Wells Bring Hope drills wells to transform lives through safe water and sanitation in West Africa.
Niger, West Africa is the poorest country in the world, where contaminated water kills innocent victims, most often infants and young children. The burden of getting water falls upon women and girls who walk 4-6 back-breaking miles every day to find water. The result? Girls don't go to school and women have no time to work and earn money for their families.
Most Nigerian girl's don't go to school because their time is taken up walking 4-6 miles every day to help their mothers get water for their families. When a village well is drilled, girls to to school, often for the first time in the history of the village. WIth an education, girls marry later and bear children later, reducing the chances of death in childbirth, and life debilitating problems like obstetric fistula.
When you drill water wells halfway around the world, you need a partner you can rely on, a partner with integrity and the ability to not only do the work, but also ensure that the wells drilled continue to be operational and that the people served continue to thrive. Wells Bring Hope decided to partner with 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 also 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 World Vision employees on the ground in Niger are all locals, and they bring a deep, personal understanding of how best to assist the people of these communities.
Wells Bring Hope is the only U.S.- based safe water cause that continues working with every village for 15+ years.
Ensuring sustainability is the primary goal after a well is drilled. Education on sanitation and good hygiene begins even before a well is drilled and it continues over time to permanently instill good health habits. The roughly 15+ year time frame is long enough for children to "graduate" to adulthood and become community leaders of the next generation. They, in time, will be able to manage the change process with mechanisms they themselves have devised and funded. The long term goal is to empower the local community.
Wells Bring Hope demonstrates how to keep utilities clean and protect the water from contamination and stress the importance of hand washing. They show mothers how to keep the faces of children clean to prevent trachoma.
"Grazing," the common practice of defecating in the open that has been used for centuries, leads to myriad health problems. When this waste enters the groundwater, or is touched by small children, severe illness and death can result. The construction and use of latrines puts an end to all this. Even before a well is drilled we start to educate villagers on the importance of using latrines. We train them on how to construct their own latrine and support them in doing that.
How Do They Ensure Sustainability?
- EDUCATE: They educate villagers on how to maintain their well. They are responsible for its operation. They provide on-going education to people about sanitation and proper hygiene, continuing to support them to bring about long-lasting behavioral modifications.
- CONTRIBUTE: Everyone contributes a small fee to the well maintenance fund. If anything goes wrong, they can pull from the maintenance fund for repairs. The goal is to give villagers "ownership" of the well by making them responsible for its maintenance.
- MAINTAIN: Before a well is drilled, a committee of villagers is formed to maintain the well and promote good health habits in the community. It is made up of 6-7 people, all with specific job responsibilities. Typically 3-4 are women, giving them a meaningful role in village life. They are educated on how to handle malfunctions that may occur and learn where to obtain new parts to ensure that it remains operational and safe for years to come.
- MONITOR: Monthly visits to every village provides on-going education on good health and hygiene practices.
THEY GIVE MICRO-FINANCE SUPPORT TO WOMEN
Wells Bring Hope is the only safe water cause that does this. Providing safe water is only the first step in improving quality of life for a village. When women no longer have to walk miles to get water, it frees up 50% of their time, time that they can use to work in a more productive way to earn money for their families. To make that a reality, they first need some critical education. This is an integral part of their work. Wherever they drill a well, they establish a micro-finance education program for women.