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What we learn together

Communication: One of the Best Keys to Unlocking Potential

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024

One of the founding principles of The Water Project (TWP) was that anyone who helped create a water project should be able to ask questions about how that project is doing, even years after its implementation. 

Nowadays, anyone who funds a water project through us can log in, even years afterward, to ensure the water is still flowing. But what we’re still working on, and will likely be a neverending journey for us as we grow, is creating a human connection between the donors who want to help and the people their generosity is supporting. 

It’s not just geography that separates our donors from those we strive to help. 

It’s difficult for people in countries where water is a taken-for-granted utility to relate to those who fend for themselves by supplying their households with water. We have different ways of speaking and writing. We have different expectations. We see the world differently — and that’s okay. 

But it means that sometimes our donors need help understanding the perspectives of the people we serve. They have to work harder to feel that “aha!” moment when they know the person they’re helping is just like them. If our donors were born in sub-Saharan Africa, they, too, would face water struggles — but they weren’t. So, we had to think of a way to help them understand the water crisis’s terrible impact even without having lived through it. 

To bridge this communication gap, last year TWP hired two new Impact Communication Officers (ICOs), Jacklyne and Olivia, who now have over six months of experience under their belts. Not only do they communicate the impact our donors make, but they also share the urgent need of those still waiting for water. 

To do this job effectively, someone would need to understand both the water need and the need for those who help to know that their contribution made a difference. Jacklyne and Olivia fit this mold perfectly. Both women worked as part of our Western Kenya team before their new roles, and this experience has proved invaluable.

Jacklyne and Olivia in a video honoring the new year.

“For the nine years that I served, I managed to take part in the implementation of many water projects in different parts of Western Kenya,” said Jacklyne Chelagat, Impact Communication Officer. “I did all that without knowing that I was creating [the] basis and foundation for my next assignment.”

“With [my] experience of working with the communities, it has been very easy to connect with the communities again with different roles of collecting impact stories,” said Olivia. “Working as an Impact Communication Officer now has made me…realize how important it is to communicate the impact of The Water Project in the communities to the donors and to the world.” 

Olivia sings about water with students from Shivembe Primary School.

TWP keeps lines of communication open between everyone seated at the TWP table: donors, staff, stakeholders, community members, and implementers. The ICOs have become a significant link in this chain.

“The connection and relationships that The Water Project has with the communities and institutions here in Western Kenya is real, and it has grown in me,” Olivia said. “I have found family and friends in the communities and institutions that we work with.”

So, what are Jacklyne and Olivia doing to help us connect more with our donors?

Jacklyne does a profile of Cecelia, who started a pottery business with water from her community’s protected spring.

“The activities we engage in include shooting and editing videos, writing stories, and reporting,” Jacklyne explained. “All these activities are so interactive and enjoyable, which makes the whole process so captivating.”

“The last six months working as an impact communication officer [have] been the best experience ever,” Olivia said. 

“Going back to the communities to listen and get their positive feedback blesses my heart, and it gives me the desire and strength to continue doing my best. Taking videos, pictures, and writing stories is now my hobby, and I love my new role as an Impact Communication Officer. My previous roles molded me to be a better social worker, and my current position has made me to be the best communicator, writer, videographer, and the best photographer.”

Most of all, we at TWP are excited to help amplify the voices of two people who have both experienced the struggles of living under the water crisis and worked tirelessly to end it.

“The water project gives clean water to communities here in Kenya,” said Olivia. 

“It also gives hope to the communities and institutions that have lost hope of accessing clean water, and it gives hope to students who have lost hope of going to school. The challenges that I faced as a child because of [a] lack of clean water became a reality in the communities that we work with.”

And now that they’re becoming experts in Impact Communication, Jacklyne and Olivia have their eyes on the future.

“Personally, I see a very bright future for The Water Project,” Jacklyne said. 

“Since the day I joined nine years ago, I have seen an organization that is characterized by proper planning, dedication, commitment, and doing all it takes to achieve the set objectives. This can be seen right from TWP offices in [the] USA down to the field officers and artisans on the ground. As the ICOs, we are also committed to supporting the vision and mission of TWP by doing our best and improving [one] day after the other.” 

“My desire and prayer is to share more success stories on how The Water Project has changed lives here in Africa,” said Olivia. 

“The donors who are giving to The Water Project will be able to see the impact of what they are giving to our communities. I am sure that in many years to come, the students will no longer be carrying yellow and white containers with water to school every day because clean water will be flowing in communities and schools that The Water Project is working with.”

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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).