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Helping Others Locally and Globally

Spring 2011 is just beginning to take hold in many parts of the US, pushing cold and wet away, and bringing flowers and green grass.  With it, spring brings encouragement and hope of things new.  In the last week we’ve heard about two families that are bringing hope and encouragement, like spring, to more than a village in Africa.  They are bringing it to one another as well.

At Rockford High School, Junior Makenzie Connor (‘Kenzie’ to friends and family) doesn’t just do good for others 7000 miles away from Rockford… she does good for people in her own backyard.

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One Person’s Loss is Another’s Gain

We got a great email a few weeks ago from Stephen Lasky, Vice President of Business Planning and Analysis at Sephora.  Stephen had undertaken a huge goal that would result in better health for himself and provide an inspiration to Sephora employees.  Being the ‘others’ minded person that Stephen is, he wanted to tie that accomplishment to a cause … the cause of bringing clean, safe water to those without.  We could try to tell Stephen’s story, but why not read it directly from Stephen himself …

“In August of 2009 after a lifetime of battling obesity, I had a moment of clarity that the time had come.  At 5’5” and 251 pounds I started a journey to change my life. At that time I was taking medications for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and gout.  In September of 2010, 13 months after I began my journey I had dropped 100 pounds and was free from all medications.  It was in September 2010 that I tried for the first time in my life to run a mile without stopping.  After running for 5 minutes on the treadmill I felt pretty good and was encouraged to keep going…15 minutes later I had run my first mile.  One month later I decided I needed closure to the process I started a year earlier; that closure would be signing up for a ½ marathon.

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Sand dams and other miracles

In some areas of Kenya – like where I live in Coast Province, finding clean water is almost impossible. With little rain and salty groundwater, people travel for miles with jerry cans to find fresh springs or river beds where they can dig for water.

For us, the question is often not “Do we want to help?”, but rather “Can we work out a way to help?”. And by implication, do we have the partners who can work in such challenging conditions? As you may be aware from earlier posts, part of my work this year is about partner development. I’m currently on the hunt for organisations that The Water Project can partner with in the future. This is a tricky assignment for me, and three months in to my year here, I’m realising that it is a slow process. It’s important we take the time to hear the inside story and make sure we do due diligence. We need to make sure we are giving our donors genuine value for money, as well as serving communities in the best and most sustainable manner possible.

To date, the partners we have are ‘well’ focused (excuse the pun!), in that they base their implementations on boreholes or hand dug wells, but as I’ve mentioned, this approach is not always appropriate. As such, another focus of this year is to try and diversify the approaches we fund. Each development situation, each community, is different and  it’s vital that we (and our partners) are able to think creatively when tackling WASH issues.

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Addressing urban WASH issues in Informal Urban Settlements

Yesterday I visited an Informal Urban Settlement in Mombasa, in an area called Likoni. Informal Urban Settlements, or slums, are areas characterised by poor housing and squalor, where the population lack official land tenure rights. Globally, more than 1 billion people live in slums, a figure that is rising all the time as people move to cities in search of employment.  Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) issues are typically very challenging, as people lack access to clean water, and waste disposal (either of human excrement or household rubbish) is haphazard and unregulated.

Yesterday I visited Khasim,

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