AC: By 1997, Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle were convinced many key innovations in global development weren’t getting the attention they deserved. Believing there had to be a better way to provide aid, they started an experiment. In February 2000, they invited any social entrepreneur to pitch his or her earth-changing idea at the World Bank. The 300+ participants ranged from a group of NASA scientists to a woman who’d never before left her Ugandan village.
As the rainy season brings our regular operations season to a close, we are pleased to report that WFSS went over goal and was able to drill 42 new wells! Thanks to the generosity of our donors around the world, 42 villages and schools are benefiting from life-saving healthy water.
Our other field team—the rehabilitation team—got an early start in the fall and also exceeded our initial goal, completing the repair and rehabilitation of 60 older wells originally drilled by WFSS.
Each field team is accompanied by a hygiene education team that helps villages improve hygiene practices. Access to clean water and hygiene education helps to reduce diarrheal and waterborne diseases, and helps villagers employ better hygiene practices personally, and in their homes.
Schools in particular benefit greatly from access to clean water and hygiene education.
Mary, a student at Aduktik Primary School in Gogrial State, noted that “Life was difficult [before the well] for pupils, who used to go far distances to fetch water. WFSS improved life in this school, and also provided hygiene promotion, which led to improvement of hygiene behavior.”
In addition, WFSS continued our collaboration with Omaha-based Aqua-Africa on our United Peace and Development Project (UPDP). This year, the organizations worked to drill four new wells, and provide hygiene and micro-democracy training. The UPDP is a joint effort led by members of two historically conflicted tribes—the Dinka and Nuer—coming together to provide access to clean water. The continued success of this collaboration inspires us all, and we look forward to developing future plans.
The WFSS team will launch a small “extended season” drilling project in June, with plans to drill at least eight wells in the Wau area, near the WFSS operations center.
Our Country Directors Lion and AJ will visit the US this summer to review the past season, meet with staff and board members in Rochester, NY, and plan for 2019-20 and beyond.
Thank you to all of our supporters who enable our work.
You truly are helping us to water the seeds of change in South Sudan.
Cards, chocolates and flowers will be given to many women this Sunday for Mother’s Day. For a mother in a developing country however, the preparations are starkly different. Women are hoping to obtain clean water, sanitation and hygiene in order to keep themselves and their children safe, healthy and alive.
These things that people living in developed nations often take for granted, including clean water, would have a positive lasting impact on mothers in underdeveloped countries. The health of women and children, particularly pregnant women and young children, is often directly linked to the access of clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Without clean water and sanitation, women and children are more prone to infections and diseases, and are forced to travel for hours a day to obtain these basic rights, making them more vulnerable to experiencing violence. When these young girls and mothers spend hours every day walking to water sources, there is no time for them to attend school, and without clean water, the hope of education is gone.
Read more about the need for complete WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) programs to ensure maternal health: No Maternal Health Without Clean Water by Katie Millar, MPH, RN, Technical Writer and Publication Coordinator, Maternal Health Task Force, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
On May 12th, consider donating in honor of or in memory of a mother in your life. Your donation will help bring clean water, sanitation, and hygiene to another mother and child in South Sudan. Following your donation, you will receive a downloadable card in order to show the mother in your life how much they mean to you!
Access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene would be our wish to help every mother have a Happy Mother's Day.
To give the gift of clean water, please visit our donate page.
New peace deal in South Sudan greeted with optimism
Current South Sudan President Salva Kiir met with former rebel leader and Vice President Riek Machar to sign a peace agreement late last year. The rivalry between the two had previously fueled the civil war in South Sudan, making it surprising to see the two smiling and shaking hands in the capital city of Juba.
The new agreement, named the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement, follows years of multiple peace agreements that have ultimately failed. The agreement is met with both skepticism and hopefulness. Alongside Kiir and Machar, former detainees and other political party leaders have agreed to sign the document. Together with lasting peace, the agreement aims to implement free and fair elections that are open to all parties, and pave the way for economic integration between the North and South parts of former Sudan.
This comprehensive peace agreement focuses on five areas that will hopefully form a lasting peace agreement. These include a permanent ceasefire, rehabilitation to the oil industry and oil wells, security reform, improvement of infrastructure and the livelihood of citizens, and implementation of outside forces to oversee the ceasefire. Both major political leaders claim to be committed to the cause and respect the documents and what follows.
The first expected hurdle will be the permanent ceasefire. The previous treaty, the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, was violated by both sides within 24 hours. In response, the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement hopes to forge one national army under one national representation. Previously, there had been two armies, making them more likely to clash. In order to have a successful ceasefire, both African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member states are asked to deploy the necessary forces to make sure this ceasefire is everlasting.
Following almost five years of war that displaced nearly a quarter million citizens and killed thousands, there is also hope that this deal will be the lasting peace South Sudan has been looking for. Machar said the agreement will end the suffering all too common in South Sudan, adding that “they will be happy soon.”
With the optimism that this agreement will bring the peace that South Sudan needs, Water for South Sudan will be able to reach out to previously unsafe communities. Furthermore, this pact aims at opening up the doors of Sudan to humanitarian aid in order to improve the lives of its citizens. Water for South Sudan will be able to get supplies needed and personnel to South Sudan in a more efficient manner, and ultimately reach out to more populations that need access to clean, safe water and hygiene education.
WFSS looks forward to serving many more people this year, thanks to our supporters around the world. WFSS teams plan to drill 40 new wells, rehabilitate up to 50 older wells, and provide hygiene education in all villages they visit, impacting over 50,000 people in remote villages. Read on for more details on the 2018-19 season.
Our Country Directors usually aim for an early start to give themselves enough time should there be any delays. The rehab team got an extra early start, beginning in early October. As of December 11, they have rehabbed 24 older wells and also provided hygiene education in those villages, serving close to 20,000 people.
We had planned to start drilling in December, but a slowdown at the border has pushed that start to January. One of the many challenges our teams face is crossing the border into South Sudan. WFSS purchases most of our drilling supplies in Kampala, Uganda, and sends them to South Sudan by truck. Customs paperwork is often time-consuming, and this year presented extra challenges. The trucks have cleared the border as of December 12 and are on the way to the WFSS operations center in Wau. After unloading the supplies our team will take a short Christmas holiday break, and then be ready to go in early January.
New Drilling Rigs
Our two new drilling rigs are each on the way, with expected arrivals at our operations center in December and January. The larger 501 PAT rig (pictured at right) is currently on an ocean-going vessel, due to arrive at the port in Mombasa, Kenya, later this month.
In order to maximize resources, the rehab team will start 2019 with the drilling team. The drilling team will drill new wells and install all hardware, pipes and pumps, and then move on to the next village. The rehab team will then serve as a platform team to finish the wells, installing concrete platforms and drainage channels. This will speed up the new well process to ensure that we can drill as many wells as possible.
The rehab team will then go back to rehabilitating wells in early spring to finish out their season and reach their goals.
Security Reports from South Sudan
We are in constant contact with our team, who continually monitor safety and security. Our team reports that the area around our operations center, and the areas in which we plan to drill and rehabilitate wells, have been stable and safe.
Our team also reports that more IDPs (internally displaced persons) are returning home from refugee camps. As we start our 15th season, WFSS is well aware of safety and security issues. Our team is in full contact with government and security forces in South Sudan and works diligently to maintain the safety of our teams and equipment.
WFSS remains cautiously optimistic that the recent peace deal, signed in September, 2018, will hold and the country will become more stable, and much-needed development can continue.
Thanks to supporters in all 50 states and 51 other countries, WFSS has now drilled 350 new wells, rehabilitated 83 older wells and provided hygiene education to 252 villages, impacting over 300,000 people. We look forward to continuing to water the seeds of change in South Sudan. Thanks for your support!
Leaving the WFSS compound in Wau, and its relative comforts, we embarked on a journey to witness the work that our founder Salva Dut started 15 years ago, work that inspires our supporters across the US and around the world.
After a four and a half-hour ride on uneven, rough and rutted roads, never traveling more than 40 mph, we arrived at our campsite in Aweil State. The drilling team had chosen a site under a large tree, not far from a new WFSS well so that the cooks would have access to fresh water as the drilling and hygiene teams were working.
There were long lines of jerry cans at the newly installed well, and we met women whose lives have been changed by closer access to fresh water. There were many smiles among those waiting to fill their cans. One woman shared, “We used to go to another well, far away. It used to be hard to cook and wash. Now, with a well, it is easy—we just bring a can and fill it up. It’s so great. With dirt it is hard to take a bath. Now the children are so clean. The well is helping them so much.”
We were thrilled to travel the short distance from our campsite to the drilling site. We watched as villagers young and old gathered around to observe the transformation of their village. We watched the noisy work of our drilling rig and compressor as the teams installed pipes and blew out the dirt and dirty water that is the by-product of drilling.
Field work is hard and dirty work. The heat was often overwhelming for us. But no one complains. Villagers gathered each day to watch. We continued with our administrative “meetings under the trees” as the well was constructed, trying to make the most of our time.
I had an extra interest in this well as I was personally involved in the fundraising that sponsored it. My University of Notre Dame class raised enough money to have our name inscribed on the well. My heart was full to overflowing as I watched the WFSS complete their work, and then was able to stand with the villagers beside their new well. I was overjoyed to stand in the photos with our banner, and the villagers who will use the well.
The deputy village chief, Tong Yel, was also overjoyed. He told us over and over that we would be blessed for bringing this well. “We appreciate those who helped us get clean water. Our children will have a better life. I wish generations to come would see you. The community would not have enough to purchase a well. We wish they had more to show their appreciation. God be with you and bless you.”
Leaving the field, we knew that lives would be changed, and we were changed as well, but the need continues. There are still many villages waiting for wells. Our team works with local leaders to determine well placement, but we cannot provide a well to every village. Our team must often share the hard news that we cannot provide a well this season. But this season we know that 49 villages did receive new wells, as WFSS helped to water the seeds of change in South Sudan. Being there to witness the watering was nothing short of spectacular.
As summer comes to a close, the fifth Iron Giraffe Challenge is ramping up with the new school year!
Each school taking on this challenge works to raise $1,000 for a chance to win a visit from Salva Dut! Since its beginning in 2014, over 500 schools have participated in the IGC. Here at WFSS we love to witness students so committed to helping others and to see the creative ways they fundraise.
With the IGC being one of our most-supported events and entries for this year’s challenge rolling in, we wanted to share the thoughts of a three-time IGC participant and our most recent IGC winner! I interviewed Natalie Goodwin of Pine Lake Prep Charter to see what has motivated her to fundraise with her seventh grade students for the past few years and to hear about their winning visit from Salva.
WFSS: Why did you first decide to participate in the Iron Giraffe Challenge? How did you learn of it?
Natalie: After reading the novel A Long Walk to Water for the first time several years ago, students voted unanimously to raise some funds to send to WFSS. The novel just lends itself to reaching out and giving back. Not knowing yet about the IGC, we did something on a very small scale and sent in a donation. So when the IGC was announced, or when we discovered it on the WFSS web page the next year, we were so excited! The IGC is tailored to schools; it gave us a structure to follow for giving back to WFSS and a goal to shoot for while competing against other schools! Students love a good competition!
WFSS: You participated in the Iron Giraffe Challenge for 3 years in a row and completed the IGC each year. What was your motivation and your students’ motivation for doing so?
Natalie: Each year, my students love the novel LWTW, and they love watching the videos and the TED talks of Salva. I always have a large bulletin board in my room with photos of South Sudan and Salva. It is very natural that they are motivated to want to help after reading and exploring this compelling story. I try to ensure that they feel like they are making the decision to take the IGC, and they are involved in the plans for our fundraisers. I don’t want them to feel like it is my vision or plan only. I want them to feel empowered!
WFSS: How did students react to meeting Salva after winning the 2017-18 IGC?
Natalie: Our students were immensely excited- more than I could have ever imagined. For many, I can truly say it was an experience they will never forget. They were inspired by his talk and by what he has overcome and done with his life. Students wanted to take photos with him and to hug him. After one of his talks in our auditorium, a student who has had some struggles at our school and who felt a connection with Salva came forward to the stage and asked to speak privately with him which he did. It was very touching.
WFSS: What has been the most inspiring part of fundraising with your students?
Natalie: The most inspiring part has been watching my students each year come to understand life exists outside of their “bubble” and that humans are human no matter where they live or how much they have. Yet, everyone should have the right for fresh water and the benefits it brings. I teach seventh-graders, most of whom have not yet had that many experiences with putting the interests of others before themselves. So, it is inspiring to watch them do that, grow from the experience and want to help people on another continent. My hope is that participating in the IGC will influence them and lead them to becoming life-long global citizens who have an awareness and a genuine interest in helping others in need around the world.
"My hope is that participating in the IGC will influence them and lead them to becoming life-long global citizens who have an awareness and a genuine interest in helping others in need around the world."
WFSS: What would you say to a teacher considering participating in the Iron Giraffe Challenge? Do you have any advice for them?
Natalie: I would say “go for it” of course!
WFSS, the novel LWTW, and the IGC all make it easy for teachers to participate with their classes or their schools. I would say it’s okay to start small- but just start. I have told my students in the past that even if we don’t raise the set amount or we don’t win the contest, we have still done a great thing-no matter how small- to change the world!
For the past three years, only classes of seventh graders have entered the IGC, so again we started small, but now we have a history with WFSS and the IGC and I am appealing to our entire K-12 school to get on board this year with the fundraising. Now, we are moving ahead to the next step and our goal is to raise money for an entire well through WFSS. So it can be hard in the beginning to get others on board who don’t yet know the story and about WFSS. Winning the challenge helped us to educate others at our school about this amazing non-profit WFSS.
Thank you to Natalie for taking the time to speak with us and thank you to everyone at Pine Lake Prep Charter School for their support! We can’t wait to see who our next winner of the IGC is in April 2019!
The WFSS season began in December, and teams are now in Aweil drilling new wells and providing hygiene education. Our teams are safe and able to continue our work, helping to transform lives in South Sudan.
As of January 30, 12 new wells have been drilled, and we have also broken ground on our pilot sanitation project, building latrines in a school. Read more about this season's progress here.
64% of people in the world live without toilets.
In 2013, the United Nation’s Assembly declared November 19th as World Toilet Day to bring awareness to the importance of having a toilet. Today 4.5 billion people live without sanitation facilities in their households – more people in the world have cell phones than toilets.
Sanitation is a public health issue. According to the charity Wherever the Need, poor sanitation kills more people than HIV and AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. Poor sanitation leads to diarrhea. In 2015 there were 508,9541 known deaths across the globe from diarrhea of children under five. South Sudan ranks number 34 worldwide in deaths of children under five from diarrhea, with 3,243 in 2015. Sanitation is the single most cost-effective public health intervention to reduce child mortality2.
Sanitation also contributes to social injustice and poverty. When schools do not have sanitation facilities children, especially girls, often stay out of school-- either from illness, or in the case of girls, menstruation. There is a 15 percent increase in girls’ attendance rate once a toilet is introduced in a school.3 Women can’t work when they are forced to walk for water. Farmers and wage earners are less productive when they are not healthy due to poor sanitation. The World Health Organization states that there is $9 in economic benefit for every $1 spent on sanitation.
WFSS joined the world in celebrating World Toilet Day on November 19th. WFSS Compound Manager Abraham Majur Laam participated in a live radio talk show sponsored by WFSS. The panel also included the Directorate of Public Utilities and a representative from OXFAM GB. The show was interactive with listeners asking questions and sharing concerns about sanitation. Topics ranged from the construction of pit latrines to washing hands after toilet use to sustainability of facilities.
Other WFSS staff members helped to educate internally displaced persons at the Hai Masna camp in Wau. In addition to WFSS, there were delegates from Christians for Action, Relief, and Development; OXFAM GB; South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission; Directorate of Public Utilities; and Norwegian Refugee Council. Educational dramas were used to demonstrate how to build a pit latrine using locally available materials and how to use a latrine. Songs carrying messages about hygiene and sanitation were sung and soaps were distributed.
To date, WFSS has drilled 304 wells in remote villages in South Sudan. Since 2014, WFSS has provided hygiene training to 1,584 people in 198 villages, who then train the rest of their communities in best hygiene practices, impacting over 100,000 people to date. WFSS is currently exploring an opportunity to build latrines in a school in South Sudan.
2. World Bank 2006
3. Wherever the Need
WFSS finished the 2016-17 season with a new total of 304 wells drilled since 2005. Planning for the next season began soon after. Starting with a review of the successes and challenges of the past season, our South Sudan Leadership Council, with support from the Rochester-based Operations Committee, began developing their plan for the upcoming season.
The team assessed and repaired vehicles and equipment as needed; they then prepared supply lists for all that is needed to drill new wells, rehabilitate older wells and provide hygiene education. Our Country Director Ater Akol Thiep is currently in Kampala, Uganda, purchasing pumps, pipes, casings and cement, and all the other supplies that we are unable to source in South Sudan. This is just one of the challenges we face, operating in the newest country in the world.
The WFSS team is in the final stages of preparation for the 2018 season, with plans to drill up to 40 new wells, rehabilitate up to 50 older wells, and bring hygiene education training to every village we visit.
Sanitation Project Plans
In addition, our team in South Sudan has been researching effective and sustainable sanitation solutions for South Sudan, with plans to install a pilot latrine project in a school. While the need for clean water often takes center stage, the lack of proper sanitation facilities in South Sudan is also a severe problem.
The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals include Goal #6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all. As UN Water reports, the benefits of having access to an improved drinking water source can only be fully realized when there is also access to improved sanitation and adherence to good hygiene practices. Beyond the immediate, obvious advantages of people being hydrated and healthier, access to water, sanitation and hygiene – known collectively as WASH – has profound wider socio-economic impacts, particularly for women and girls.
WFSS is looking to engage in this sector, and is working with local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in South Sudan to understand the problem and implement workable solutions.
Thank you to our friends and supporters across the US and around the world, who enable our work. We could not do it without you, and we are deeply grateful for your support.
The Water for South Sudan teams in South Sudan are busy planning for the upcoming 2017-18 season, set to start in November. We are pleased to be working with our local leadership team, led by Country Director Ater Akol Thiep and Associate Country Director Ajang Agok, who also chair our Leadership Council in South Sudan, comprised of our team managers. WFSS Founder Salva Dut also serves as Senior Advisor to both the Leadership Council, as well as our Board and staff in the US.
Plans this year include drilling up to 40 new wells, rehabilitating 40-50 older wells, providing hygiene education in every village we visit, and working on a pilot sanitation project to build latrines for a school.
Our operations center in South Sudan is in Wau, the second largest city in South Sudan. Our teams are safe there, and report to our staff and board in Rochester, NY on a daily basis.
To read more about upcoming plans for 2017-18, please visit our news page here.
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
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
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.