July 28, 2020 - Kasey Golden, a 2009 graduate of Center ISD, is currently studying for a masters degree in the social work program at SFA University. In one of her classes, Sustainable Community Development, the class is discussing sustainable solutions to important global issues and she chose the water crisis and the lack of unclean water in Sub-Sahara Africa for the topic of a letter to the editor to raise awareness.
Sustainable Community Projects Letter to the Editor
“Give clean water. Create lasting change.” This is the motto of Lifewater International, a non-profit Christian Clean Water Organization. I am reaching out to you today to bring your attention to this project because I believe Lifewater uses the best sustainable methods to ensure clean water for children and families in third world countries. This organization helps bring fresh water to villages in Ethiopia, Uganda, Cambodia, and Tanzania. This organization is different from other water well providing organizations you may have seen in the past. In many cases, organizations come into a community, make friends with the locals, install a prefabricated well and then move on to the next village. Specifically, more than 25% of new water projects fail in just three years. Additionally, the United Nations estimates that in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, between 30-60% of water wells have failed. However, Lifewater wells have a 92% success rate. Why? Because they focus on sustainability.
The Problem: The Water Crisis
Eight hundred forty-four million people lack access to clean water. More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. A child dies from a waterborne disease that could have been preventable every minute. Many children and women are exploited or injured on their journey to procure water. Children miss 443 million days of school each year fetching water and fighting illness due to unsuitable drinking water. The process of gathering water reduces time that could be spent farming and insuring reliable food sources. Furthermore, 2.3 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Diarrheal diseases, resulting from unsafe water and lack of sanitation, kill more children under five years old than malaria, AIDS, and the measles combined.
The Solution: Sustainable Water Sources
Remember that bike, doll, action figure, tea set, or baseball bat you spent months and months saving up for. You raked leaves, you put up the dishes, you mowed the lawn, all so you could have enough money to buy that toy you wanted so badly. Remember how much more you appreciated that toy after you finally were able to purchase it with the money you earned? Remember how well you took care of it? This is the same idea Lifewater is harnessing when building their wells. They believe real, lasting change happens when communities actively contribute to the program. Communities contribute 10-15% towards the cost of the water source by providing finances, materials, or labor.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to water access. Lifewater’s engineers customize each well to fit the community it will be placed in so that the water sources are reliable and available for many generations to come. They build a relationship with the community, work with the community, learn about local culture and resources, and then use local engineering and technology to develop the water wells. This means they use scientific calculations and surveys to determine the best place along the water source to place the well. This is also determined by the population and specific needs of the community. For example, Lifewater utilizes five different water securing types of technology including: hand-dug wells, drilled wells, protected springs, rainwater harvesting, and rehabilitated wells. Furthermore, materials from local supply chains are used to construct the well so that the community can access the materials if the wells ever needed repair. This also contributes to the local economy.
Lifewater even customized a special handicap-accessible well for Bulumba Primary School in Uganda. There are many things that Veronica Megooba, a disabled student at Bulumba Primary, cannot do. Although she outshines other students academically, she has difficulty keeping up with them physically. There is one thing she can do, and that is to pump water out of the custom built well placed there by the Lifewater foundation. Now gathering water for her and her family is one less obstacle she faces every day.
Another tool Lifewater International utilizes are Impact Assessments. These measure the transformation in the community in real time. Each month local officials, partnering with Lifewater, visit families in each village where a well has been constructed. The information they gather is sent to Lifewater representatives who conduct evaluations, determining the progress the community has made since the well’s installation. This information is used to improve current projects and provide important data for future installations. This consistent monitoring allows the program to remain sustainable. Furthermore, the organization makes a point to know each household. They conduct focus groups and interview members of the community to provide qualitative research as well as quantitative data. All of this allows Lifewater International to measure long-term impact to ensure communities continue to prosper for several generations.
Lastly, Lifewater is a Christian based organization. I think this may be one reason why they are so focused on building a relationship with residents and continuing it even after water is accessed. Lifewater’s website provides different ways to contribute financially to their cause. Charity organizations and churches can pick the specific village they want to sponsor, watch or monitor the impact their offering makes, and know that the organization is also sharing the love of God to families and children in Sub-Sahara Africa.
I’m not trying to convince you to donate or book a flight to build water wells in Africa immediately. Instead, I am trying to make you aware of the issue and deliver a sustainable option that can help reduce the water crisis problem. Lifewater considers the environment, economy, technology and the population to make considerable, sustainable change in water availability for many villages in need. Their methodology speaks for itself with their 92% success rate.
Thank you for your time and attention. I hope that this article inspires you to look into sustainable solutions for major issues we see today.
All information and data used in this letter to the editor is from the Lifewater’s website located at https://lifewater.org.
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