A Transformative Trip

The Well Aware team returned from Kenya last week. It was the most enlightening and inspiring trip I have been on yet- rivaling only the trip on which I witnessed our first water well being drilled five years ago.

Each time we go back- to review our completed water projects and scout new work- is thrilling. Every day is an adventure, an education and a challenge. We see communities with Well Aware water systems that have experienced a metamorphosis- resulting from clean water- that makes them now almost unrecognizable. Schoolhouses are packed with healthy children, acres of crops are growing, women have started businesses, clinics have been built, and even peace is taking the place of conflict. It’s difficult to put into word the myriad of emotions we feel when walking through a prosperous community that was a barren and disease-ridden village only a couple of years before. Needless to say, it makes all of our hard work seem so meaningful.

But, our trips into the field are not without heartbreak. We receive countless requests to review projects for our attention these days, and we are forced to choose which areas we are able to apply our limited resources. Even the projects we have prequalified often cannot be approved for various reasons. Most of what we see now, when evaluating new work, are broken water wells. I feel angry and discouraged by the number of water systems that are installed in communities by other groups that fail within months, never worked to start with, or that are abandoned by the implementers. This leaves communities in worse condition than before, the villagers having invested time, labor and funds in the promise of a new source of water.

We assessed a borehole in Samburu on this last trip that was only drilled and capped and then left untouched with no communication with the stakeholders in the community. Despite our efforts to reach the installer, we weren’t able to find any clues as to why this project (that was supposed to also serve a school that will have to shut down without water) was so recklessly disregarded after several thousand dollars were invested there. We can only guess that they ran out of funds or simply walked away after a contract ended for them. Either way, this is tragic- a horrible blow to the community and a shameful waste of resources. The good news is we think we can help them.

But, back to the great stuff from Well Aware. When we visited Daaba just a couple of weeks ago (this is the location of our first rehabilitation project in 2011), we were told that the local officials proclaimed this community the most developed in the whole county. When we first visited Daaba four years ago, there were just two dilapidated classrooms that were barely attended, and there was no other infrastructure. Now, there are six classroom blocks, a medical clinic, dorms for the teachers, health and wellness classes, and at least quadruple the number of animals for agriculture. And, possibly the best part, the girls are going to the 8th grade here- for the first time ever in the whole area. (Statistically, in sub-Saharan Africa, every additional year of education can increase a woman’s future income by an average of 10%; women who are more educated have, on average 1.7 children, compared to those less educated having, on average 2.5 children, over the course of their lifetimes.)

When we traveled back to Alamach, where we installed a water well just last summer- a once dry and fallow area with only a nursery school and a desperate community of 4,000 members- is now, just ten months later, a thriving village of 7,000 people. This community already has two acres of thriving crops, a primary school underway (thanks to the Nobelity Project), and very active village committees that are generating income from the crops and have detailed plans for a clinic, additional roads, more schools, many more crops and programs to empower the young girls. This community wants to be a model for all of Kenya for how to create a abundance, peace and prosperity. With clean water as their foundation, we believe they will, they are already on the path.

These success stories are just some highlights of the work you- our supporters- help us accomplish. I hope I have illustrated how meaningful your support is, and that we, together, are not just poking holes in the ground. We are seeing entire communities through to successful development, and we are and transforming regions of this beautiful country.

As I wrote above, this trip was the most inspirational for me so far. But, I believe that every journey back to our work from now on will be better than the last. We will continue to see this cumulative progress and witness the results of our perpetual self-improvements. I am already so excited to write again after the next journey.

Thank you, form the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of all of our communities, for being a part of this movement with us.

Special and HUGE thanks, also, to Greg Davis Photography for so beautifully capturing our work on this trip! 20% of all purchases of his work in Kenya will be donated to Well Aware.