Well Evaluation Survey Finds WFSS Wells in Good Working Order

WFSS Board member angelique stevens tests water during well evaluation survey.

WFSS Board member angelique stevens tests water during well evaluation survey.

WFSS team visits 80 wells

In February, 2015 WFSS conducted its first formal evaluation of some of our oldest wells. Board member Angelique Stevens traveled from Rochester, NY to South Sudan to conduct the evaluation with WFSS Field Operations Manager Ater Akol “Lion” Thiep. The initial plan of the well evaluation was to visit 20-25 wells.

In February and March, the evaluation team was able to evaluate 80 wells. The survey focused on six major areas: well identification; maintenance; well use patterns; water quality; functionality; and, sanitation and hygiene.

The team visited a sampling of wells that had been drilled between 2005 and 2013 and found that the wells, by and large, were working. Even though 60 percent of the wells visited had broken down one or more times, we learned that we had given the villages enough training to either fix the wells themselves, or find someone who could fix them, making the villages who received wells truly self-sustaining. Another thing we learned is that E. coli and coliform levels in all the wells tested were within safe drinking limits.

One of the most important things we learned from the evaluation is that there is never enough water. When a well is drilled in a village, word gets around. In some villages the wells had a queue of 60 or more jerry cans, waiting to be filled. Animals, especially cows and goats, are drawn to the well site for water. All of this traffic causes wear and tear on the well’s platform base and drinking trough.

Consequently, some of the recommendations that came out of the evaluation were to:

  • implement a small platform rehabilitation team for the 2016 season
  • rehabilitate the platforms and drainage channels
  • improve platform design and construction, and
  • enhance our already robust training programs to include platform lifespan maintenance and best practices.

Finally, we have established a Monitoring and Evaluation Committee as part of our permanent Board structure. WFSS will continue to have a strong assessment program that allows us to learn and grow as we move into the future.

Read the full report here.

To read more about the 2015 well evaluation trip, you can also read Angelique's South Sudan blog.

'Lost Boy' finds water for South Sudan

Women carry water in south sudan. photo by ben dobbin

Women carry water in south sudan. photo by ben dobbin

Journalist Ben Dobbin profiles Water for South Sudan and its Founder, Salva Dut, in a story that appeared in the Rochester, New York Democrat & Chronicle, and also in USA Today.

Dobbin traveled to South Sudan in February of 2015 to retrace his steps from an earlier trip, and to document Water for South Sudan's progress since its beginnings in 2005.

Read his account of Salva's story, from one of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan to years spent in refugee camps, to his resettlement in Rochester, New York and his eventual return to drill water wells in his home country. Salva has been joined by other former "Lost Boys" in South Sudan, Ater Akol Thiep, and A.J. Agok. Dobbin notes "They've swapped First World comforts — electricity, paved roads, tap water, garbage pickup, mail — for an arduous mission in this Texas-size mix of grasslands, swamps and rainforests where half the population lives on less than $1 a day."

Salva's and their story is intertwined with that of Water for South Sudan, now 10 years old, with more than 250 wells drilled in the world's newest country.




WFSS Founder Salva Dut issued the "Iron Giraffe Challenge" to students In October, 2014. He challenged 50 schools to each raise $1,000 for a new drilling rig by May 1, 2015.  The "Iron Giraffe" is what the children call the drilling rig in A Long Walk to Water by award-winning author Linda Sue Park.


As of April 28, 91 schools have taken the pledge. Students from 37 US states and 4 other countries have all been raising funds. Students, teachers and parents have enthusiastically joined the campaign, raising funds in varied and creative ways, from walk-a-thons, and carrying water, to selling hot chocolate and buying stickers that enable students to come to school wearing pajamas or hats.

Schools are vying for a chance to win a visit from Salva Dut. The Iron Giraffe Challenge drawing, with first prize being a visit from Salva, will take place on Wednesday, May 6 at 12 NOON, EST.

Second and third place winning schools will each be able to Skype with Salva. There will be two second place winners, who will receive a joint 15 minute Skype call, and three third place schools, who will participate in a joint 10 minute call, when Salva visits the US in June. Winning schools will be announced via WFSS website, Facebook and Twitter.

WFSS is already making plans for next year's Iron Giraffe Challenge.

Thank you to all participating schools!

JUST ADD WATER Wins Film Festival Award

Just Add Water by Jeffrey Mead won the Strongest Call to Action Award at the 2015 Fast Forward Film Festival in Rochester, NY. The short film showcases the mission of Water for South Sudan (WFSS), which delivers direct, transformative and sustainable quality-of-life service to the people of South Sudan by efficiently providing access to clean, safe water and improving hygiene practices in areas of great need.

In accepting the award Jeff said it has been a privilege to work with Water for South Sudan. He acknowledged WFSS Founder Salva Dut, and his journey from a schoolboy forced to leave his home in a small, rural village in southern Sudan, to leading 1,500 boys from a refugee camp in Ethiopia to another camp in Kenya, and finally to Rochester, NY as a refugee. Many years after fleeing his home, Salva returned to southern Sudan to visit his father, who was critically ill from drinking contaminated water. When he came back to Rochester, Salva enlisted the help of friends to establish a nonprofit to drill a well in his family’s village and Water for Sudan was born.

Mead noted that clean water brings so much in South Sudan. "Clean water enables education and commerce and a flourishing of life," he said in a recent interview.

Since drilling its first well in 2005, the nonprofit has drilled 253 wells serving over hundreds of thousands of people. Water for Sudan became Water for South Sudan when that country gained its independence in 2011.

Filmmaker jeffrey meads accepts award for strongest call to action.

Filmmaker jeffrey meads accepts award for strongest call to action.

Inaugural Fast Forward Film Festival

The Fast Forward Film Festival celebrates the short film format, challenging filmmakers to utilize the power of visual storytelling to convey the urgency of environmental problems. As an incubator for innovative thinking and artistic expression, Fast Forward encourages films that tap into the local experience and compel audiences to engage with the community and raise environmental awareness.  

Embracing the short film format, Fast Forward challenges filmmakers to utilize the power of visual storytelling to convey the urgency of environmental problems. Shorts are a liberating form that allow for greater experimentation and give voice to both aspiring and veteran filmmakers. By focusing creativity into films under five minutes in length, Fast Forward films hope to become an important communication tool to inspire change, connect people and build an environmentally concerned community. Fast Forward Film Festival is an initiative of The Lost Bird Project.

Jeffrey Mead is an award winning Producer/Director and co-founder of POV-Rose Media.  He has produced webisodes, films, DVDs, broadcast documentaries, national PSAs, syndicated broadcast features, Fortune 200 marketing communications, and commercials in locations around the world, from Rochester to Shanghai, Seoul, India, Africa, Europe, and throughout North America.

Jeff lives with his family in Caledonia, NY.

WFSS to Conduct Formal Evaluation of Wells

WFSS board member Angelique Stevens in South Sudan.

WFSS board member Angelique Stevens in South Sudan.

Water for South Sudan began drilling wells in 2005, and has now drilled 229 wells as of February 3. The organization is committed to its mission to bring access to clean, safe water and hygiene education to the people of South Sudan and part of that mission is to ensure that all of our wells are operational and able to produce potable water.

WFSS board member Angelique Stevens approached the board last year with a proposal to use her sabbatical from her teaching position at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY to travel to South Sudan and conduct a formal evaluation of wells. The planning for this trip took the better part of a year as Angelique and WFSS staff and board members researched ways to evaluate wells, developed an extensive survey and put together the team and tools necessary to gather solid data.

Angelique left Rochester on January 15 and was met by Salva Dut, WFSS Executive Director for East Africa Operations in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, on the 16th. They had meetings in the capital city and then headed to WFSS operations center in Wau on January 22 where Angelique made further preparations for the trip with WFSS Director of Field Operations Ater “Lion” Thiep. They developed an itinerary to reach as many villages as possible.

These girls no longer have to walk miles a day for water.

These girls no longer have to walk miles a day for water.


As of February 3 they have already visited ten wells and have found them all to be functioning and producing clean water.

We look forward to receiving the data, both quantitative and qualitative, to show us how our wells have impacted life in rural South Sudan since 2005. Angelique will return to the US in March and work with WFSS staff to compile and report on data.

Angelique has also been documenting her trip through a new blog on our website-- Angelique’s South Sudan Blog, where she shares photos, stories and thoughts on water, WFSS wells and life in South Sudan.

United Peace & Development Project Continues

UPDP #1 Dec 2014 2 revised.jpg

The first three wells of the 2014-15 season were drilled for our continuing United Peace and Development Project (UPDP), in partnership with Omaha-based nonprofit Aqua-Africa and Rotary International.

The UPDP brings together two nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping the people of South Sudan. Water for South Sudan was founded by Salva Dut, whose heritage is the Dinka tribe. Aqua-Africa’s founder is Buey Ray Tut, whose heritage is the Nuer tribe. The Dinka and Nuer have been in conflict for many years, and the most recent unrest in the country, which started in December, 2013, has largely pitted South Sudan President Salva Kiir's Dinka ethnic group against former Vice President Riek Machar's Nuer group.


Salva and Buey see peace coming through working together in South Sudan. They are working together not as tribal members, but as South Sudanese, uniting to transform the lives of their fellow citizens, and to bring peace to this young nation through development.

“We are dedicated to our nation,” says Buey. “We are trying to make our country a better place.”   Salva agrees. “We need peace in our country,” says Salva.  “We want to show people how we can all work together.”

Four wells were drilled for the UPDP in the 2013-14 drilling season. Salva and Buey plan to drill three more wells together this season, bringing their total to 10 wells drilled in both Dinka and Nuer territories.

Schools Take The Iron Giraffe Challenge to Help WFSS

Giraffe for website no hash marks.jpg

Children around the world are helping the children of South Sudan by participating in the Iron Giraffe Challenge. As of February 3, 26 schools have taken the pledge to raise funds to help buy a new "Iron Giraffe."

The difficulty of drilling wells in the remote villages of South Sudan is that in many places there are no roads – sometimes even dirt roads do not exist. Driving in this terrain, along with the extreme heat, sand and dust of South Sudan, puts a tremendous strain on our vehicles, causing frequent breakdowns.  Our drilling rig—the “Iron Giraffe” as villagers call it in A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park— is about seven years old. In order to continue our work, it is critical we replace the rig. The new rig will cost about $500,000. 

As a group, schools are a major source of support for WFSS. Salva is asking schools to help us in this effort by each helping raise a minimum of $1,000 this year. As demonstrated in A Long Walk to Water, even the poorest children in America and other developed nations have incredible wealth compared to South Sudanese children.

The Iron Giraffe Challenge is a two-year campaign. Our 2015 goal is $50,000, and deadline for submitting fundraising for this school year is May 1. All participating schools will be recognized. All schools that raise at least $1,000 will be entered in a drawing to win a school visit from Salva Dut. More information on the Iron Giraffe Challenge can be found here.

Take the Iron Giraffe Challenge!

As the WFSS team prepares for another season drilling wells, we will once again rely on our powerful drilling rig to drill 100 to 300 feet down, often through rocky soil, to reach the clean water available in the refillable aquifer which supplies water to our wells.

Our current drilling rig has been operational since 2008. Our team knows that the rig will  have to be replaced soon, so we have launched the IRON GIRAFFE CHALLENGE to schools to help fund this effort.

WFSS issued the Challenge to schools to each raise at least $1,000 to help fund a new rig. Our goal for the 2014-15 school year is $50,000.  Fifty schools each raising $1,000 would bring us to our goal. If you would like to join the challenge, please visit our Iron Giraffe Challenge page.

We have also included some incentives for the challenge. If we meet our goal of $50,000 raised by May 1, each school that raises $1,000 will be entered into a drawing to win a visit by Salva Dut, WFSS founder and Executive Director for East Africa Operations.  

Over 300 schools have supported WFSS in the last 10 years, often inspired by Linda Sue Park’s A LONG WALK TO WATER, which tells Salva’s true story as one of the “Walking Boys” of Sudan, alongside a fictionalized account of a young girl in South Sudan today.

For more information, or to take the challenge, please visit the newly revised WFSS website here.