villagers wanted to get closer to take a peek at the photograph. There was a clear surprise, awe, and curiosity on many faces. The chief expressed his happiness for having a well in his village and thanked the Adami/Robertsons for their unwavering support. He wished many blessings onto the family of strangers who stepped in and took on Gatawane’s cause.

January 22, 2014

Simiri CEG, Niger - Another Village Transformed

by Hadiara Diallo

Do you remember the water fountains in the halls of your school, where you could just stop and take a few gulps?  Kids in Niger don’t have that luxury. However, if they’re lucky enough to attend Simiri Junior High School, 50 miles outside of the capital of Niamey, they can drink water from a well drilled especially for their use by Wells Bring Hope.

The school in Simiri is a co-ed junior high school serving 392 students in 6th through 9th grades. It was built only about five years ago, so the stucco and the brown and blue paint are still gleaming.  The school grounds are very clean and the students take great pride in keeping them that way.

It was an honor for me to participate in the dedication of the well in Simiri CEG.  During the recess, everyone gathered around the well and the school administrators introduced me to the students.  I spoke to them about Wells Bring Hope and what the organization stands for. I also shared with them the name of their benefactor, Kareem Ahmed, who single-handedly financed this and many other wells in Niger. It was quite a moment to experience; the reaction was swift, the kids immediately started to clap and cheer, shouting “Merci, Mr. Kareem.” 

As I was passing the dedication certificate around, three boisterous boys, Boubacar Yaye, Salamatou Boubacar and Sakiya Gado became my sidekicks.  They shared with me what it meant to have a well on their school grounds.  Besides providing them with a clean source of water for drinking, sanitation facilities were also installed in the school so that girls in particular had the privacy they so badly needed.  Having a well at their school also meant that they could carry back water to their families on the way home. After the dedication, I was shown the recently planted trees that the students hoped will provide them with shade and help contribute to the fight against desertification. Irrigation provided by the well has made this possible.

I am in awe at the maturity and level headedness of the students at Simiri CEG who have been given a chance at a higher education. They are the privileged ones. In Niger, few children go beyond primary school. The Simiri CEG students are thriving and know that they have the opportunity to become anything they want to become.  After graduation, they have the possibility of going to high school in Ouallam, only 20 kilometers away; or they may choose to attend an accelerated teacher training program. Clearly, they have HOPE for their futures.

One of the major benefits of drilling a borehole well in a village is that girls no longer have to walk miles to get water; they can go to school and become educated. During my visit, I talked with Assistant Principal  Mr. Garba Seyni as well as Mr.  Gado Issa, the School Supervisor, about the government-led effort to increase the attendance and retention of girls. To help support this effort, each parent enters into a contract with the school, promising that they will not withdraw their daughters for early marriage.  This is a major step for my country, and I am so proud to witness such a clear shift in cultural and social behaviors; education for young girls is becoming a priority for ALL. 

In addition to all of the improvements the new well has provided in the area of education, it has also brought with it new opportunities for women. In every village where Wells Bring Hope drills a well, women are provided with microfinance tools and education so that they can work toward opening small businesses, and Simiri is no different. After the well was drilled in Simiri, the women of the village came together to form savings groups called “bani-bani,” which literally means “peace-peace.” Bani-bani works by creating a community fund from which the women can take a loan of 17,500 CFA ($28), which they must pay back at 5% over three months. This allows the women to gain the knowledge they need to establish and sustain micro-economic institutions while serving to bring women of different age groups together in a spirit of participation and cooperation.

The main goal of these groups is to improve the socio-economic environment by establishing a village-based microfinance institution that allows members to acquire gardens and grow food, ensuring that families in Simiri have enough to eat. All of this was made possible by one generous donation of $5,600! Thank you, Mr. Kareem Ahmed!

December 2, 2013

World AIDS Day

by Kate Cusimano

Yesterday was World AIDS Day, and as we celebrate how far we have come in fighting and preventing this disease, it is important to remember how significant a problem it continues to be, particularly in Africa. According to the UN AIDS Report, more than 70% of the persons infected with HIV worldwide live in Sub-Saharan Africa as did 90% of the 210,000 children under the age of 15 who died of AIDS-related causes last year.

These statistics serve to highlight the fact that along with a lack of clean water, AIDS continues to be a serious challenge across Africa. In fact, these two issues go hand-in-hand. The risks associated with a lack of sanitation and consumption of contaminated water are exponentially more dangerous to a person whose immune system is compromised by HIV or AIDS. Access to clean water is always a matter of life and death, but if an individual with HIV/AIDS hopes to have a chance at survival, he or she must have clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

In addition to the obvious health benefits it provides, a new well results in increased female empowerment and improved access to education, two factors that are also associated with a decreased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.  Because it is so fundamental to our survival, it is easy to lose sight of the many ways in which water and the lack of it shape our communities. So, as we mark the 25th annual World AIDS Day, let us stop to consider the many ways we can contribute to the fight against this devastating disease.

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