May 23, 2016

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.

May 12, 2016

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.

 

May 6, 2016

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).

April 26, 2016

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.                                                                                                               

April 1, 2016

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.

March 28, 2016

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.

March 19, 2016

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.

March 6, 2016

Politics in Niger, Not So Different from America

By Shelton Owen

{source: Joe Penney/Reuters}


Niger, West Africa is a democracy, albeit, a struggling one since it achieved independence in 1960. Since that time, its government has been rocky, to say the least, and the current election for a new president is a positive step.

It mirrored our Republican Party’s weeding out of candidates until two front-runners emerged from the crowded pool of fifteen candidates.  One of them is the current President Mahamadou Issoufou and the other is Hama Amadou.

Roughly 7.5 million people cast votes in February's election, but as it turned out, neither side can begin the celebrations just yet. Though Issoufou and Amadou led the pack, neither hit the magic 50% of votes needed to secure the election.

Issoufou racked up 48.4 percent of the votes, missing the mark by a mere 167,000. Amadou trailed behind at 17.4%, but was in fact the next closest candidate . A runoff is due to be held on March 20th.  We will be watching closely to see who takes the reigns.

Amadou is currently running his campaign from behind bars, but his faithful supporters conducted campaign rallies in his absence. President Issoufou made confident claims he would deliver a "knockout" blow to opponent.

He lobbied for a second term on the platform of rejuvenating the economy and protecting the country against attacks from terrorist groups.  Niger has long been a bastion of peace compared to its neighbor to the south--Nigeria, besieged by Boko Haram and from Al Qaeda presenting the bigger threat.

As Niger continues to secure its democratic way of life, Wells Bring Hope’s contribution in improving health and overall quality of life is critical.  Through your support we can all contribute to making Niger a better place to live.

February 29, 2016

Seven Gallon Challenge

By Claire Bronchick

The average rural African uses just five to seven gallons of water per day, while the average American uses between 80 and 100 gallons each day! To try to get a better understanding of the severe water stress experienced by many rural Africans, Chadwick School's Wells Bring Hope Club will be taking the Seven Gallon Challenge during the week of March 7th. Each day, we'll be able to use only seven gallons of water for all daily activities (e.g. showering, washing hands, brushing your teeth, etc), and we'll be sharing and reflecting on our experience via Facebook and Instagram.

By limiting daily water use and documenting the experience, we (and the people we share our experiences with) will learn how little seven gallons of water actually is. We’ll also become more aware of the difficulty that many West Africans face in getting adequate amounts of water each day, and we will learn to appreciate access to water rather than take it for granted.

(from left to right: Kaiden, Katie, Andie, Charlie, and Claire}

The members of Chadwick's Wells Bring Hope Club would like to challenge all WBH donors and volunteers to do a version of the Seven Gallon Challenge in honor of World Water Day on March 22nd. We challenge everyone who believes in the importance of saving lives with safe water to attempt to limit your water usage for one day or just track the amount of water that you use and then donate $.50 for every gallon that you go over the limit to Wells Bring Hope. Film yourself sharing the results of your Seven Gallon Challenge and then challenge your friends and family to do the challenge as well.


Wells Bring Hope Seven Gallon Challenge
 

What:
For one day, attempt to limit water usage to seven gallons of water a day, which is a high estimate of how much the average African uses in a day.

For every gallon over seven that you use, donate $.50 to Wells Bring Hope.

Film yourself sharing the results of the challenge. At the end of the video, call on a friend or two to take the challenge too. Post the video to social media using the hashtag #7gallon challenge. Don't forget to tag the friends that you challenged!

 

Why:
By limiting daily water use and documenting the experience, both participants and the people they share their experiences with will learn how little seven gallons of water actually is, and they’ll be more of aware of the massive amounts of water Western countries consume on a daily basis.


By sharing the experience of participating in the challenge and calling on others to take it as well, we can raise awareness of the global water crisis and what Wells Bring Hope is doing to save lives with safe water.


Tips:
• From the second you wake up, carry a journal/paper with you so that you can write down all water consumption.
• Also, write down any thoughts/feelings you have during the day about the challenge so you can share them later!
• Do not forget to drink water! It is vital to your health to drink at least a half gallon of water everyday, especially if you are doing any physical activity.

Water usage for common activities:

 

February 16, 2016

Microfinance Training for Women - A Passionate Belief

 
{From left to right: Kate Cusimano, Ida Harding, Esperance Klugan, Barbara Goldberg, Jamie Gates, and Jan Doak}

Earlier this year, members of Wells Bring Hope’s Board and Advisory Board had the opportunity to meet with Esperance Klugan, Director of Operations, West Africa Region and former Director of World Vision, Niger.   Esperance has a unique background, combining the worlds of finance and humanitarian help for women.

Prior to taking on the position of Director of World Vision Niger, he had fifteen years of experience in establishing and managing microfinance programs for women. It is something he strongly believes in.  “I know that it works. I’ve seen a number of mothers’ lives transformed through microfinance where we have drilled a well in a village. We free the women’s time, a lot can be done.”

The microfinance program for women is based on the idea that giving microloans is not enough. Women must be educated in how to handle money and in the basic principles of business. By forming savings groups, women are giving training and guidance on how to start their own small businesses.  They each contribute a small amount of money weekly, and pool the resources, loaning to each other. With this support system, women are able to practice with their own money and build confidence in their abilities. 

As these women expand their businesses and repay their loans, they don’t just improve the economic circumstances of their families, they help to transform lives throughout their entire village, providing real hope for their futures. Esperance has seen this first hand, “I’ve seen women transformed to the point where you go to the same community, talk to the same women, but they are different women, confident, and proud of their accomplishment.  It’s extraordinary.   And husbands take great pride in what their wives are doing and the whole family dynamic changes for the better. They are equals, partners.”

Esperance plans to expand the microfinance program using the savings group model, to seven countries over the next five years. “This will affect thousand of villages…water alone is good, but it’s not enough. When people have safe, clean water to drink it’s good, [but] it’s just the beginning. It doesn’t address the issue of malnutrition fully.   Click here for more information about microfinance support for women in Niger, West Africa .

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