Reverend Nancy Reinert was first introduced to WFSS Founder Salva Dut in 2004. Nancy was the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Caledonia and she was planning a Lenten refugee program. Salva was invited to speak about his refugee experience. “He was very engaging. Everyone loved him right away,” said Nancy.
When Salva began talking about drilling a well for his father. it took Nancy a moment to grasp the situation – the impact of not having clean water on lifestyle, health, and culture. Once she understood the magnitude of the problem she knew that “Salva had to do this,” but she couldn’t imagine what that would look like. Nancy knew that Salva was a captivating visionary. “It begins with his story and what he overcame. This is a man who is disciplined to set his mind to a vision and make it happen,” she said, “it was empowering, he made you believe it could be done.”
In 2005, Salva invited Nancy to join the WFSS Board of Directors. Nancy viewed herself as the cheerleader. She believes that Salva saw her as the Chaplain and prayer warrior for the organization. Nancy shared that she “felt so privileged to work with that Board, a group of people who were so determined to make this happen.” There were a myriad of challenges faced by the Board. “It was like reinventing the wheel. Nobody was doing this except for a few big organizations like the United Nations and there were U.S. sanctions against Sudan. Getting permission from Sudan was overwhelming,” said Nancy, “The need is in the most remote areas. The conditions are extremely difficult and hard on vehicles and equipment.”
In 2008, Nancy traveled with Salva and a small contingent of volunteers who became WFSS’s eyes on the ground. They went to see how the project was working and to bring back a report to the volunteers and donors in the U.S.
Nancy was very excited to have the opportunity to meet Salva’s people. “They had never seen white people or trucks,” Nancy remembered, “there were no roads, only cow paths. The whole village gathered to welcome us. The excitement, hospitality, and joy were incredible.” What most impressed Nancy was the overwhelming sense of importance around educating girls.
Nancy shared a story that speaks volumes about the cultural differences. When her husband Wayne and Salva were driving from Rochester to Caledonia for the refugee program at First Presbyterian of Caledonia they passed a dead deer by the side of the road. Salva said to Wayne that it took every bone in his body not to claim the deer; what we call road kill would have been prized in South Sudan.
WFSS drilled two wells in its first season and seven in its second season. Nancy commented “Who would have thought it would become what it is? It speaks to human generosity: people hear an engaging story and they want to be part of it.”
Nancy was very proud of the 2011 vote for South Sudan to become a nation and she noted that Salva became impassioned to change our name from Water for Sudan to Water for South Sudan. “Water for South Sudan has not been daunted, it is still there,” concluded Nancy