March 23, 2017

This One’s for the Girls

by Shelton Owen

On March 8th, women around the world celebrated their femininity on International Women's Day. The special day, observed since the early 1900s, is about recognizing the progress achieved while looking ahead to opportunities of advancement. Women have made great strides in the past century, socially, politically, and economically, but the battle is far from over. In 1908, great political unrest drove 15,000 women to march through New York City demanding better wages, shorter hours, and the right to vote. Today, gender pay gaps from the most advanced nations to unfathomable injustice in lower-income nations, drives us to keep walking, though our feet may be weary.

The women of Niger are all too familiar with the consequences of such an expansive gender gap; a divide so gaping it engulfs many of their aspirations and basic rights. According to our-africa.org, "The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that two-fifths of all African girls are married before the age of 18. In some countries the proportion is much higher. For example, in Chad and Niger, a third of young women (20-24) said they were married by the age of 15." With marriage generally comes the termination of the woman's education and beginning of her role as a wife and mother. Becoming a mother at such a young age is a high risk. With Africa making up 11% of the world’s population, Africa accounts for more than 50% of maternal deaths. Busy with motherhood and taking care of household tasks, such as seeking sanitized water, there is little to no time or motivation left to dedicate to a career. A limited education constricts the career options available to the woman and increases her dependency on her husband to serve as the provider. The wells built by WBH is just the start of empowerment waiting to spread like wildfire.

Before a well is drilled, a committee of villagers is formed to maintain the well and promote hygiene. The group of 6-7 usually consists of 3-4 women, giving them a meaningful role in village life. Wells Bring Hope gives Microfinance support to the women of Niger through a program involving educational instruction, hands-on practice, and eventually an independent career. Role models like Joyce Banda, the first female President of Malawi, are a promising symbol of hope for the future, a future in which women and men will be equal partners, working to make the world a better place.

Joyce Banda, Malawi's first female President

The campaign theme for 2017 is "Be Bold For Change," and I encourage you to do your part today by empowering women in Niger through your donation to Wells Bring Hope. Take a stand and speak up for your sisters across the globe being told to shut up and sit down. Say it loud and say it proud--"Here's to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them."

March 10, 2017

A Day of Water

By Michelle Wolf

I wake up every morning and listen to the sound of water hitting the ceramic tub as my husband showers. The water is hot, and it steams the bathroom, fogging the mirror above our double sink. My husband lets the water swirl down the drain. Some mornings he hovers over the left sink basin, shaves the stubble on his chin and cheeks while letting more water swirl down the drain. Water moistens his skin, rinses away the shaving cream, and disappears down the drain. He doesn’t turn off the faucet as he performs this routine. For several minutes, water swirls into the basin and down the drain.

When it’s my turn to use the bathroom, I turn on the shower and let the water run until the temperature is to my liking; not too cold, not too hot. I undress as the water flows down the drain, unused. My favorite part of showering is standing underneath the shower head, closing my eyes and feeling the water cascade over my head, face, and body. I delight in the warmth of the water, completely unaware of how much of it is flowing down the drain. It makes no difference to me that I am wasting water. This water is clean, accessible, and limitless.

Throughout the day, I drink six to eight glasses of water. There are a few different water fountains at work that I use to fill my teal polka-dot plastic cup, so I’m never more than a few minutes from a refill. The straw in the lid allows me to quickly and mindlessly reach my daily water intake.

At the end of the day, I wash my face and teeth before settling into bed. I turn on the right faucet and let the water run until the temperature is to my liking; not too cold, not too hot. The water flows down the drain as I lather soap on my face and soak a towel. The warm water soothes my skin.

My day starts and ends with water, water that is assumed, taken for granted. As I shower, it doesn’t occur to me that for millions, my daily routine is an unfathomable luxury, an experience that they will never have. As I make my third trip to the water fountain at work, I do not think of the women and girls who walk up to 10 hours a day in search of water for their village. It doesn’t occur to me that they may be assaulted on this walk or that the search for water is a full-time job that keeps girls out of school and women from earning income. At night as I brush my teeth and wash my face, I am not thinking of the children in Niger who can’t spare the little water they have for things like bathing.

Despite the fact that water is a near-constant presence in my daily life, it’s the furthest thing from my mind.

February 16, 2017

Welcome to Our New Corporate Partner - Aiqueous!

Wells Bring Hope would like to welcome Aiqueous, a water software firm based in Austin, TX, as our newest corporate partner!  The mission of Aiqueous, to modernize utility operations with tools to sustain water resources for years to come, is grounded in their commitment to promoting positive social responsibility and environmental change stewardship.

Aiqueous is a member of 1% for the Planet, an organization that helps to link nonprofits like Wells Bring Hope to businesses like Aiqueous that care about sustainability and solving global problems through targeted action.  As a business member of 1% for the Planet, Aiqueous donates 1% of its revenue towards causes aimed at sustainable solutions to water-related issues from around the world, and we are excited to announce that 50% of Aiqueous’ commitment for 2016 will be donated to Wells Bring Hope!

According to Aiqueous President Jonathan Kleinman, “What draws me to Wells Bring Hope is its recognition that women play a distinct role in the local economy within West African communities. Wells Bring Hope helps keep more resources within the community, and helps women to take on greater roles.”

We would like to thank Jonathan and the rest of the team at Aiqueous for their generous support of Wells Bring Hope this year, and we look forward to a great partnership going forward!

December 9, 2016

Why Education Matters

By Barbara Goldberg

On the front page of Saturday’s Los Angeles Times was this headline: “Former students in Nigeria hunt down teachers.” This is happening just across the border from where we work in Niger, West Africa. It is just the latest incident in  the vicious campaign that Boko Haram has been waging against innocent people, focused on eliminating secular education, especially for girls.

In this most recent attack, students hunted down their former teachers, killing or threatening to kill them if they continue teaching.

With education as Boko Haram’s target, it is even more critical to ensure that girls throughout West Africa go to school.  Boko Haram has crossed the border into Niger on several occasions, but the Nigerien government and its neighbors have pushed them back. However, Niger and other West African countries remain at risk from Boko Haram.

In rural Niger, education for girls can only happen when a well is drilled in a village.  It is only when girls no longer have to walk miles to get water that they have the time to go to school.

The effects of educating girls have been well documented. When girls go to school, they…
• marry later.
• have children later and are less likely to die in childbirth.
• are better able to work and earn money for their families.
• make sure that their children get an education.

Education for girls is vital to ending the downward spiral of poverty in the poorest country in the world.

December 3, 2016

Wells Bring Hope Holiday Party

On December 1, 2016, Wells Bring Hope Founder and President Barbara Goldberg once again opened her home to WBH supporters and volunteers for some holiday cheer and a celebration of a another successful year in our effort to save lives with safe water.

We are fortunate to have some terrific, interesting people as our donors and volunteers who thoroughly enjoyed meeting each other.

It was a mood of celebration and relaxation, and as Charley Dobbs said, “What a great way to kick off the holiday season!"

And while this was not a fundraiser, I’d like to share a note that was given to me with a donation from long-time supporter, Catherine Kaufman: “In the spirit of the season and with love, I thank you and all who help with Wells Bring Hope. I am grateful and proud to be a small part of this wonderful venture.”

Wells Bring Hope received the gift of a wooden sculpture that was first used to line open contaminated wells in communities in West Africa. The grooves on the back of the work were worn away by ropes cutting into the wood as mothers and their daughters pulled up buckets of contaminated water.  Thanks to our generous donors, their burden has been lifted.

We thank everyone who came and wished us well. We are thankful for our generous supporters who have made 426 wells possible!

October 14, 2016

Wells Bring Hope’s Annual Fundraiser

On Sunday, October 9th, philanthropist, Stanley Black welcomed Wells Bring Hope back to his home for the third year in a row for our annual fundraiser. It was a perfect California fall day and guests mixed and mingled in the late afternoon sun.

 

Our event was a huge success, thanks to our generous donors, capable volunteers, and especially to our Director of Special Events, Jamie Gates who choreographed it all.

 

We raised enough money to fund 32 wells, thanks to the help of Marsha and Mark Hierbaum who contributed $25,000 in matching funds and Bill and Susan Bloomfield who added another $15,000 in matching contributions for Raise the Paddle.


Guests nibbled on delicious food from Cornucopia Caterers and sipped wine generously donated by the San Joaquin Wine Company. The more adventurous among us sampled the sparkling tequila cocktails provided by TeQava, also courtesy of San Joaquin.

While everyone ate, drank and chatted away, our fantastic volunteers enticed guests to bid in the silent auction.  The auction tables were loaded with exciting offerings and bidding for many items was fierce, especially for the Hollywood Bowl garden box that went for more than double its value! Thanks to everyone who bid and made the auction lively and fun.

There were weekend getaways in Park City, Scottsdale, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, and more as well as gift certificates to a variety of restaurants like the Century City hot spot Hinoki and the Bird, Cassia and the Michelin three star-rated Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas, thanks to the generosity of Board member Ed Keebler.

At the close of the silent auction, guests moved to the back lawn, where they were welcomed by Founder and President, Barbara Goldberg. She talked about how cutting-edge professionals in the world of philanthropy recommend this: give where the need is greatest.  Our work to provide safe water is the most basic of human needs and doing it in the poorest country in the world qualifies WBH for that distinction.

Barbara introduced our partner, Sam Jackson from World Vision, who has been with us from the start and has guided and educated us on navigating the world of philanthropy.

Grant Snyder, auctioneer extraordinaire, took the stage for the fourth year in a row, helping us raise lots of money for wells.  He  auctioned off exciting trips to St. Croix, Whistler, Maui, and Chicago and there was lots of bidding action. Grant also tempted guests with orchestra seats for two to Hamilton, a unique behind-the-scenes experience on the set of Major Crimes and business class tickets for two to Europe on Turkish Airlines, supporting us for the last four years. We so appreciate their generosity.

Thank you to all who came to support Wells Bring Hope’s eight great  years!

August 29, 2016

Wells Bring Hope’s First Ever SoulCycle Fundraising Event

This past Saturday, twenty Wells Bring Hope supporters clipped in for a 45 minutes sweat session at the SoulCycle studio in Brentwood. Organized by WBH Advisory Board member Rose Schneider, the event was a first for Wells Bring Hope, and it proved an exciting and fun way to raise money to save lives with safe water! Between the riders and those who supported the fundraiser from afar, we raised over $3,000, and more continues to come in.

 

Everyone who participated left drenched in sweat and energized by the class, which was led by Michael, one of SoulCycle’s enthusiastic instructors. It was a great opportunity for WBH supporters to get together for a fun activity while raising money for the cause. Andi Claman, head of the WBH Club at Chadwick School is already looking into organizing a similar fundraising ride at the SoulCycle near her school!

August 4, 2016

The Repercussions of Violence Against Women

by Vanesa Martin

The implications of the violence wrought by extremist group Boko Haram to the nations surrounding Nigeria, including Chad and Niger, reach far beyond civilian casualties and displacement. It is no secret that rape is an unfortunately common weapon of war, and Niger is no exception. Sexual violence against women is part of Boko Haram’s plundering strategy, and it can provoke psychological and social trauma; women that have been raped are frequently ostracized by their families and neighbors despite it having been against their will. Niger is also unique in that it is the country with the highest fertility and infant mortality rate in the world (with about 7 births per woman and 101 deaths per 1000 births), so the consequences that this reality has on the population are only exacerbated by the violence being experienced there today. It also means that more and more women, young and old, are pregnant and being forced to give birth in the bush or on the streets while they are fleeing from the conflict. Needless to say, these are less than sanitary and clinically sterile conditions for both the mother and her offspring, and the health of both is jeopardized tremendously.

source: {Wikipedia}

Currently, hygiene kits are being dispersed by many aid organizations to the people that are most at risk, which are typically women and their children. It is a short-term solution, though, and is not enough. It is also difficult to reach all of the people that are currently being displaced, as many of them are hiding in the bush. What could, in fact, be more helpful to these individuals is to build wells in as many communities as is possible so that those fleeing can have access to potable water in the next community or village. Wells Bring Hope is a great way for anyone to contribute to the mitigation and the eventual solution to these crises and the consequences they bring. We partner with communities to build wells and work with women to empower them in a society where there are seemingly insurmountable obstacles between them and their self-sufficiency. Any help can be a critical start for the success of someone in Niger, especially to those women that are braving the perils of giving birth outside of a clinic or hospital. Water is where the solution begins.

July 27, 2016

Volunteer Appreciation Barbecue

On Sunday, we were granted a brief respite from the recent heat wave for our annual Volunteer Appreciation Barbecue. Once again, WBH Founder and President Barbara Goldberg opened up her home and beautiful backyard for the afternoon festivities.

Volunteers chatted and nibbled for a while before sitting down to hear from both Barbara and the man who inspired our cause, Gil Garcetti.

It was a wonderful afternoon of celebration as we recognized the incredible volunteers who are such an integral part of our effort to save lives with safe water.

July 25, 2016

Marching Towards Progress

by Shelton Owen

Thousands of Niger's people recently banded together to unite under one common cause-the protest against Boko Haram. The Islamic extremist group, ranked as the world's deadliest terror group by the Global Terrorism Index in 2015, has continued to launch deadly raids into the country from Nigeria. People from various parts of the country gathered in the capital to support the nation's army which is combatting the explosive issue. Those marching were not only voicing support, however; they were also voicing a plea. The nation wishes to urge other countries to step in and join the battle, one of security and displacement.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs ranks physiological needs as number one and safety as number two, but for the people of Niger, the two aspects go hand in hand. When women and children, whose main job is to collect fresh water, are being targeted and living in constant fear-their work is hindered. A roadblock for them isn't just the difference between a little money or wealth, it's the difference between health or disease contamination, the difference between a meal or starvation.

source: {Wikipedia}

 

Back in 2014, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls took the internet by storm when Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls from a northeastern Nigeria boarding school. Unfortunately it took such a large scale act for the rest of the world to turn their heads. But did more heads turn to look than fingers lift to act, specifically of nations abroad? The army of Nigeria and its neighbors, such as Niger, took to action, sadly unsuccessful in finding the school girls, but freeing hundreds of captives along the way. The nation's army is working vigorously and should be commended for such accomplishments with limited means, but the problem is only hitting new heights in 2016. For example, WorldPost states that over 100 women and girls have blown themselves up since 2014, forced or coerced into serving as suicide bombers. The recent protesters in Niger aimed to bring light to the reality of the situation-these soldiers need reinforcements.

source: {BBC}

It's evident that this group, and others alike, have a skewed view of women in society. It is not by standing by and remaining silent that change will be enacted, that justice for these women will be sought-it is through action and unification. By contributing to Wells Bring Hope you contribute to empowering these targeted women through education, sanitation, and entrepreneurship. The march in Niger's capital is a step, but this fight undoubtedly requires a marathon. Let's get running.

 

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