February 19, 2024

An Interview With Our Very Own “Maji Man”, Mike Mutuku!

Many of you know and love Mike Mutuku, our Director of Programs in Kenya. He is a humanitarian, lover of plants, incredible friend, and our very own “Maji Man”. Fun fact, Mike was the very first paid Well Aware employee in 2012. In between Mike’s very busy schedule of visiting communities and working with our technical team to ensure 100% success of our clean water systems, we were able to dive into Mike’s “Why?”- his passions, his experiences, and what led him to be the “Maji Man” we all get to call “friend” today. We hope you enjoy this blog as much as we had fun writing it.

What motivated you to dedicate your life to humanitarian work?

“Engaging with communities has profoundly heightened my awareness of their needs, igniting within me a fervent desire to provide meaningful solutions. Witnessing their gratitude and appreciation fills me with an immense sense of fulfillment. Prior to my involvement with Well Aware, I dedicated myself to serving as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, where I facilitated the provision of essential resources such as food, medicine, and water to those in dire need. Transitioning to Well Aware afforded me another opportunity to contribute to humanity’s welfare, rekindling my passion for humanitarian service.”

What is the largest challenge our partner communities face and how does Well Aware address these challenges?

“In the course of our engagements with various communities, it has become evident that a prevailing issue across many of them is the lack of access to clean water. The challenges they face are compounded by the fact that the water sources available to them are often contaminated, posing serious health risks. However, amidst these challenges, we find fulfillment in being able to offer tangible solutions for clean water access. It is a source of great satisfaction and joy to witness the transformative impact of providing communities with access to clean and safe water, thereby addressing a fundamental need and improving their overall well-being. As we continue our efforts, we remain committed to tackling water scarcity issues and empowering communities with sustainable solutions.”

Tell us briefly about what your first water project experience was like?

“The inaugural project in Otinga, Kenya marked my initiation into the realm of drilling sites, an experience brimming with anticipation and shared excitement alongside the local community upon the discovery of water. Witnessing the joy and relief among the Maasai women upon gaining access to this vital resource left an indelible impression on me. I found myself deeply entrenched in their daily routines, standing by them through scorching days as they fetched water. This profound connection catalyzed my commitment to humanitarian endeavors, fueling my determination to persist in this vital work.”

Out of all the clean water projects you have participated in over the years, which one spoke to you the most?

“The project that resonated deeply with me is Daaba, a community fraught with challenges upon our arrival. Upon reaching Daaba, I encountered an abandoned village engulfed in tribal conflict between the Turkana and Somali tribes. Their primary water source had been vandalized, leaving them reliant on a contaminated, open well for survival. Amidst the tumult of conflict, I embarked on the task of converting a borehole to solar power, unaware of the ongoing strife. Upon encountering the village chief and his entourage of 200 armed men, I endeavored to establish dialogue and understanding. Over the course of six days, I remained steadfastly by the chief’s side as we worked on the project, fostering trust and cooperation amidst adversity.

Upon completion of the project, the transformative impact was palpable. The community witnessed the resurgence of hope as the borehole provided clean, reliable water. This catalyzed a series of positive developments: the reopening of schools, establishment of a police station by the government, and the arrival of a medical clinic courtesy of World Vision. Furthermore, the Nobelity Project constructed new classrooms, amplifying educational opportunities. The Ripple Effect of this project extended far beyond its initial scope, attracting additional initiatives and fostering a thriving community. Today, the school stands as a beacon of progress, boasting commendable academic performance and symbolizing the resilience and unity of the Daaba community.”

What is the biggest lesson you have learned working with different communities and cultures over the years?

“Through my experiences, I’ve come to understand that, at our core, we share fundamental similarities as humans. Regardless of cultural or geographical differences, we all possess the same basic faculties: two eyes, two hands, and the capacity to express emotions through laughter and tears. While our upbringings may vary, and our surroundings shape our perspectives, our fundamental needs remain universally consistent. This realization underscores the intrinsic interconnectedness of humanity, emphasizing the importance of empathy and understanding across diverse backgrounds.”

"Regardless of cultural or geographical differences, we all possess the same basic faculties: two eyes, two hands, and the capacity to express emotions through laughter and tears."

How does seeing the growth and milestones Well Aware is making make you feel?

“What began as a singular endeavor with the first project, unfolded into an unexpected journey of growth and impact. Initially, I could hardly foresee the prospect of subsequent projects, yet here we are, having successfully completed over 120 projects. The evolution from a one-person operation to a cohesive team of specialized professionals marks a significant milestone in our trajectory. This expansion not only signifies organizational progress but also reflects our commitment to sustainable development. With a dedicated and diverse team in place, we have streamlined our operations, eliminating the need for outsourcing and enhancing our capacity to tackle new challenges. As we continue to forge ahead, the collective efforts of our team propel us towards a future brimming with possibilities and lasting positive change.”

What would you say is your greatest power/ gift that helps you do the work you do?

My greatest power and gift that enables me to excel in my work is undoubtedly the profound satisfaction derived from being of service to others. The intrinsic joy I experience when positively impacting people’s lives serves as a powerful driving force behind my actions. Additionally, my ability to communicate and engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds, irrespective of social status, upbringing, or other social factors, plays a crucial role in my effectiveness. This capacity for genuine connection and understanding fosters trust, facilitates collaboration, and ultimately enhances the impact of my efforts. Whether interacting with community members, stakeholders, or colleagues, I strive to cultivate meaningful relationships built on empathy, respect, and inclusivity. Through this multifaceted approach, I am empowered to navigate challenges, foster positive change, and contribute to the betterment of society.”

What skills have you learned in the field over the years?

“Over time, I’ve honed several essential skills vital for my work. Firstly, I’ve developed proficiency in effectively addressing communities and gatherings, mastering the art of communication and engagement to foster understanding and collaboration. Additionally, I’ve acquired expertise in project evaluation, learning how to assess the effectiveness and impact of initiatives with precision and insight. Furthermore, my capabilities have expanded to encompass supervising drilling operations from inception to completion, ensuring efficiency and quality throughout the process. Moreover, my understanding has deepened to recognize that water isn’t simply water—it’s a fundamental distinction between access to water and access to clean, safe water. These skills and insights collectively enhance my ability to serve communities and address critical water challenges with competence and compassion.”

What sets Well Aware apart from other NGOs you’ve seen or worked with?

“At Well Aware, our approach to implementing water systems sets us apart from other NGOs. Rather than imposing solutions on communities, we prioritize collaboration and engagement from the outset. We invest time in understanding the unique needs and preferences of each community, working alongside them to identify the most suitable project that aligns with their circumstances and aspirations. Importantly, our commitment extends beyond the initial implementation phase. We remain dedicated to providing ongoing support and maintenance for the systems we install, ensuring their sustainability and long-term success. Furthermore, our projects are community-driven, with ownership and decision-making power vested in the local residents themselves. This participatory model fosters a sense of ownership and empowerment, empowering communities to take charge of their water resources and sustainably manage them for generations to come.”

“Absolutely, without a doubt, I would enthusiastically embark on this journey again and again."

Aside from your steadfast commitment to clean water, what do you love doing in your free time?

“During my leisure hours, I cherish the opportunity to bond with my grandchildren, often taking them on outings or engaging in activities together. I also find solace and fulfillment in tending to my farm and nurturing my crops, connecting with the land and enjoying the fruits of my labor. And lastly, I relish the camaraderie of spending time with friends, whether it be sharing a refreshing drink or engaging in lively conversations. These moments of relaxation and connection bring balance to my life and enrich my overall well-being.”

Last question, given a chance would you do this work again and why?

“Absolutely, without a doubt, I would enthusiastically embark on this journey again and again. Devoting my life to the implementation of water systems has been immensely fulfilling, driven by the robust foundation upon which our organization stands. Our growth and success stem from a strong sense of unity and collaboration, akin to that of a close-knit family. From our founder to every member of our team, there exists a culture of mutual respect and cooperation, fostering an environment where everyone’s voice is valued. This open and inclusive approach promotes seamless teamwork and facilitates effective communication and interaction among all stakeholders. The togetherness and synergy within our organization serve as catalysts for innovation and progress, reaffirming my unwavering commitment to this vital work.”

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