Wells built, lives changed The end of 2016 brings a close to my first full year as Executive Director of Water to Thrive. My tenure has been both challenging and rewarding beyond words. I recently completed my fourth trip to east Africa to visit well projects, meet with our partners, and celebrate with beneficiaries the blessing of clean, fresh, disease-free water. I am more convinced than ever that this position is the most rewarding career choice of my life. Meeting with people whose lives have been changed, holding children, dancing with mothers and sharing in their joy is what makes me love what I do! I’ve never felt so connected to a cause — we are truly making an impact.
collected water from that far away and his response was, “No, that’s women’s work.” The women I meet suffer both physically and psychologically, but are among the bravest, strongest women I’ve ever met. Take for example, 50-year-old Dunge Bedassa, whose family donated the land for the well for her village. She led me to the “pond” which was the former source of water for her village, her family, and the local farmers’ animals. She scooped the filthy brown water into her jerry can while telling me about trying to strain the worms out with a cloth before taking it to her family. Now her five children are free from the fear of contracting debilitating diseases.
I am consistently amazed by the generosity and hearts of our donors. Last year we told you about young Kaleb Lamb, who was adopted from Ethiopia by a local Austin family and asked for donations for water for his birthday. This year, I visited the two wells his campaign has funded and thanked him as he began working to fund a third. Other generous hearts were at work in the wedding campaign of Zach and Crystal, who asked for donations for a well instead of wedding presents. In this report, you will meet Pastor Deb Grant of Faith Lutheran Church and Pastor Ron Hunt of the ministry 4others, each speaking in their own words about the impact they have felt as they work with Water to Thrive. We learn of such open hearts all the time, and are grateful for the way they enable Water to Thrive to keep doing God’s work through our hands.
The work of providing clean water continues. For a grassroots organization that started as an idea in a Bible study group in a church in Austin, funding more than 700 wells to serve more than 400,000 people is a major accomplishment. In 2017, we will face new challenges and plans for increasing awareness of the water crisis and the mission of Water to Thrive. You can help by sharing the need, mission, and impact of clean water with your friends, family, church, and organizations. Like and follow our Facebook page. Share posts with your friends. Let us know if there is an opportunity to address your club, school or organization. Become a W2T Ambassador and assist other organizations with setting up a campaign or teach them about the water issue.
Every single time I travel to visit water projects in the rural villages of Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda, I learn something new about the need, the obstacles, and the hardships. At a well in Ethiopia in June, I asked a man about the distance to the old source of contaminated water. He replied that it was close by – five kilometers from his village. I asked if he ever
I celebrate the many lives we have touched this year with the gift of clean water. I also celebrate all of you for sharing your blessings, helping W2T to continue offering the beautiful gift of water. In the words of our Ethiopian brothers and sisters, Amesegenallo!
Susanne M. Wilson, Executive Director
Abreha, 38, has six children. Water to Thrive completed a hand-dug well in her village of Adinifas in 2008. Before the construction of this well, I traveled three hours round trip to fetch water from an unprotected water source. My children were suffering from waterborne diseases such as giardia and diarrhea. I didn’t have enough time to do household chores, like washing clothes and preparing meals. Thanks to this project, now my children drink safe water. We walk less than five minutes to the well. I have more time to do household chores. My eldest girl went to university for her higher education, since she had more time to study and her health is good.
Alemtshehay, 50, is a mother of six. Water to Thrive completed a shallow borehole well in her village of Adi Watot in 2012. Every day my children and I traveled more than three hours to fetch water from an unprotected well dug by the community. The source was full of dangerous leeches. A few cattle were dead because of the same water source. Several times my children went to hospital. My older children were not able to continue their schooling because they helped me fetch water from a distant place and had no time to study. However, thanks to this water source, my two younger daughters and youngest son can now focus on their education, because it takes just a few minutes to fetch water. Also, the medical expenses of my family have greatly decreased.
Hiwot, 16, is a student. Water to Thrive completed a hand-dug well in her village of Ketin Serdi in 2008. I was only eight when this water well was constructed for our community. I remember my mom and my two older sisters were busy every day fetching water from a nearby river. Sometimes I couldn’t find anyone to give me breakfast and lunch, since they all went to fetch water. My sisters usually missed class and had no time to study. They scored poorly on their eighth grade national exams and quit school. A few years later both married illiterate farmers and are now raising children. I consider myself blessed. My little brothers and I are privileged to have a safe water source just five minutes away. We have plenty of time to study and we never miss classes. We no longer worry about waterborne diseases and eye disease. I scored well on my eighth grade exam and now am a high school student. I plan to enroll at a university.
The value of sustainability “Water to Thrive transforms lives in rural Africa by bringing the blessing of sustainable, clean water to communities in need…”
It’s right there in our mission statement, because that’s how important the value of sustainability is to us. From our beginning, Water to Thrive has aimed to make sure every water project is done with longevity in mind. One of the biggest disservices to the African people we work to help would be for us to build mediocre wells and give no training, leaving villages with a temporary fix to a very long-term issue. So we aim to do just the opposite: to provide long-lasting clean water sources and proper training so communities are enabled to thrive and grow together. There are a few essential things, among others, that we do to ensure our high standards are met. Gashaw Semeneh, our Ethiopian employee, plays a crucial role in our team’s centralized focus on sustainability. A certified geologist, Gashaw travels all throughout Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda to make sure the wells are constructed, implemented, and fully developed. He works with our partners on the ground, who are each carefully chosen to make sure they are thorough and efficient in their work, ensuring sustainable finished water projects. This is also why we take two to three trips to Africa each year, to visit our projects and make certain they adhere to our standards. In addition, our project model implements WASH (water sanitation and hygiene) training for each community we serve. We also require that each village maintain a WASH committee, five or six community members who are responsible for teaching the rest of the village the proper uses of the well. Families in each village must pay a maintenance fee, to create a fund for future repairs and also to form a sense of ownership and pride in their clean water. Each well has a gate, lock, and operating hours to protect the well and encourage smart usage. All of this ensures long-lasting, positive change for these rural African communities. This past May, to see firsthand how our water projects have sustained since the beginning, we visited some of our very first well sites. On this trip were a group of early supporters from Triumphant Love Lutheran Church, where the idea for Water to Thrive was born. TLLC members helped fund some of the very first wells in Ethiopia, so this trip was a special experience for them to see the huge impact they’ve made on so many lives in the past eight years. Issues with these wells have been few and far between, with only minor fixes needed. Pastor George Reswik, a retired pastor of TLLC, is among some of those who were able to go on this trip, and witnessed the all-around importance of sustainability. “Having new wells is making a great impact on the lives of many people,” he says. “Life expectancy has increased. There is less disease. Educational opportunities are being expanded, and many other changes have been made possible due to having clean, safe water available.” Ellen Welker, a member at TLLC, also went on the trip in May. “We were very fortunate to be able to experience firsthand the positive changes in the lives of the people who now have clean water,” she says. ”May we be able to continue this important ministry so that these stories become commonplace.”
A personal commitment to making a splash Pastor Deb Grant leads the congregation at Faith Lutheran Church in Dickinson, Texas, and supports Water to Thrive in myriad personal and professional ways. Here she shares what has led her to her commitment to our work.
On November 1, 1953, water and God’s Word made a big splashing impact in my life at my baptism. It took an embarrassingly long time of slogging through my muddy spiritual life before I discovered the power of that first big splash. When I am at my best, I am a water pipe — a distribution method for God’s grace given to me for the sake of others. Water to Thrive is able to take the best of what I have to give and turn it into living water in walking distance for brothers and sisters in a family I have not met yet. Because of my baptism, their need makes them my family. The legacy I want to give and leave with my family is water. I have been given gifts and I have been shaped by grace into an irrigation system for living water. Water to Thrive brings my love for Christ, my passion to serve God’s people, and my absolute belief in the power of water to change lives altogether. THAT is what I want to do. For as long as God gives me life, I want to make an impact by pulling God’s living water through me for the sake of the world: Jesus-flavored with a little bit of Deb mixed in. The footprint I want to leave on this most amazing planet is not my muddy one, but a water well that offers clean, accessible water and all the benefits that brings for years to come. I have been the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Dickinson, Texas, for nine years. We are a church family that has a history of giving generously, both locally and globally. We value the focused approach of Water to Thrive, its transparency and accountability. The engineers, educators, health professionals, parents, and children of our congregation immediately wrap their heads around the need and the impact of clean, accessible water. Faith Lutheran is honored to support Water to Thrive, especially since it was born of grassroots movement out of a Bible study group which is an authentic way in which the Spirit flows through God’s Word for others. Faith Lutheran was so immediately engaged in the mission of Water to Thrive, they have funded three wells in less than two years with a fourth well nearly complete. In addition, we were able to assist Water to Thrive in sending an intern to Africa to take pictures and videos to help share the impact that these wells have, including some of the beautiful photos that grace this report. Because Water to Thrive brings together all my passions, I have directed my hobbies toward its work as well. For the last several years, under the Facebook page Jazzwater Wood For Good, I offer a variety of woodcarvings and wood burning wall plaques to my friends in a silent auction form. All the proceeds have gone to either a designated charity or a charity of the auction winner’s choice. Over a year ago, I started directing the funds to Water to Thrive, and this year I created a special gift for Water to Thrive’s Water Angels group. I also write devotional books, the royalties from which all go to Water to Thrive. Through those efforts — the results of gifts given to me for the sake of others and the generosity of my friends — I completed the sponsorship of my first well in Ethiopia. BIG SPLASH! Did you hear it? I had a clown name in my younger days — “Splash!” And my middle name will always be “Splash!” — thanks to Water to Thrive, which gives me the best outlet for the living water I have to share.
God’s plan for partnership Pastor Ron Hunt leads the Church of God of San Jose in San Jose, California, and is executive director of 4others, a Christian non-profit organization that is committed to being a driving and creative force in the fight against poverty, preventable disease, and injustice. Here he shares the path that led 4others to its partnership with Water to Thrive, and the blessings that followed. 4others was founded by X-Force Student Ministries, a ministry of Church of God of San Jose. On World Water Day, March 22, 2007, the students began an initiative called African Water Project, in response to learning about the water crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. As more people within our congregation began to join the efforts of the X-Force students, and our base of support expanded into the community, the decision was made to launch a new initiative called 4others, with the African Water Project continuing under that umbrella. Since that time, God has continued to use 4others to model the way for many other small churches, youth groups, and schools, demonstrating what is possible when even a small group works together for the common good, and giving us many opportunities to put the gospel of Jesus Christ on display in word and deed. After a vision trip to Ethiopia in 2013, 4others founded the child development project Spring of Hope CarePoint in rural Ambo, in Ethiopia (in partnership with Stand for Vulnerable Organization (SVO), an Ethiopian NGO, and Children’s HopeChest, a U.S.-based non-profit). Spring of Hope currently has 137 children registered in its child sponsorship program, and also provides on-going training and support for 150 entrepreneurs (guardians of the children). When we first visited the community back in 2013, SVO Executive Director Misganaw Eticha told us that one of their community development goals was providing these families with access to clean water. Up to that point, we had funded several water projects of various types, but we were never able to form any long-term partnerships with the beneficiary communities. We traveled to Ethiopia to find just such a partnership. Once it was determined that there was indeed a need for access to clean water, we began looking for possible solutions. And that led us to Water to Thrive and its founder Dick Moeller. Dick was so gracious and supportive, and guided us through the process. The first thing he did was help us hire a local expert to conduct a detailed hydro study in the area. This was invaluable information that led us to determine that the most cost-effective way to bring clean water to the community was to construct a 2.2-kilometer line extension from the city water supply to the rural Mengedo sub-locality. The closest source of water was the river, and drinking that water was causing a never-ending cycle of sickness among the people. Then we visited the Gosu Kora Primary School, where we found that there was no access to water at all. To make matters worse, the latrines were totally inadequate, and had only one stall for each gender. The girls would not even use their stall, since there were no doors. Most of the boys simply practiced open defecation. During the hottest part of the day, students would jump the fence of the school compound to go and search for water. If they couldn’t get back to the school in time (20-30 minute break), they simply went home, rather than be disciplined for returning late. Many of the Spring of Hope parents made the difficult decision to send their children to another school (with access to
“We’ve never had clean water. Our ancestors couldn’t change this. The government can’t seem to do it. What makes you think you can?” water), but that meant a much longer walk to and from school. And girls are especially susceptible to kidnapping and rape when traveling long distances in rural areas in search of water. We determined that we wanted to partner with SVO and this community to help change this situation. We entered into a partnership with Water to Thrive to implement this water project, which would now include a water point at the school, as well as another water point in the surrounding community. Due to the cost involved, and the fact that we still conduct other large-scale projects during the year, we felt that we would have to limit the project to providing access to clean water only. We did not feel that we could raise enough money for adequate latrines in the same year. Of course, one thing we’ve learned is that, when God is involved, we’re always thinking too small! We knew we would only have a couple of months to raise all of the money for the entire line extension project. But we should have known better. Those funds were raised in less than half that time, and we realized God was making a way for us to add the latrines. We have seen time and again that “where God guides, God provides!” Thankfully, Water to Thrive was able to respond quickly to our request to add two new latrine blocks, for a total of 12 stalls, to the Spring of Hope WASH Project. This project is important to us
because we love these children and their families! We want them to be safe and healthy, just like we desire for our children. When we discovered that more than 60 percent of the illnesses the children were experiencing were directly caused by a lack of access to clean water, good hygiene, and improved sanitation, we knew we had to do all we could to help. We will celebrate the completion of this project in the new year when we return to Ethiopia in January. The community is planning an inaugural celebration to take place during our trip and we look forward to it with joy. I will never forget receiving a message from Misganaw Eticha shortly after the project began. A member of the community who had been watching the construction called him on his cell phone to accuse him of lying to the people about the water project. When Misganaw assured the man that clean water was indeed coming to the area for the first time, the man said, “How is that possible? We’ve never had clean water. Our ancestors couldn’t change this. The government can’t seem to do it. What makes you think you can?!” What a great day it will be, to see clean water flowing at the school and in the community! We’re so thankful to God for bringing 4others and Water to Thrive together, and for giving us the privilege of sharing His love in such a tangible way.
Working for the wells Water to Thrive depends on our supporters to help fund water projects and operations, whether through individual or group gifts, our Water Angels major gift program, specific well-funding campaigns, or attendance at one of our signature events.
The Fifth Annual Chef’s Table Austin was an evening to remember, with good food, great chefs, and wonderful friends. Our signature live auction event features well-known Austin chefs who create unique menus that are then auctioned off as dinner parties for the highest bidders. We hosted eight chefs this year, including Chef David Bull of Second Bar + Kitchen, Chef Misty Lowe of Austin Catering, Chef Peter Maffei of Cannon + Belle, Chef Wolfgang Murber of Fabi + Rosi, Chef Janelle Reynolds of @Large, Chef Ben Runkle of Salt & Time, Chef Rob Snow of Greenhouse Craft Food, and Chef Andrew Wiseheart of Chicon. This was by far the most successful Chef’s Table to date, grossing nearly three times our $50,000 goal for this year. Chefs and guests alike brought an amazing energy to the room, and the generosity and support shown that night helps us continue to expand our work and further our mission.
Our 5K race this year was held on February 27 on the beautiful northwest Austin campus of Concordia University Texas. This new location provided a great course for both the 5K and Kids’ K runs. The race was partnered with Concordia’s Homecoming weekend activities, which brought some new friendly faces to our event. This year’s Pump Run was geared towards creating a family-friendly environment where children of all ages (and even pets!) could come out to have some fun while supporting Water to Thrive. We had breakfast tacos, face painting, balloon animals, and live music from The Frontier, a great band of talented Concordia students.
One way Water to Thrive is able to grow each year is through the support of our Water Angels. When donations come to us for water projects, 100 percent of those dollars go to wells; we do not use any of that money for operational costs. Each of our Water Angels commits to donating at least $1,000 a year specifically for our operations budget — marketing, partnerships, fundraising, employees, and travel to manage programs in the field. One very important piece of our organization that Water Angels has helped us support is funding for our certified geologist Gashaw Semeneh. He travels to well sites, ensures that our projects are of high quality, and works with our in-country partners to create sustainable, lasting change in the communities we serve. These things and many more would not be possible without our Water Angels. They truly are angels to our organization, and we feel so blessed for their love and support.
Total contributions through 2015: $5,085,947*
Follow our progress
*Total contributions for W2T from inception to December 31, 2015, are based on unaudited financial statements, not including a startup grant from Thrivent Financial. These expenditures are made possible by restricted gifts that are identified by donors and sponsors, designated for specific water projects, and by unrestricted gifts that cover operating expenses from Water Angels, an annual 5K race, and other fundraising activities. Detailed financials for each year (IRS Form 990) are available at watertothrive.org.
2015 Full Project Sponsors
The most active 2015 campaigns were held at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa; the Coastal Bay â€“ Gulf Coast Synod Campaign; St. Paul Lutheran Church in Ft. Worth, Texas; St. Paul Lutheran Church in Yorktown, Texas; and Faith Lutheran Church in Dickinson, Texas. The Family of Anna Adix Augustana College, Rock Island, IL Bette and Robert Jordan The Blair Family and Keller Family, Drilling for Hope Calvary Lutheran Church, Richland Hills, TX Camp Luther, Three Lakes, WI George and Karen Casey and Nancy Teply Christ Lutheran Church, Brenham, TX Concordia Univeristy TX, Austin, TX Curves-Oak Knoll, Austin, TX Dallas Foundation, Lynne Dobson Edward Dasse Emmanuel Lutheran Church, North Hollywood, CA Faith Lutheran Church, Dickinson, TX Faith Lutheran Church, Meridian, TX Shirley Flachman Joie Folkers Georgetown H.S. Interact Club, Georgetown, TX
Jim and Shirley Goering Joel Hinkhouse Holy Comforter Lutheran Church, Kingwood, TX Holy Cross Lutheran Church, St. Louis, MO Illinois State University, Normal, IL King of Kings Lutheran Church and Friends, Round Rock, TX, with Scott and Heather Thacker Kaleb Lamb Lenoir-Rhyne University, Hickory, NC Love of Christ Lutheran Church, Weslaco, TX Rod McCallum Zach and Crystal Mester Matthew Nauss Messiah Lutheran Church, Cypress, TX New Life Lutheran Church, Pearland, TX Nokomis Heights Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN
Oak Hill United Methodist Church, Austin, TX Reverend and Mrs. Grant Quever Lance and Deborah Rosenquist St. James Lutheran, St. Paul Lutheran, and Zion Lutheran, Brenham, TX St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Houston, TX St. Paul Lutheran Church, Ft. Worth, TX St. Paul Lutheran Church, Yorktown, TX St. Paul Lutheran Church, Phillipsburg, TX St. Peterâ€™s Lutheran Church, Goliad, TX Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, Brenham, TX Gwendolyn Schroeder Kurt and Laurie Senske Carl and Claire Stuart TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod Tree of Life Lutheran Church, Conroe, TX Wartburg College, Waverly, IA
Water to Thrive in-country partners
Water to Thrive Board of Directors Dick Moeller, President Ed Scharlau, Treasurer Jim Sorensen, Secretary Carol Kaemmerer Lynne Dobson
A Glimmer of Hope, Ethiopia International Lifeline Fund, Uganda Mekane Yesus Central Gibe Synod, Ethiopia Mekane Yesus South Central Ethiopia Synod, Ethiopia Mityana Uganda Charity, Uganda Organization for the Redevelopment of Amhara, Ethiopia Oromia Development Association, Ethiopia Relief Society of Tigray, Ethiopia St. Paul Partners, Tanzania
Moving forward into 2017 As you have seen from this report, our organization works hard to keep our administrative and fundraising costs down and funding for wells up. Every year, the numbers on the map on the previous page continue to show higher and higher percentages going to water projects, with a lower percentage being spent on operations. To accomplish that, we keep things lean in our office and organization. In our Austin office, we have two full-time and four part-time employees, and have been blessed with enthusiastic, capable college interns who infuse our work with fresh energy on a regular basis. In Ethiopia, we have our project manager, hydrogeologist Gashaw Semeneh, whose work throughout our service areas in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania ensures top-quality project oversight and partnership collaboration. There are many ways we could direct our resources, and we continually strive for a high return on your investment in our mission. In addition to bringing new implementing partners into our fold and scheduling ever-greater numbers of projects to help more and more communities, we are also looking for ways we can streamline and support the work of our staff here in the States. The biggest obstacle and opportunity at once is our website. We are seeking a platform that will permit us to combine ease of updating and use for us, and ease of engagement for you. You should be able to find facts, give gifts, and watch wells being built, with minimal effort. This will be our greatest cost in the coming year, both in terms of money and staff time, and it is truly our administrative area of greatest need. We also continue to rely on volunteers for the success of events, both the signature events of Chef’s Table Austin and the Pump Run and the occasional events like presentations and gift markets. And our Water to Thrive Ambassadors are key to sharing our mission. Ambassadors — like Mary and Homer Goering, who began speaking on our behalf after a life-changing trip to Ethiopia with us last year — tell their stories and ours and help others develop well campaigns. We move into our ninth year with a devoted team of employees and a host of dedicated supporters. We face the challenges of administrative support and expanding the reach of our mission with the same joy and spirit we bring to developing well after well after well. This is the year that we will fund well number 750, bringing the blessing of clean, safe water to nearly half a million people. And, thanks to your generosity and the grace of God, we continue to do our best as we build wells and change lives.
Published on Nov 29, 2016
Since its inception eight years ago, Water to Thrive has funded more than 700 wells to serve more than 400,000 people in villages in rural A...