In February, 2008, Gil Garcetti, former L.A. County District Attorney and nationally acclaimed photographer, spoke to a Los Angeles-based organization, "Salon Forum," started in 1993 by Barbara Goldberg, founder of Wells Bring Hope. Through words and his very powerful photographs, Gil conveyed the dire need for safe water in West Africa and the plight of women and girls who toil endlessly to get water.
Gil Garcetti's photos painted a picture in my mind that I could not forget. I wanted to do something and I hoped that others in Salon Forum would want to as well.
- Barabra Goldberg,
Wells Bring Hope Founder
What the women of Salon Forum heard touched their hearts. In a very rational sense, they saw a simple problem with a simple solution: drill a well and lives are changed forever. The very next day they decided to start a fundraising initiative, which took the name, "Water Is Key" after Gil's book title.
The first thing they did was explore NGO’s (non-governmental organizations), to partner with to do the needed work on the ground. When doing this type of humanitarian work, the best practice is that funds not go to the government of a developing country.They decided on World Vision not only for their experience and expertise in drilling in West Africa but because they do what no other NGO does: continue to work with villages for 15+ years. World Vision offered the best financial model, enabling donors to get a 5 fold return in terms of services delivered to a village. Another major factor was sustainability, an important consideration in every safe water project.
The next decision was where to drill. At that time, World Vision was working in three West African countries: Ghana, Mali, and Niger. When reviewing a list of "the poorest countries in the world," Niger was at the bottom. The fact that it also needed 12,000 wells, with the government only able to provide 10% of that was another reason why Niger seemed like the country most in need of help.
Their goal for the first year was five wells. Barbara couldn't begin to imagine how they'd reach that goal. They funded 10 wells in that first year.
At the beginning of the second year, January 2009, Barbara and five others went to Niger for the first time, It was a life-changing journey that motivated the desire to do even more, to help the women and children they met who had such difficult lives because of unsafe water. Talking to one woman who lost 11 of her 12 children was something none of the women on this journey will ever forget. To read about what they experienced: Journey to Niger. In June, 2009, Gil Garcetti, the man who inspired the start of Wells Bring Hope, partnered with it as he continued to raise funds with many talks to community groups.
From its inception, Wells Bring Hope, initially under the name of "Water Is Key," after Gil's book title, had the highly esteemed Pacific Institute as its fiscal sponsor, making all donations tax deductible. On July 27, 2010, Wells Bring Hope attained its own non-profit status, EIN #27-3123341.