An Interview with Robin Hill

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Robin Hill is a long-time supporter of Salva and Water for South Sudan. Robin co-wrote an adaptation of Salva's story called "Just Add Water" which is a picture book version for younger readers. Cindy DeCarolis, Director of Development at Water for South Sudan, interviewed Robin on some of his experiences over the years.

CD:        Tell me a little about how you first met Salva.

RH:       Actually my wife first met Salva when he was working at Wegmans. We had spent two years in the Peace Corps in Kenya. My wife knew Salva was African, so she talked to him about that. She invited him to dinner and cooked African food, from there our friendship developed.

CD:        What did you think the first time Salva talked of building a well for his father?

RH:       I was surprised that his dad was still alive. I thought he was lost forever. Salva believed that because he was given opportunities here that he owed it to his people to go back and help them. We had long conversations about this and Salva had many ideas. I was happy that he found something that he wanted to do. I felt good for him that he had found his one way to give back.

CD:        Why did you believe in his dream?

RH:       When you meet Salva and hear his story, what he went through and that he thrived, you get a sense that he has a higher purpose in life.

CD:        What was your role in helping to bring WFSS and Salva’s dream to fruition?

RH:       When Salva was putting together his Board of Directors he needed a person with in-country experience for validity. He knew of my Peace Corps experience and invited me to join the Board. I also introduced Salva to churches and schools where he spoke.  

As the organization became more complex they needed expertise in specific areas and they had others on the Board who had been to Africa. I stepped back at this point to open up a Board seat for someone with the skills that were needed.

CD:        What were some of the challenges you encountered in founding WFSS?

RH:       The biggest challenge was the direction of the Board. There was internal Board debate around what we wanted to do and what other organizations were doing and comparing the cost of purchasing equipment to contracting. The Board was not unified initially.

CD:        Did you expect WFSS to become what it is today?

RH:       Yes and no. I envisioned drilling a high quantity of wells and turning lives around. The surprise was the international response through A Long Walk to Water. When the book was read in my daughter’s class she said 'I know Salva; he lives in our basement sometimes', her teacher was skeptical.

CD:        What are you most proud of accomplishing with WFSS?

RH:       I am proud that I was there for the start and that I helped to get it on its feet, seeing the whole thing spring up from nothing to what it is today.

CD:        Are there any other thoughts you would like to share?

RH:       I am waiting for the day when A Long Walk to Water becomes a movie. It is such a compelling story.