Notes from South Sudan: Traveling to the Field

 Jerry cans at WFSS well in Aweil.

Jerry cans at WFSS well in Aweil.

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.”

 New well sponsored by University of Notre Dame class of 1984.

New well sponsored by University of Notre Dame class of 1984.

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.

 Board President Glenn Balch with village deputy chief.

Board President Glenn Balch with village deputy chief.

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.

Why We IGC: An interview with the 2017-18 Winner, Pine Lake Prep Charter School

Why We IGC Graphic.png

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?  

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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.

Pine Lake students with Salva.jpg

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!

12 New Wells Already Completed This Season

 the first well of the 2017-18 season was drilled for the zagalona primary school in wau, site of wfss's pilot sanitation project.

the first well of the 2017-18 season was drilled for the zagalona primary school in wau, site of wfss's pilot sanitation project.

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.

 

 

WFSS Celebrates World Toilet Day in Wau

 wau residents participate in activities marking world toilet day.

wau residents participate in activities marking world toilet day.

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.

 teaching children about sanitation practices in wau.

teaching children about sanitation practices in wau.

 teaching children can help lead to greater behavior change in developing countries.

teaching children can help lead to greater behavior change in developing countries.

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. 

 

1.        www.UNwater.org

2.       World Bank 2006

3.       Wherever the Need

WFSS Plans for Drilling, Rehab, Hygiene and Sanitation Projects in 2018

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.

WFSS Planning for 2017-18 Season, Driven by Local Leadership

 WFSS managers and team members at start of 2016-17 season.

WFSS managers and team members at start of 2016-17 season.

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.

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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On the Sixth Anniversary of South Sudan Independence

WFSS Remains Committed to Serving the People of South Sudan

 WFSS Country Director Ater Thiep, left, and Founder Salva Dut at WFSS well in Wau.

WFSS Country Director Ater Thiep, left, and Founder Salva Dut at WFSS well in Wau.

Having just marked the USA’s 241st birthday, Water for South Sudan (WFSS) joins the South Sudanese people in celebrating the sixth anniversary of the world’s newest nation’s hard-won independence. Yet, the South Sudanese are still suffering from decades of civil war. There are tremendous challenges in this young country, but also many opportunities.

Founded in 2005, WFSS’ mission is to empower the people of South Sudan to transform their lives through providing access to fresh water and hygiene education. Funded by donors in all 50 states and 33 other countries, WFSS waters the seeds of change in South Sudan by helping remote rural villages grow and develop in a country that lacks necessary infrastructure like roads, plumbing, and electricity.

Reliable access to safe water is usually the first step in development. A constant source of clean, safe water means villagers no longer need to migrate for half of each year in search of water.  The stability that comes with access to water allows villages to plan for the future. Markets, schools, and clinics can be established. The lives of all, particularly those of women, girls and infants, are transformed by access to fresh water and hygiene education.

 Well drilled in Kuac North County in Gogrial State.

Well drilled in Kuac North County in Gogrial State.

When WFSS drills a new well villagers are involved in every step of the process: from determining the well’s placement to assisting our teams with village labor as needed. WFSS also requires villages receiving a well to create water committees that will help them manage their new resource. Water committees oversee the wells as a shared community resource.

With more than 300 wells drilled to date, and over 1,000 villagers educated on how to train others about safe hygiene, the impact of our work is visible and growing. Access to water means that villagers can stay in one place more permanently, and helps prevent conflict or competition around sources of ground water.

WFSS is not only empowering people but also developing South Sudanese talent and capabilities. Our leadership in South Sudan has expanded, thanks to our founder, former “Lost Boy” Salva Dut. Ater Akol Thiep and Ajang Agok lead the operations teams based at our Operations Center in Wau in South Sudan’s northwest region. We work with our leadership team there to help them build their management and technical skills. Our intern program in South Sudan enables us to identify and develop the skilled people we need to implement our expanding programs.   

 Buey Ray Tut, left, and Salva Dut, right, at UPDP well

Buey Ray Tut, left, and Salva Dut, right, at UPDP well

WFSS is also working to establish examples of positive cross-tribal collaboration with Omaha, Nebraska-based Aqua-Africa (A-A). In partnership, WFSS and A-A began the United Peace and Development Project (UPDP), which has provided 14 water wells to date, along with community-building discussions and training. Equally important, the UPDP showcases cross-tribal leadership and co-operation, demonstrating that collaboration between tribes is possible.

We join all who work for peace and development in South Sudan. We’re grateful to our world-wide supporters who enable WFSS to remain committed to the people of this young country through our locally-led, grassroots development work.

Bringing Water to Remote South Sudanese Villages

 Villagers in bookanyara village receive hygiene education from wfss.

Villagers in bookanyara village receive hygiene education from wfss.

Water for South Sudan (WFSS) continues to deliver on its mission to transform lives in South Sudan by bringing access to fresh water and hygiene education. 

Our team was able to drill 23 new wells in the 2015-16 season, and is hard at work planning for the upcoming 2016-17 season with goals of drilling up to 40 new wells, rehabilitating 20 older wells, and bringing hygiene education to all villages in which we drill.

There are many ways to support our work, through giving online on our website, and also supporting online projects like the WFSS well through GlobalGiving.org

Check out our latest progress report on GlobalGiving!

 

WFSS Remains Committed to South Sudan

Water for South Sudan has been an advocate for the people of South Sudan since our founding in 2003, and we continue to assist in the development of the world’s newest nation. Since we began drilling water wells in 2005, we have never wavered from our mission: to deliver 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 and sanitation practices in areas of great need.

Our grassroots development work starts with access to fresh water, and now includes hygiene education and sanitation services, which all help bring greater health and stability to those we serve. With these efforts, we strive to help the South Sudanese people become more capable of determining their own futures, and that of their fledgling country.
 
As a small nonprofit organization focused on one country, we continue to grow along with this infant country. As we work to help the first steps of development, we also aim to help our team members in South Sudan develop, following the lead of our Founder, Salva Dut.

We join the world in supporting a peaceful resolution to the unrest in South Sudan. We also join the world in condemning corruption at all levels in the country.

WFSS Team Safe. Planning for 2016-17 Season

The WFSS staff and Board of Directors in Rochester, New York, is in daily contact with our South Sudan team. Our team has been busy planning for the 2016-17 season. The Leadership Team in Wau, along with WFSS Founder Salva Dut, continually monitor the situation in their immediate area, and in the entire country, and all agree that we should continue our programs in South Sudan. Our teams have proper security measures in place and continually work to ensure the safety of all team members and our entire operations center.

WFSS is grateful to all who enable our work. Thanks to the generosity of our ever growing donor base, with supporters now in all 50 US states and 33 other countries, we are poised to continue the work that has impacted more than 300,000 people since 2005.

We look forward to continuing our mission to transform lives in South Sudan. Please check back here for further updates. You may also sign up for our email newsletter, and also follow us on FacebookTwitter and for other news, photos and updates.
 

Clean Water for a Happy Mother's Day

 Women walking for water in south sudan

Women walking for water in south sudan

Cards, chocolates and flowers will be given to many women this Sunday. As preparations are made to honor moms on Mother's Day, May 8, the need for many women in the developing world is starkly different. Women need clean water to keep themselves and their children safe, healthy and alive.

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, women and children can be more prone to infection. Without access to water or proper hygiene and sanitation (toilets) women and children are more vulnerable to experiencing violence as they must travel farther to collect water or relieve themselves. Without access to clean water, the hope of an education is gone, as often times, the task of collecting water falls to girls. When girls spend their days walking for water, as they often do in South Sudan, there is no time to attend school.

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.

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 to women and children, in honor of a mother in your life, please visit our donate page.

WFSS Hygiene Team Expands Impact of Clean Water

Water for South Sudan (WFSS) started its Hygiene Education program in January 2014. This program was developed to help villagers who receive a WFSS well get the most out of having access to clean water.

The WFSS Hygiene Education Team teaches villagers about bacteria and disease and describes how bad hygiene practices, including open defecation and not washing hands with clean water, spreads diseases such as diarrhea. Diarrhea is responsible for four percent of the world’s deaths and causes about 801,000 annual deaths of children under the age of five, or 2,200 deaths each day. WFSS, through our hygiene education program, plays a vital role in teaching good hygiene practices. With access to clean water, villagers can utilize hand-washing to prevent the spread of diarrheal diseases.

 

The WFSS Hygiene Education program uses the Participatory Hygiene Transformation Method (PHAST). PHAST empowers villagers to come together to identify poor hygiene practices and create practical solutions to correct them. The WFSS Hygiene Education Team does not take on full leadership, but rather facilitates discussion regarding hygiene problems and their solutions. PHAST implements seven steps to achieve this: problem identification, problem analysis, planning for solutions, selecting options, planning for new facilities and behavior change, planning for monitoring and evaluation, and participatory evaluation. By using different methods of hygiene education/practice evaluation while following these steps (such as community stories, community mapping, pile sorting, and constructing F-diagrams of diarrheal transmission routes), WFSS enables those using our clean-water wells to improve and sustain the quality of their lives. In each village where we drill a well, our hygiene program teaches eight people (four men and four women) the best hygiene practices and trains them to then teach their fellow villagers, thus extending the impact of clean water even further.

To learn more about how you can help WFSS improve health in South Sudanese villages, please visit our Take Action page.