Local Leadership Drives our Team in South Sudan

WFSS Team at the start of the 2017 season

WFSS Team at the start of the 2017 season

Water for South Sudan (WFSS), established in 2003, has been working in South Sudan since 2005.  The safety and security of our team has been our number one priority since the beginning.

 

As of May, 2017 we have now drilled 304 wells, provided hygiene education to over 150,000 trainers, and have rehabilitated and repaired many wells-- our wells, and those drilled by others. This year we will pilot a school sanitation project. Our team is safe, secure, and planning for the future.

 

WFSS Led by Local Staff in South Sudan

Our team has been able to stay safe through our years of operation, and they remain safe today. Our US office is in constant contact with our South Sudan team, and receives daily security updates. Our team has many precautions in place to ensure their safety, as well as appropriate contingency and evacuation plans should they ever be needed.

One reason for our continued success, and ability to stay engaged, is our on-the-ground leadership team, started by our Founder, Salva Dut, and now continued by our Country Directors, Ater Thiep and Ajang Agok. They, along with our management team, support staff and seasonal employees are all South Sudanese. Our in-country team is able to connect with local and national government offices, and also monitor security issues.  They understand the culture, language and lifestyle of the country well and are guardedly hopeful about ongoing peace dialogues in the country.

Team Members and Their Families Safe in Wau

wfss country director, and former "lost boy," ater akol thiep.

wfss country director, and former "lost boy," ater akol thiep.

Mathew Akuar Akuar, our Hygiene Manager and Assistant Drilling Manager reports that his family is in Wau, the second largest city in South Sudan, and home to our operations center. He notes, "My family feels safe in Wau. There is no fear and business people are running their work normally."

Country Director Ater Akol Thiep agrees. He notes that Wau is currently one of the safest area in South Sudan, given its strategic location, and that the national dialogue initiative between the government and rebels is being held in Wau, and "that is why my brothers, sisters, and cousins are staying here with me."

Thiep further explains, "WFSS donors need to understand that the WFSS team values their lives and equipment very much, and if the security situation is not good, it will be their responsibility to stop work and evacuate our staff and equipment immediately to safety.

"But now we really feel good about the situation in South Sudan in general and Wau area in particular. Now over twenty NGO's (non-governmental organizations) are still operating in Wau and none of them have asked for evaluation because they know that the situation here is normal. But we also know that there are some parts in the country which are not safe, and we will try to avoid those areas until we are sure of the safety."                                                                                 


Water, Sanitation, Hygiene is the First Step in Development

WFSS Founder Salva Dut

WFSS Founder Salva Dut

We remain hopeful that the young nation of South Sudan can grow and develop. Bringing access to fresh water, hygiene education and sanitation can be a huge first step. Once villages have a stable source of water they can look to next steps, which include establishing local markets, health clinics and schools. Education is vitally important if South Sudan is to grow and develop.

WFSS Founder Salva Dut explains, "The main key for a peaceful South Sudan is to educate the next generation.  Young people understand the meaning of the peace. Providing education helps to keep watering the elements to ensure our future. Keeping young people healthy by providing clean drinking water is the first step."

Hope for the future

Salva explains that he is still hopeful for the future of South Sudan, and, as a dual US-South Sudanese citizen, he reaches into his US history for reasons why.

"The United States went through many wars and Americans were still hopeful and didn't give up. They went through the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam and others, and America today has prosperity. The civil war of South Sudan will stop some day and the people there will be living in peace and happiness."

 

Planning for 2017-18 Season

Our team has spent the summer debriefing on the past season, and planning for the next one. Plans include drilling up to 40 new wells, rehabilitating 40-50 older wells, providing hygiene education training in every village we visit, and constructing a pilot sanitation project in a school. 

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WFSS Seeks Lead Mechanic in South Sudan

Join our team in South Sudan!

Join our team in South Sudan!

WFSS seeks full time employees who would like to learn and grow with the organization. We are currently seeking a full time lead mechanic for our Operations Center in Wau Town. The lead mechanic will be responsible for general mechanical work, repairing and maintaining cars, trucks, drilling rigs, compressors, and generators.

Applicants must be South Sudanese citizens with at least two years’ experience as a mechanic with an International or National NGO, and must present a letter of recommendation from a former employer.

Application deadline is September 15, 2017. For a list of requirements, and information on applying, please see job posting here.

2017 Season Concludes, 304 Wells Drilled Since 2005

Water for South Sudan successfully completed its 13th season this May. The organization also celebrated reaching the milestone of having drilled over 300 new wells since drilling began in 2005. Overall operations have now grown to include a new rehab team, and two hygiene teams. All worked together to continue transforming lives in South Sudan, by bringing access to clean water and providing hygiene education.

The 2017 season progressed in large measure thanks to the dedication and creativity of our South Sudan team, led by Country Director Ater Akol "Lion" Thiep and Assistant Country Director Ajang "AJ" Abraham Agok. WFSS Founder Salva Dut serves as Senior Advisor, assisting both the South Sudan team, and the US staff and WFSS Board of Directors.

While the base of our operations continues to be drilling wells, we are pleased to report that our new rehab team, led by Lion, far exceeded the goals we set this year. The team planned to repair 20 of our oldest wells in 2017; they succeeded in repairing 31. The rehab team was launched in response to the 2015 well evaluation survey which showed that a number of our oldest wells were in need of repair. While all wells were found to be working and producing clean water, the cement platforms and drainage channels showed serious signs of erosion.

Our US Operations Team worked with our South Sudan team to address these challenges. They determined that we needed to use a stronger cement, and also further improved the design of the well platform and channel to promote drainage of water away from the well. In addition, they implemented procedures to build fencing around the well to discourage traffic by people and animals over the platforms and drainage channels.

“We took a big step back and looked at everything we were doing,” said US Director of Operations Don Fairman. “We were able to greatly improve the strength of the concrete, and looking at the entire well design led to improvements that will add to the long-term sustainability of the wells.”

The design improvements were used in both new and rehabilitated wells this year, and reaction was swift and positive. Villagers were pleased to have their water sources improved so dramatically, and other NGOs also noted the improvement in the design.

The rehab team heard many stories of improved life in villages that have been using WFSS wells.

WFSS drilled a well in Alabek County, Tonj State in 2007. When the rehab team arrived to repair one of the wells this year, they talked to a local woman named Yar about many of the improvements that she had seen in the years since. Yar noted that many diseases like Guinea worm, diarrhea, and typhoid have been reduced due to the presence of clean water in the area. She also noticed positive change in village life. Before the well was drilled, only four students attended school. Now the number has increased to 26, including nine girls. Yar further noted that improvements went beyond people: the life of domestic animals also changed positively, as there are more animals and they also have improved access to water. 

 

 

HYGIENE EDUCATION INCREASES IMPACT OF CLEAN WATER

In 2014 we launched our first hygiene education team, led by Mathew Akuar Akuar, a local South Sudanese. Mathew has overseen hygiene education, improving the content and delivery in each successive season. This year we launched a second hygiene team which traveled with our rehab team. Now villages that received wells over 10 years ago are also benefiting from improved hygiene practices.

The hygiene education program emphasizes community participation and equips villagers to identify hygiene practices in need of improvement. The team trains eight people in each village, four men and four women. Each of these trainees can then train others, thereby expanding the impact and safe usage of clean water.

UNITING FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT

In 2014 WFSS began collaborating with Omaha-based Aqua-Africa on the United Peace and Development Project (UPDP). WFSS drilled two more wells for the UPDP this year, bringing the total number of wells drilled for the project to 14. The two organizations originally came together to find ways to bridge divides in South Sudan. WFSS Founder Salva Dut is from the Dinka tribe, while Aqua-Africa Founder Buey Ray Tut is from the Nuer tribe. While these two tribes have a long history of conflict in South Sudan, Salva and Buey see themselves as South Sudanese first, and wanted to find a way to work together. They developed the UPDP to bring access to clean water to different tribal areas. Salva and Buey have demonstrated a deep respect for each other, and the value of working together.

“Our dream is to make South Sudan a better place for people to live,” says Buey. “We want to show people how we can all work together to achieve this dream,” adds Salva. On the practical level, the UPDP drills wells and provides clean water, but the real impact of the partnership is the ability to overcome historical conflict and inspire peaceful resolutions, and work together for a greater good.

AS ONE SEASON ENDS, ANOTHER BEGINS     

After the season ended, the WFSS teams left the field and traveled back to our compound in Wau to begin assessing all vehicles and equipment. Salva, Lion and AJ will travel to the US for meetings with WFSS staff and board of directors in June. The timeline for the 2018 season will be developed and the logistical planning will begin.

“We have come a long way,” says Salva. “I am so grateful for the generosity of our supporters around the world.”                                                                                       

Thanks to all of our supporters who enable our work in South Sudan.

WFSS Drills 300th Well in South Sudan!

Water for South Sudan reached a significant milestone last week with the drilling of our 300th well. Starting with our first well, drilled in Founder Salva Dut's village in 2005, we have not stopped in our mission to bring access to clean water in South Sudan. Despite continuing challenges in South Sudan, our work continues, and we continue to transform lives.

Water for South Sudan's 2017 season is winding down as the end of the dry season approaches in May. Once the rainy season starts in earnest our vehicles are not able to travel through the muddy "roads" of South Sudan. Until the rains come, however, our drilling, rehab and hygiene teams will continue to reach remote, rural villages in need of clean water and hygiene education.

well sponsored by employees of hmh, publishers of a long walk to water.

well sponsored by employees of hmh, publishers of a long walk to water.

Our drilling team, led by "A.J" Agok, our Assistant Country Director, has drilled 19 new wells this season, bringing our total to over 300 wells drilled since 2005. Each new well brings greater health and stability to a village. Access to clean water means that girls and women no longer have to walk miles to gather water that is often dirty and contaminated. A well in a village can be the first step toward stability and development. Markets, schools and clinics can grow up in a village that has access to water.

Our pilot well rehabilitation team, led by WFSS Country Director Ater Thiep, has had a very successful year, going over their original goal of rehabilitating 20 of our oldest wells, and has repaired 26 wells as of April 24, 2017. The creation of the rehab team grew out of our 2015 well evaluation trip in which we were able to visit 80 of our wells. While we found that all wells were operational and producing fresh water, we also found that the cement platforms on some of the oldest wells were worn and eroded. This prompted a look at our procedures, and led to an improvement on many aspects. Our rehab team reports that villagers are very pleased with the results.

an older well, before wfss rehab's work. see below for repaired well!

an older well, before wfss rehab's work. see below for repaired well!

Both the drilling team and rehab team are using a new design this year, which includes better cement mixing for the cement platforms and animal drinking troughs. Our US Operations Team designed a long narrow drinking trough, leading away from the well head, for animals to drink. This allows villagers to get water for their animals without adding more wear and tear on the cement, and also keeps the animals away from the well head. Other NGOs in South Sudan have been interested in our new design and have given us positive feedback on its efficiency.

villagers celebrate repaired well, ensuring a future with access to fresh water

villagers celebrate repaired well, ensuring a future with access to fresh water

In addition to drilling and rehab, we now have two hygiene education teams, one each traveling with the drilling and rehab teams, helping to improve hygiene practices in every village we visit.

WFSS strives to involve community members, and give local ownership in everything we do. Wells are installed after consulting with county officials, and village elders determine final placement of the wells. Hygiene education addresses the specific needs of a village, training four men and four women in each village. These villagers can then train others, helping to share education which improve health, hygiene, and the impact of clean water.

The 2017 season will be coming to a close soon. Once this season ends we will debrief with our team and begin plans for the next season.

South Sudan faces many challenges, but our teams are safe and able to do their work. We are in continual contact with them and are always assessing the safety and security both in the country, and in the areas in which we work. Our team assures us that our work can continue. 

Water for South Sudan thanks all of our supporters, across the US and around the world, who enable our work.

More Fresh Water Flowing in South Sudan as 2017 Season Continues

the third well of the season was sponsored by lewis m. myers elementary school in bellwood, pa.

the third well of the season was sponsored by lewis m. myers elementary school in bellwood, pa.

The 2017 drilling season continues as WFSS helps bring access to fresh water and hygiene education in South Sudan.

The drilling team, led by Ajang "AJ" Agok, has now drilled eight wells. This year they are focusing on providing water for schools, with plans to drill up to 40 new wells.

Our rehab team, led by Ater "Lion" Thiep, has already repaired ten of our oldest wells. This pilot project was driven by our 2015 evaluation of wells which showed that older cement platforms were in need of repair. We have strengthened our cement mixing process and improved the design of the platform, and the channel that leads from the well head to the drinking pool for animals. They plan to repair up to 20 of our older wells, and then may be able to join the drilling team to help them reach their targeted number of wells.

Traveling alongside each of these teams is a hygiene education team which helps villagers improve hygiene practices. The WFSS teams train eight trainers (four men and four women) in each village who then can train others. The educators teach about how germs spread, how to keep water containers clean, and also help to identify hygiene behaviors in need of improvement, all of which help to expand the impact of clean water.

The 2017 got off to a later start than usual, but crews are working hard to make our goals for the season. The WFSS teams continue to monitor the situation in South Sudan, and are in constant contact with our board and staff in Rochester, New York. The team has assured us of their safety, and report that they are able to conduct operations without impediment.

WFSS team members in South Sudan are in contact with local NGOs in Wau, home of our operations center, and continue to explore ways in which we can work with other NGOs in the area. We will continue discussions and possibilities to be of help in refugee camps for IDPs (internally displaced persons) in the area.

The entire WFSS organization is committed to the future of South Sudan, and supports all efforts to resolve conflict and bring peace to this young country.

Photos from start of 2017 season

2017 Season Begins! New Wells, Rehabbed Wells & Hygiene Education

The WFSS team with the first new well of the 2017 season.

The WFSS team with the first new well of the 2017 season.

The months of planning and preparation are finally behind us and the 2017 season has officially begun. The drilling team has begun drilling wells; the rehab team has begun rehabilitating some of our oldest wells; and our two hygiene education teams are working alongside them both, helping to improve hygiene practices.

The drilling team plans to drill up to 40 new wells. They have begun in Waubaai County, in the new Wau State and will also drill in Kuac North County, in the new Gogrial State, to deliver on their promise to the county commissioner and village chiefs last season, when we did not have enough time to drill wells there. This year's drilling will focus on schools and new county and payam headquarters.

Our new rehab team will work on repairing some of our oldest wells, drilled as far back as 2005, in Alabek County, in the new Tonj State.

Hygiene Education Continues & Expands

As we have done since 2014, the WFSS Hygiene Education Team will travel alongside the drilling team. New this year is a second hygiene education team, to travel with the rehab team. In every village our hygiene teams train eight people (four men and four women). Our hygiene educators work as facilitators, and invite community participation to help groups identify issues of importance, and problems to work on; identify possible solutions; select appropriate options; develop an implementation plan; and, evaluate the outcome of the plan. Three main areas of education often focus on hand-washing, keeping clean water clean, and safe disposal of stools.

Since 2014 the WFSS Hygiene Team has brought hygiene education training to over 100 villages, training over 800 villagers who are then equipped to train others in their villages, which then continues to expand the impact of clean water.

New WFSS Leadership Council

The ever-challenging climate in which we operate, including a lack of basic infrastructure, and logistics challenges, require creative thinking and dedication, which are supplied by our team in South Sudan, and our Operations support in the US.

New this year is our Leadership Council in South Sudan, led by Country Director Ater Akol Thiep and Assistant Country Director AJ Agok. We created the council, made up of our six managers in South Sudan, to help oversee operations on the ground.

Operations are still overseen by US Director of Operations Don Fairman, but we are moving towards even greater local control in South Sudan. Our team in South Sudan knows the people, language, customs, and land in which they operate, and often know best how to address the many issues that arise.

As WFSS continues our work in bringing access to clean water and hygiene education, we are also researching ways to bring access to sanitation (toilets and latrines) to those we serve. In 2017, we will continue gathering information on how we might best expand into this area, possibly collaborating with others.

In other good news, we have already been able to purchase two trucks and a crew vehicle with funds raised from our Watering the Seeds of Change capital campaign. Next up is the process to begin ordering our new drilling rig.

Thanks to our supporters across the US, and around the world, WFSS is able to continue our work, transforming lives in South Sudan. We look forward to bringing access to clean water and hygiene education to even more people this year. WFSS has now drilled 283 wells since 2005, and we look forward to reaching our next milestone of 300 wells.

WFSS Prepares for 13th Season

WFSS team at planning meeting in kampala. 

WFSS team at planning meeting in kampala. 

When one season ends, the WFSS team begins planning for the next. Plans are well underway for WFSS's 13th season, set to start in early January.

When we finished the 2015-16 season in May, the South Sudan team in Wau, supported by our Director of Operations, Board members and staff in Rochester, NY, immediately began planning for this coming season. Team members reviewed design improvements and discussed ways to help villagers protect wells and prolong sustainability. Discussions included ways to include fencing or other protections around the wells. Improvements will be implemented this season, both for new wells, and for rehabilitating older wells

wfss country director ater thiep, hygiene manager mathew akuar and assistant country director aj agok with loaded supply truck in kampala

wfss country director ater thiep, hygiene manager mathew akuar and assistant country director aj agok with loaded supply truck in kampala

Preparing for the upcoming season also includes substantial logistics to ensure our teams have all the supplies they need to drill and rehabilitate wells and provide hygiene education. The South Sudan Management Team, including Country Director Ater "Lion" Thiep, Assistant County Director Ajang "AJ" Agok, are currently in Kampala, Uganda, where they are procuring necessary supplies for drilling and rehabilitation of wells. The supplies will then be trucked north to South Sudan in time to start drilling in early January. In addition, WFSS has recently sent a large shipping container from Rochester, NY with additional supplies that are best obtained in the US.

In addition to drilling new wells, WFSS's new rehab team will begin visiting some of our oldest wells to perform repairs as needed, and bring wells up to new design specifications. WFSS will continue our hygiene education with two hygiene teams. Teams will help villagers improve hygiene practices  in every village in which we drill, and in every village in which we rehabilitate a well. Research plans are also continuing into a possible sanitation project.

WFSS also plans to continue the success of our United Peace and Development Project (UPDP) with Omaha, Nebraska- based Aqua-Africa. The UPDP plan includes more wells. We are also exploring ways to include peace and reconciliation talks in areas where we will drill UPDP wells.

Thanks to our supporters from across the US and around the world we are able to continue in our mission to transform lives in South Sudan.