Water & Freedom

Every year the 4th of July brings freedom to the forefront of everyone’s mind. But what does freedom really mean and how do you get it? It could be argued that freedom means being able to “be you” without outside constraints, being free to worship as you see fit or feeling safe in your own home.  

I would contend that freedom means more than that. It means not having to walk 4 hours a day for water, being able to send your kids to school, having the ability to grow food for your family & knowing that the water you and your kids consume isn’t going to make you sick. Most of us tend to be on auto-pilot when it comes to expecting these comforts and tend to take our incredible access to clean water for granted. But what if we didn’t have this freedom…

While HUGE strides have been made in regard to increased access to clean water and safe sanitation in Rwanda, there is still work to do. According to UNICEF, 25% of Rwandans still don’t have access to clean water and 26% don’t have access to safe sanitation. And rural communities feel this more than anyone. (You can read more here.)

On average, it takes about $30 to give someone in Rwanda access to clean water, safe sanitation and sanitation education. Not only that, but every dollar invested in water has a multiplied economic effect of 8xs. (Source: WHO) Every dollar you donate helps provide clean water in Rwanda and gives a bit more freedom, particularly to women and children. 

Freedom is always on my mind and here’s why: Water = Freedom. That may sound strange to most people but when you break it down, you see how every drop of water we consume each day provides us with the ability to operate more freely. Please consider DONATING to give not only clean water, but to spread more freedom! 

 

Thank you for being Water, and Freedom, Warriors with us!

North Texas Giving Day 2013

An Open Letter to our Volunteers, Supporters, Board Members & Advisory Board Members:

Ten for 10 | Water for Africa has the most incredible donors, volunteers & supporters anyone could ask for. No doubt about it. Together, we've created a truly impactful organization that changes lives, increases good health, allows for greater education, builds people up & gives clean water. I can imagine nothing greater we could do. So thank you for every dollar you've given and every minute you've spent with us.

Tomorrow we have a chance to once again do something incredible: Increase our giving power, our investment of time & our ability to give clean water. Because tomorrow, September 19th, is North Texas Giving Day (NTGD) in Dallas, TX!

NTGD is one-day where all donations of $25 or more made through the DonorBridge website are bonused by a portion of $1.5M in matching funds, increasing giving power and allowing us the chance to raise some phenomenal money for clean water projects in Rwanda.

I'm excited and nervous...and hope our donors show up like we think they will. 

Let's do this Water Warrior Nation! 7AM tomorrow morning we saddle up and ride! We hope to see you then.

With warm thanks,

Sheryl Coyne-Batson

The Business Of Giving Water

Recently I read an article about startups and the author asked, “What’s your business?” I started thinking about Ten for 10’s “business.” My initial thought was that we were in the business of giving water. But it’s so much more than that, because WATER not only serves its intended purpose, but leads to bigger and better things. Water gives life and changes life. It allows kids to concentrate on school work, go to university and have big bright futures. Water transforms a nation and its people in an organic way. It leads to local job creation in the form of water sellers, operators and technicians, and provides great equality for women. Water is a game changer.

If we were a for-profit company, our business model would look completely different. Our goal would be to gain entry into Rwanda for the purpose of building water systems that might use a friend’s company for the rain barrels, a business contact for stones and a big manufacturer of PVC pipe, spigots and transformers to help deliver water to communities. We would collectively strategize how to make the most money off of these projects through government contracts, tax benefits and collection of fees. And the local people would most likely be left out of the conversation and the opportunity to be involved in the process. It would be a typical case of profit over people.

Instead YOU, our supporters, are proving that people matter more than profits. YOU are the ones changing the world through your donations, volunteerism and support of Ten for 10. Are we in the business of giving water? Absolutely! But, with your help, we’re also in the business of nation building, future building and people building…one drop at a time.  

 

In 20 years I predict the economic landscape of Rwanda will look vastly different. And it will have all started with Water Warriors like you and the “Business of Giving Water.”

A Day Without Water

Imagine getting up tomorrow and going to the kitchen sink for a glass of water...only nothing comes out. You shuffle to the bathroom sink thinking, "There must be something wrong with the faucet," but no water is flowing there either. After trying all of the taps in your home, you realize YOU DON'T HAVE WATER! What would you do? Call the water company?! You don't have a water company.  Go to the store? Stores don't carry clean water.

But you have to shower. You have to go to work. By 5pm your toilet is backed up and creating a health hazard for your family, no one has showered, you have dirty dishes in the sink that are attracting bugs and 5 loads of laundry are waiting to be done. Oh and you haven't gone to work yet because you've had to walk to the local lake for water. You've boiled it but still aren't sure it's safe to use. What would you do? Would you drink it? You would if that's all you had...and that's exactly the situation many Rwandans are in. 

Study after study shows that access to clean water increases health, provides better sanitation & allows kids to go to school instead of spending 1/2 their day collecting water. Water is such a primary need that everything you do depends on it.

Those of us who have, and have always had, easy access to water can't fathom what it's like to go without. But that's exactly what 1 in 6 people face EVERY day. On average, women and children spend 4 hours a day collecting water to clean, bathe, drink, cook and grow food. Many times from contaminated streams and water sources.

With YOUR help we're changing that! Due to your generosity, clean water, better restroom facilities and education as to why hand washing can prevent the spread of disease is happening in communities throughout Rwanda. Thank you for helping us give the gift that truly keeps on giving: WATER.

              Visit our "Donate" page to find out how to give clean H2O!

Kids, Sanitation & Education

Part of the 2011 Kicukiro Water Project was the installation of 10 Eco-San toilets, hand washing stands & rain barrel systems at the Gahanga School Complex. 3,256 primary & secondary students benefit from having access to water, safe bathrooms & learning how hand washing can be a life-saver!

We pull up and the kids immediately run to the truck. In fact, even the kids playing soccer leave the field to welcome us. They are beautiful, smart and kind. I'm overwhelmed by the love we feel...and they really don't even know the part we played in the water project. 

It doesn't matter where you are, kids are pretty much the same: They want to learn, play and feel secure. But these kids have to deal with a much harsher reality when basic necessities, such as water, are lacking. Or they don't feel safe going to the bathroom. 

Evelyn is in P-6 (or 6th grade.) When asked how she liked the new latrines she said, "There were demons in the old ones." We didn't know what she meant. Then we learned that during the Genocide of 1994 people were routinely thrown down latrines and left to die. We suspect these old facilities might have been used for this purpose. Another girl told us the old ones "smelled" and she didn't like going into them. But they both LOVE the new bathrooms and had a huge smile when talking about how much better they were. 

While our primary mission is to increase access to clean water, proper latrines are important as well, particularly for young girls. Having a safe environment when girls feel especially vulnerable and exposed can be the difference between them coming to school or staying home. And studies show that education makes a huge difference in not only the success of people, but in the future of a country. After all, these are the leaders of tomorrow's Rwanda, and with us being such an interconnected world it matters to ALL of us!

Our First Site Visit!

Day 2 Cont-

Our first site visit is a 2011 water project in a Settlement for Widows and Orphans of the Genocide. The community was established by the Rwandan government as part of a reparation and compensation plan to help bring about healing after this 1994 tragedy. While the “orphans” are now grown, they can still live on the land. Located in the Kicukiro district, this is considered a peri-urban area but still about an hour and a half outside of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda and really the only large city in the country. (Due to the conditions and lack of available resources, most areas outside of Kigali would be considered rural to the majority of Americans.) 

As we pull up we are greeted by the local water seller, Jeanne. (Each water project has a water seller elected by the community to ensure that water is distributed fairly. Over 50% are female, which is a huge economic gain and game changer for these women as they are now part of the water conversation and have control over this essential resource.) She introduces us to the people and shows us the water taps serving the 58 families that live in this village. 

Part of the water project includes a water tap stand used to supply drinking water and rain barrel systems located throughout the village. It's amazing what water has done here in such a short time! They grow crops for use by their families with some farms yielding enough to trade/sell at the local market. Livestock such as cows, goats and chickens can be maintained and kept healthier due to a consistent source of clean, easily accessible water. And more children are attending school and looking forward to bright and prosperous futures instead of hauling water. 

For example, we met Jeanne’s granddaughter, Kevine. She is 10 years old and goes to P-6 (or 6th grade) at the local school. When asked what she wanted do when she grew up she said, “I want to be a Doctor or the Minister of Education.” I commented that I’m impressed with her ambitious goals. When asked what made her want to pursue these occupations. Kevine said she wants to help people. And that she has seen how water changed her grandmother’s, and therefore her family’s, lives: Jeanne has her own chickens, latrine, water spout and crops, and runs a village store out of a structure in her backyard. Jeanne has created numerous successful businesses as a result of clean water and investing her resources wisely. Kevine said her grandmother is a role model, and Kevine KNOWS women can obtain a good education and make a difference. 

It’s truly amazing what ONE year of clean water has done!!

Good Luck to you Kevine. We’ll be watching you and expecting great things.

Meet our Water Partner

Day 2-

It's Day 2 and we're off to an orientation with our local water partner, Water for People-Rwanda, here in Kigali. The staff is warm and welcoming. While small in number, only 8 people, they have the huge task of overseeing all of the water projects Kicukiro and Rulindo Districts of Rwanda. Each staff member is very knowledgeable and excited to show us what has been accomplished. Also, they aren't afraid to tell us of the challenges they face...which I appreciate.  

For instance, we've been asked to help provide EVERY person in Kicukiro and Rulindo with access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation FOREVER. And for implementation to be complete by 2017. It's ambitious, but we think it can be done. We asked what the biggest challenge of this initiative would be. The local staff said, "The "forever" part is easy. It's the "everyone" that's problematic due to the topography of the land."  

The terrain is a logistical challenge. Rwanda is nicknamed "The land of a thousand hills." And Rulindo is proof of that. (In fact, after a 3 hour drive to one of the sites I was convinced it was home to ALL 1,000 hills.) 

Rulindo redefines "rural area". With its' extremely steep hills and rough terrain these people could easily be ignored. Many of the villages extend from a ridge top to the bottom of valley, making it more challenging to bring water closer to the people. In fact, we heard that our local partner, and us, have a reputation for "Going where no one will go to give water." That made me proud. We aren't forgetting about ANYONE, regardless of where they live or the added effort it takes to get there. 

Next up: A visit to one of our water projects and meeting the people of a Genocide Settlement in Kicukiro!

Finding Rwanda...

Day One- 

Three planes and 2 days later we finally land in Kigali, Rwanda. It's been a long journey, over 19 hours in the air, but we're excited to finally be here! 

The first thing I notice is that every Westerner in baggage claim seems to be here for some humanitarian purpose, as evidence by the large crates and boxes of goods coming off of the conveyor belt. It's easy to see how locals could view visitors from the "more developed" nations primarily as aid givers. I've been here less than an hour and that's my assessment. While I see the need for immediate and direct aid, long term solutions are important and at the core of what we're here to do. 

Very few people come to "holiday" in Rwanda and I understand that. But what concerns me is what I call "kamikaze aid", aid that provides a short-term solution but doesn't have lasting effect or get to the root of the problem. (Over 40% of water pumps implemented with this type of aid are broken within 3 years so I'm very sensitive to this idea and am excited we've taken a long term approach that empowers the local people and includes them in the conversation...but more on that later.) 

Tonight we had a quick dinner and met the rest of our group which includes 2 Engineers, one Winemaker (Environmental Engineer in another life), one Writer, a Finance Expert (our own Bryan Batson) and 3 Development/Fundraising Professionals (including myself). Tomorrow we'll have a briefing with our local partner, Water for People-Rwanda, and visit some of our water projects in the Kicukiro district. Stay tuned…exciting things are in store!