Rafikis 2018

Another Rafiki Journey Complete: New Friends, Exciting Projects, and Forever Memories

Every June, Well Aware travels to east Africa with a special group of people. We call them “Rafikis” (Swahili for friends). These wonderful people are all Well Aware Village Members or long time donors and have taken this big step to join our journey overseas to see, first-hand, the work that we do.

The Rafiki trips are very memorable, often exhausting, and always inspiring. Each new traveler plays a role in our work while we are there, and the friendships made in the field are infinite.

This past trip was no different, and it was probably our most productive. If I wrote about everything we did in the two weeks we were there, I would have a short story that would take too much time to read. So, instead, here are the highlights from the Rafiki 2018 adventure.

The Rafikis

What a beautiful, hard-working, patient and compassionate group of people these guys are!

Tim and both of his children, Emily and Daniel, joined us this year. While Emily and Daniel helped play with children and meet community members, Tim helped the technical team and provided engineering guidance that made our work more efficient.

Ranae and Bart have been long time Village members and supporters of our work. They’ve attended events in the past and always been around the Well Aware world. With this trip, they truly found a place in our hearts. This was their vacation, and not once did they bat an eye when asked to redo an entire garden at IPI or be in a medical clinic for days on end.

Chris and Ruby are both new to the Well Aware family and experts in their own fields. Chris has done work with another NGO in Ghana, and Ruby is a Civil Engineer on sabbatical. These two were more than helpful on our projects sites and able to provide extra expertise where it was needed.

We were very fortunate to have Jake, a current intern, and Erinn, a past intern, join us on this trip, as well. They were put to work conducting community surveys, assisting the technical team, working in the medical clinics, building gardens, and playing some intense soccer with the kids at IPI. Without these two amazing humans on the trip, we wouldn’t have been nearly as productive as we were.

Ken was a joy to travel with, assisted wherever he was asked, and he was (needed) comic relief to us all. John took stunning images and truly captured the beauty of our communities.

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App trials

We haven’t yet announced this… well, I guess I am now. Well Aware is partnering with Well Beyond and another Toyota Mother of Invention, Ting Shih, creator of ClickMedix, on the creation and piloting of new technology for our water systems.

A new Android smartphone app will further empower communities to manage their water supply, troubleshoot water system issues, and track improvements in their villages. On this last trip, Ting Shih (Toyota Mother of Invention 2015), Eric Bailey (Well Aware Engineer), and I conducted trials in the field, and we are stoked about how it went! We will be able to talk more about this new tech very soon.

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The Drill at Kithoka

There is a community nestled on the east side of Mount Kenya called Kithoka, and there is a children’s home and training center (International Peace Initiative) there that is run by the remarkable Dr. Karambu Ringera. I met Dr. Ringera almost three years ago, and I was inspired and humbled by her passion and selfless life. I learned that she has been trying to provide water to her community for years, but hard knocks continued to prevent this from happening.

Dr. Ringera and I both knew that having a new source of clean water in this region would create huge change - not just for the precious children in the Kithoka children’s home, but for the entire community, as they all continue to fall ill from the contaminated water there.

This month, we were finally able to drill a well in Kithoka. While on the drill site, we all bonded with the affectionate children, and we laughed, danced, sang and slept like babies in the bunkhouses.

After a few challenges on the drill site, we struck water - a lot of water - and there was quite a celebration on our last night at the International Peace Initiatives. There were tears. It was very hard to leave. Although, they told us, “You must say goodbye so that you can meet again.”

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Tanzania

While part of our team was in Isiolo, Kenya checking on existing projects and conducting our app trials, the other half of our technical team was in Tanzania installing a rainwater harvesting a purification system for the community of Kimorotok. This is Well Aware’s first completed project in this new country, and we are so grateful to be able to work there.

Kimotorok is four hours from the closest established town, and their community is adjacent to the Ngorongoro National National Park. For the past year, we have been analyzing the groundwater in this region in hopes of drilling a borehole. However, the groundwater contains 14 times the WHO cap on fluoride, and we had to determine, with heavy hearts, that drilling here was not an option.

But, now, this community has a new water system at both the school and their medical clinic, and that will make a transformative difference for the community.

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Thank you to everyone who followed along on our journey. And, to those of you who have contributed to our work, thank you for choosing to change lives with us. Your compassion means health and happiness, and we are deeply grateful.

Sarah

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