Once You Give Water, They Bring the Change: The Idea Behind Our Giving Tuesday Stories

Tuesday, November 28th, 2023

At The Water Project, we talk a lot about how water transforms lives. But it’s hard to convey to our donors just how much we mean it.

Access to water really does change everything. It’s fundamental not just to human life, but to all life. Living without it, or without enough of it, makes life extremely difficult. 

But once people like you help someone who once lacked water get their own safe, reliable water source? You can only imagine the possibilities. Heck, even I could only imagine them — until recently. 

When brainstorming ideas for our upcoming Giving Tuesday campaign way back in June, I asked a question. What if our donors could actually see a few examples of what extraordinary things can happen once they help people gain access to water? 

When you give clean water, the change starts immediately. With water availability and our hygiene and sanitation trainings that coincide with each project, everyone’s health improves. With better health and reduced water-fetching responsibilities, students can stay in class and focus better, which sets them up for amazing futures and careers. 

Many people in sub-Saharan Africa grow their own food (or at least most of it), so easier access to water expands and reinvigorates everyone’s kitchen gardens, further improving health. And what they don’t eat, they trade, which helps families save money, both for school fees and for personal development.

Access to water starts a snowball effect of individual and community growth. And donors like you have helped us provide water to hundreds of thousands of people. 

For Giving Tuesday, I wondered how we could ever pinpoint just a few amazing stories to share out of so many. Thankfully, while I was asking this question, we had just hired our fantastic Impact Communication Officers, Jackie and Olivia. You might recognize them from some of the videos we’ve shared over the past few months.

Jackie and Olivia not only had ideas, but thanks to their time as Field Officers working directly with communities, they already had a few stories in mind.

Pastor Julius Shamala is a perfect example of how clean water spreads joy, development, and well-being.

Julius at the spring right after it was installed in 2018.

Seven years ago, Julius learned about The Water Project when we protected a spring close to his community.

“He was mesmerized with how the spring was protected, and wished the same could be done to his community, because for a long period of time, they [had] been fetching dirty water from [an] unprotected spring,” said Jackie.

Julius didn’t wait around for us to find him. He called and asked for help. 

Back in 2018, after his spring was protected, Julius said: “Out of persistance, this spring has been protected. My friends are on my case because they want their springs protected, too! It’s beautiful and safe.”

Julius took his friends’ nudges about their own spring protections very seriously. So seriously, that he made it his personal mission to get all of the springs in the surrounding communities protected.

“He was able to introduce more than 100 unprotected springs in his community,” Jackie said, “and they were all protected by The Water Project.”

But Julius didn’t stop there.

“That not being enough, he went further and referred the organization to also visit schools [that] lacked access to clean water and proper sanitation,” Jackie said. “More than 70 schools were able to benefit from The Water Project as well.”

More than 170 water projects were implemented thanks to Julius bringing them to our attention. But even this wasn’t enough positive change for Julius.

“Helping his community to have clean water motivated him to start his own school, Nancy Shalom Academy, where some of the children from the community are attending school,” Jackie continued. “The objective was to ensure that the entire community is enlightened, and every child gets access to quality education, hence reducing levels of illiteracy.

“In his remarks, he confirmed that the schools he assisted have undergone great impact changes. These include better sanitation and hygiene standards, reduced rates of absenteeism, and improved health of students. All this has translated to better academic performance in those schools. 

“The communities are flourishing as a result of accessing clean and safe water,” Jackie concluded. “The community members can now engage in other development activities without worrying about water. Their living standards have improved significantly.” 

Julius asking a question during the COVID-19 training we held in his community in 2020.

When we interviewed him now, seven years after we first started our relationship with him, Julius said: “With access to clean water in the communities and schools, women, children, and men are working together to build a brighter nation and well-defined families. Through this, I have been accepted in the community, and everyone wants to associate with me.” 

I can see why Julius’s tireless efforts on behalf of others have made him so popular. And even as we continue to install water points near where Julius lives, he’s always attending the hygiene and sanitation trainings we hold with each project to help his neighbors understand the lessons. 

“The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment,” Jackie said. “You create a good future by creating a good present, and that is Pastor Julius Shamala’s desire for his people.”

It’s obvious that Julius has fully absorbed the exact message I was hoping to send this Giving Tuesday: that safe, reliable water can sweep change across entire communities, leaving thriving 

To hear from Pastor Julius and from some of the people his influence has helped to flourish, watch Jackie and Olivia’s video profile on him below.

You can help create more stories like Julius’s this Giving Tuesday. Who knows how many community-shakers like Julius are currently shackled by water-related diseases, water-fetching duties, or long water queues? So many people would be able to thrive just like Julius, if only given a proper chance. Today, you can supply that chance. 

Choose the community, school, or health center you’d like to support, and wait for our email updates showing how life in that community is changing. 

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Jamie Heminway

Jamie is a storyteller by nature. In joining the Water Project, she’s finally found a workplace where that pesky bleeding heart of hers can be put to use (and, less importantly, that BA in English Language & Literature from New England College).