March 30, 2015
By Barbara Goldberg
When you’re president of a safe water nonprofit that works exclusively in rural Niger, West Africa, and a visit is due, you plan the trip. When you’re assured ahead of time by your trusted partner, the large, security-conscious humanitarian organization, World Vision, that it’s safe to go, you don’t think twice.
But when Boko Haram crossed the border from Nigeria into Niger just a few weeks before my scheduled departure, I should have thought twice. I didn’t. Not even when my family and friends begged me to re-consider. I knew that the outbreak of fighting was far away from where we’d be and our partner assured us that I was correct in that assessment. I also knew that our small team of four women would be traveling with ten armed guards from the Nigerien military, with serious weapons and very serious faces. They protected our perimeter, wherever we went, whenever we moved. That never happened on previous visits to Niger which began in just six years ago. We walked the public markets freely, feeling no threat to our personal safety. Sadly, we were not allowed to do that on this trip.
Scary, huh. What was 73 year old woman doing in a place like this? Someone formerly from Park Avenue and now Bel Air going into remote African villages? It wasn’t exactly part of my life plan. Not something I envisioned doing in what are supposedly my retirement years. (I never retired.)
Back to the country of Niger. It’s strange to think that people working as an armed escort, up close and personal, are risking their lives to protect you. After two days, I felt compelled to thank them, not only for protecting us but for so much more. I told them that in our country, the newspapers reported on the terrorist activities of Boko Haram about once a week. The Niger military has committed to keeping them out of its country, to driving them out of the eastern villages that they recently occupied. I told them, “I know you’re doing this for the security of your country but, in reality, you are fighting for all of us--countries around the world who are threatened by random and unprovoked acts of terrorism on innocent people, many of them children. We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude.
So, did I feel at risk? Was I at risk? Not at the beginning. On the third day, unbeknownst to me, we were in an area of high risk. And we had stayed for too long. Long enough for word to have gotten out that foreigners were in the area and perhaps a good target. Our security team was uncomfortable, and so we left—abruptly. As we passed military checkpoints on our long drives to visit remote villages, we realized that this was a country on alert to attack—a country carefully monitoring the comings and goings along a road linked to Nigeria in the south. I hope that Boko Haram is wiped out in West Africa and especially Niger. The people in the rural villages live in dire poverty and have enough hardship in their daily lives, especially if they live without safe water.
March 29, 2015
Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of infectious diseases which disproportionately impact the poorest populations, causing suffering, disfigurement, debilitation and sometimes death. The World Health Organization (WHO) has prioritized 17 of these diseases which are endemic in 149 countries and affect more than 1.4 billion people, or one-sixth of the world’s population. These diseases are called neglected because they have been largely eradicated in developed parts of the world but continue to impact the poorest communities. NTDs can cause extraordinary physical and emotional pain, and also cost developing economies billions of dollars annually. They render people unable to work, keep children out of school and hold communities back from thriving.
Facts on NTDs *
• 100% of low-income countries are affected by at least five neglected tropical diseases simultaneously.
• Neglected tropical diseases kill an estimated 534,000 people worldwide every year.
• Individuals are often affected with more than one parasite or infection.
• Treatment cost for most NTD mass drug administration programs is estimated at less than US fifty cents per person, per year.
Schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, and trachoma are all NTDs which are endemic in Niger. Over the next few weeks WBH will be posting information on each disease in a five part series in our blog.
The prevention, control and eradication of these four NTDs heavily depend upon increasing access to safe water, while simultaneously improving sanitation and hygiene practices. While helpful, treatment alone will not halt the devastating cycle of transmission. WBH works to provide safe water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure while delivering critical education on healthy behaviors, effectively contributing to the sustained control and eventual eradication of NTDs in Niger.
The poorest and most marginalized members of the population have extremely limited access to the most basic infrastructure. This grim reality results in a disproportionately high disease burden for those living in rural villages in Niger. WBH is changing this. Once a well is drilled villages receive access to safe water and improved sanitation facilities, and their communities receive critical education in hygiene practices which will help stop cycles of transmission for both NTDs and infectious disease.
(*Source: Center for Disease Control)
March 22, 2015
By Nick Baldry
March 22nd is circled in your diary already, right?
If the answer is absolutely nothing or what the heck are you talking about, don’t worry. Although 2015 is the last year of the UN’s International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’ 2005-2015, their website for World Water Day leaves a lot to be desired. The UN has all 13 events in the US that are being held in a small corner of Kansas, but I'm sure there are some other actvities going on around your local area. Oh, and there is the now obligatory request to use a hashtag on the day. That may be great for awareness, but it is unlikely to give someone access to clean water.
So with this half baked approach to outreach you can be forgiven for not having World Water Day at the forefront of your mind. The UN’s main information source for the day doesn’t exactly scream get involved.
That is tragic. Someone should be screaming about this. They are underselling a day that is supposed to be highlighting the single most important issue in the lives of millions. Clean water for drinking, cooking, farming, washing, for life as the UN has been trying to highlight over the last decade is a life or death issue. Wells Bring Hope has been helping support villages throughout Niger with access to fresh water, providing support in developing sustainable drip farming techniques, helping to install new latrines, providing education on sanitation and so much more. Wells Bring Hope has been embodying the Water for Life motto since 2008.
So what can you do?
Starting a water circle is easy. You can create a fully customizable water circle page at the Wells Bring Hope website, set your target (a well costs $5,600, how many do you want to fund?) and start fundraising. It’s that simple and your contribution is immense. You can start saving lives on World Water Day.
If giving your time is more your thing, then please go to our volunteers page to find something rewarding that you can do to help bring clean, sustainable water to thousands in Niger. Your time and effort really do make a difference so please pitch in. We’d love to have you on board.
So now when I ask you what are you doing for World Water Day on March 22nd, what is your answer going to be?
March 19, 2015
By Danielle Johnson
On March 8th we celebrated International Women’s Day, commemorating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future, all while reflecting on the inequities which still demand change.
On this day, over 30 influential women, including Sheryl Sandberg, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Meryl Streep and Angelique Kidjo, signed ONE’s open letter to call attention to women’s rights issues, declaring that “poverty is sexist”. Putting women at the heart of change, they claim, is the key to addressing poverty and inequality.
Did you know that women earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property? That women work two thirds of the world’s working hours and produce half the world’s food? Or that if female farmers had equal access to productive resources, up to 150 million people would be saved from a life of chronic hunger?
Simply put, being born female is the world’s poorest countries mean life will be harder. Men and boys in poor countries are also clearly disadvantaged, yet ONE’s report, entitled Poverty is Sexist, found the gender gap between males and females to be the largest in poor countries:
These statistics are stacked even higher against the girls and women living in Niger, the world’s poorest country. WBH recognizes and supports their incredible potential – realizing that the women and girls of Niger are all powerful catalysts for change. Our wells bring health, sanitation and hope to entire communities. Women and girls, in particular, are empowered through our long term support programs. Without having to fetch water, girls are able to attend school. Women can work productively and receive critical microfinance support. We even ensure women are given a seat on the committees which are responsible for well maintenance and for encouraging healthy habits within their villages, affording them an opportunity to become leaders within their communities.
Unleashing the full potential of women and girls will not only transform their lives, but remains a key element to ending extreme poverty once and for all. When we invest in women and girls, everyone benefits.
March 14, 2015
By Norma Gutierrez:
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Brush your teeth? Drink coffee? Take a shower? I bet that within the first hour of your day you are somehow using safe water. Safe water is so easily accessible, that we often overlook its importance.
Imagine waking up to a world where there is no tap water, where your sole priority of the day is to walk for miles to get water for you and your family. You cannot go to work, school, or have a normal life because accessing water becomes a task that takes over your whole day. What if that was your life?
You may be thinking, “that is so sad”, and in the five minutes it takes you to read this you might put yourself in those shoes and you might see yourself walking that walk. But is there anything you can do? Making a donation is the most common answer, but could you take a step further without risking your comfort zone? How much would that cost? The answer is: You can do more than you imagine and the cost goes from zero to a small fraction of what you think!
What can you do? Here are some ideas:
➢ Help us spread the word! We need more people to know about us, we are always looking for new volunteers, new ideas and all of this is a click away! Follow us and tell people about us! You never know who is thinking of helping and you may just be the one that sends them our way!
➢ Skip one! Skip a coffee, skip your dessert, or maybe even that afternoon lunch (turn it into afternoon snack) Do this for a week and donate the money you save to Wells Bring Hope. You may be thinking, “that is not enough”, but did you know that we provide safe water to a child for a lifetime with just $30 dollars? How much did you spend on dessert last week? Could you live a week without dessert?
➢ Another idea is: drink water to give water: forget about sodas, juice, any bottled drinks and drink just tap water for 10 days. You’ll be able to save 30 dollars and your body will also thank you for this small sugar break.
➢ You might also want to consider volunteering with us! Got an hour a day? That is enough! Contact us and we’ll be happy to help you find a way to save lives with us!
➢ And of course you can donate to our organization knowing that your donation will change lives.
We invite you to wake up and start your morning with the attitude to change a life, and give someone something that you wake up to every morning:
March 7, 2015
By Norma Gutierrez
International Women’s Day is a day for the world to reflect on the role of women and an occasion to congratulate all women around the world. At Wells Bring Hope we are honored to work with the women of Niger and to empower them through microfinance programs that transform their lives. These women wake up every morning wanting to succeed and help the people around them. We see in them their readiness to start a new life, where walking for miles to get water is no longer on their agenda, and where their dream for a better future for their children can become a reality.
On this special day we congratulate the women of Niger for having the courage to be empowered, the strength to inspire their children to dream, and the resolution to start a new life. We are honored to know such remarkable women, and to be a part of their new life and we look forward to doing more with them and for them in the future.
We would also like to thank and congratulate the inspiring women that make Wells Bring Hope a reality. From our founder to all of our volunteers, supporters, and donors, every woman that is involved in Wells Bring Hope is remarkable. All of the women that support us do so because it is in their heart to see a better world. The kindness and care that our women show is nothing short of extraordinary and life changing.
On this special day we want to thank you for your support, time, donations and maybe even sleepless nights where you have stayed up wanting to do more for the people of Niger. We want to congratulate all of you on your day and thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for being remarkable women.
Happy Women’s Day!
[If you have not read our last blog yet I invite you to have a look at it for more on how we empower the woman of Niger.]
January 15, 2015
By Danielle Johnson
Two-thirds of Niger is covered by vast swathes of the Sahara desert. Droughts are common; food security issues are endemic and are further exacerbated by the increasing arrival of refugees fleeing northern Nigeria and northern Mali. These conditions, when coupled with prevalent infectious disease and one of the lowest sanitation coverage rates in the world, leave the West African nation of Niger with some of the highest rates of malnutrition and mortality in the world. Niger, a country roughly twice the size of France, is the poorest country on earth.
Roughly half the total population in Niger lack access to safe water and 90% of the population has no access to a simple toilet. The health implications are staggering. Some 12,000 children die each year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Niger. A 2010 USAID report indicated that over 20% of all deaths in Niger can be attributed to poor sanitation and hygiene alone. Here, water is everything and the burden of providing water falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women and girls.
In Africa, women and girls invest some 40 billion hours a year walking to fetch water for their families, which is often contaminated. They have no choice but to trek several miles in difficult conditions in search of water. They lower buckets by rope into deep wells, work that is both difficult and dangerous, and then begin their long journey home, lugging their precious cargo. Girls miss school to complete this task which traps them in a cycle of poverty that stifles their individual potential and hinders Niger’s development as a whole.
In Niger, approximately 85% of women are illiterate and 40% of girls are married before their 15th birthday. Niger is among the world’s top 15 countries with the worst maternal mortality rates, with one-third of maternal deaths occurring among girls between the ages of 15-19. These numbers demonstrate why education and economic empowerment of women are so critical. Study after study has proven that women are more likely to invest income in their children, fueling a virtuous cycle that helps to lift future generations out of poverty. Statistically, when girls are educated they marry later and are less likely to suffer complications or die in pregnancy and childbirth. They also tend to have healthier children and are more likely to send them to school.
In addition to providing water, women are largely in charge of planting, harvesting and milling cereals, all while caring for their children. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world, with more than 7 children born to each woman. These women are incredibly hardworking and resourceful yet most lack access to productive resources. Wells Bring Hope (WBH) is changing this by providing the women of Niger with the tools they need to better support themselves and their families. The untapped potential of women and girls in Niger is just as much an opportunity as it is a tragedy.
Ironically, Niger has a plentiful supply of underground aquifers but lacks the ability to harness their potential. WBH is changing this, one well at a time. Once we drill a well, the impact on health and sanitation for the entire village is immediate and transformative. Infant mortality drops by up to 70%. Villagers are educated in good hygiene practices and sanitation. They learn how to protect water from contamination, how to prevent trachoma and how to use grey water to improve farming. Latrines are constructed. Infectious disease plummets. Perhaps just as importantly, once a village has an established safe water source girls are finally able to attend school. Women find themselves with 50% more free which they can now utilize to earn income. And when women work, economies grow.
WBH provides mircofinance education to women in every village. Women are taught how to manage money, but many must first learn how to count and do simple math. They then work together to form savings groups and become micro-entrepreneurs, starting businesses to earn income they will use to support themselves and their families. Their empowerment translates to an overall increase in economic productivity. This leads to improvements in the health and nutrition of the village as a whole, but especially for its most vulnerable demographic – their children.
Regional instability impacts Niger on nearly every border, with the violent networks of Boko Haram, AQIM, MUJAO and other extremist groups drawing the world’s attention in recent years. The world watched in horror in April 2014 when, in violent opposition of education, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. As Malala Yousafzai so bravely and famously testified, education disempowers terrorists and maintains the ability to transform a society. Regarding Yousafzai’s shooting, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted, “the terrorists showed what frightens them most: a girl with a book.”
At current fertility rates the population of Niger will more than triple by 2050, making the nation’s youth more important than ever in securing a more stable and prosperous future. A burgeoning population will place added stress on already limited resources and lacking sanitation coverage. Improving sustainable access to safe water, improving proper sanitation and promoting good hygiene practices are critical and immediate needs WBH will continue to address in Niger. The longer term benefit of securing access to education for girls is critical to broader development efforts, which WBH is helping to make a reality in each village a well is drilled. Women who are empowered are more likely to stand up against injustice and contribute to ensuring economic and sociopolitical stability. An empowered woman becomes a force multiplier which is precisely why violent extremists are so afraid of girls with books.
November 20, 2014
by Barbara Goldberg
Thanks to Adrian Paul of The PEACE Fund for hosting an incredibly sucessful celebrity poker tournament, which raised enough money for Wells Bring Hope to drill two wells in Niger!
It was a very successful event by all measures. Poker-playing celebrities and even those who don’t play much, came out to support the event.
It was a lovely group of people who were clearly having a great time, both before and during play. People came in feeling very relaxed and happy to be there, mingling and connecting with those they knew and wanted to know while raising money for a good cause.
The tournament was put on for Microsoft employees, and Microsoft matched all the money that was raised, dollar for dollar.
We are so grateful to The PEACE Fund for making us the beneficiary of the event and allowing us to take part in something totally new to us. We are thrilled that our cause resonated with the guests, a number of whom expressed an interest in becoming more involved with Wells Bring Hope.
The tournament winner was none other than my son-in-law, Tom McCluskey! He hadn’t played poker in years but his heart was in the right place!!
September 24, 2014
September 24, 2014
*To see more photos or download any of those below, click here.
As you drive east on Sunset Boulevard toward Beverly Hills, you’ll pass a house that's sure to catch your eye. Its life-sized, amusing sculptures can't be missed. You’ll ask yourself, “I wonder who lives there?” and “What else is behind those gates?”
The guests at Wells Bring Hope’s annual fundraiser had those questions answered for them last Sunday when they were welcomed to the home of philanthropist, Stanley Black.
It was a balmy afternoon, a perfect time to stroll the 2 ½ acres and feast one’s eyes on the many statues that dot the lawn.
Honorees, Mandana and Alan Azad had many of their friends join them.
Also joining us was Adrian Paul of The Highlander TV series and founder of The Peace Fund.
Guests nibbled on lots of delicious food from Craig’s Crew and the wine was flowing. Socha Tea treated us to three yummy iced teas that were a huge hit!
With close to 100 items in our silent auction, our guests had lots of ways to spend their donor dollars, including many travel and fine dining experiences.
At the close of the silent auction, guests moved to the back lawn, to be welcomed by Founder and President, Barbara Goldberg, who talked about the work of Wells Bring Hope and why it is worthy of their donor dollars.
After Barbara's remarks, Cultural Ambassador to UNESCO, Gil Garcetti, the man who inspired Wells Bring Hope, presented an award to honorees Mandana and Alan Azad, and Adrian Paul spoke about why The Peace Fund chose to support Wells Bring Hope.
Following Barbara's and Gil's remarks, Grant Snyder, auctioneer extraordinaire, took the stage to auction off some amazing trips—to Puerto Vallarta, Park City, and Napa plus two tickets to anywhere in the world, Business Class, on Turkish Airlines.
Thanks to our wonderful supporters and tireless volunteers, the event was a huge success! We raised over $300,000 thanks to the help of Bill Bloomfield who matched funds that were donated for wells, in the amount of $25,000. Special thanks to Gigi and Alan Cheung of Panda Restaurant Group who donated eight wells that were matched by the Panda Foundation. We would also like to thank pro bono Event Planner and long-time friend of Barbara’s, Carol Rosen of Party Designs by Carol.
We are very grateful to Debrah Lemattre of Stretch Media for capturing the festive atmosphere and joyful donors in all of these terrific photographs!
*If you would like to see more photos or download any of those you see above, they will be available here until the end of the month.
July 17, 2014
On July 13th, local Wells Bring Hope volunteers gathered at the home of Founder and President Barbara Goldberg for the annual summer barbecue. Special thanks to Jessica Isaac for taking these photos of all of our lovely volunteers!
We love it when our volunteers introduce their friends to Wells Bring Hope. As Barbara says, one of the best ways to support us is to "walk through the world with Wells Bring Hope!"
As always, Barbara provided a feast, and everyone ate ewll!
After everyone had eaten, we took some time to recognize a few extra special volunteers. First, Barbara presented long-time WBH supporter and current Director of Volunteer Management Ida Harding with the a lifetime achievement award for all she has done to help us save lives with safe water. Next Director of Operations Kate Cusimano presented Volunteer of the Year awards to webmaster Chuck Gooley and Director of Special Events Helen Rigg. Both Chuck and Helen are invaluable to Wells Bring Hope, and we couldn't be happier to have them on our team!
Thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers; we could not do this without you!