I would rather be a refugee.

I would rather be a refugee.

The heat comes in waves and the dust never seems to go away as we stand next to a well that has been broken for TWO YEARS. I notice Florence near by and ask if we can talk to her. Florence turns out to be smart, gregarious, resilient and a just a bit ticked off.

 

You see she has given up the opportunities that a 25 year old South Sudanese refugee has in neighboring Uganda to come home and care for her widowed mother and all of the children of both of her two dead brothers. To add misery-to-misery she is now trekking more than a mile away to the polluted Yei River for water to keep everyone alive…after she boils the water of course.

$3.75 Saves a Life IN South Sudan

REALITY IS

1) It takes $3.75 to give one person clean water in South Sudan

2) Things are really bad for half of the population there right now

3) 4,000,000 people are about to experience severe hunger

4) 1,300,000 are displaced

5) Typhoid and cholera are killing children

 

OVERWHELMED YET?

 

You can give $3.75/month and save a life every month.

BUT...that is just a drop in the bucket, right?

 

You could get your friends and family to give $3.75 a month...and now you are really doing something. Get 29 folks to commit and you are responsible for someone getting water every single day!

 

EVEN BETTER: Everyone who commits to give monthly will be eligible to win 2 free round-trip Southwest Airlines tickets to anywhere they fly.

 

BETTER YET: You can create your own giving page as an individual or as an organization.

 

EVEN BETTER YET: The person who raises up the most people wins a free all expense paid trip to South Sudan to meet the people they have partnered with.

 

We are all tired of the big problems in the world. Only when we work together, everyone doing what they can, will we make difference.

Find out more by texting WATER to 71777.

Go Local and Go Home

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Hong Kong for The Justice Conference Asia. While there, I gave a talk called “Go Local and Go Home,” in which I described our work in South Sudan and shared a few of the lessons we have learned along the way. Mainly, I focused on the importance of shifting control of sustainability projects away from foreigners and toward local people. I wasn’t sure how this would go over in a room full of folks who work across the globe to right injustices, but the response was overwhelmingly positive and the audience enthusiastically asked question after question.

Honestly, the best apologetic for empowering local folks is our current situation. As the global news agencies have reported, many parts of South Sudan are chaotic and dangerous. The work we are doing today is as difficult as it has ever been. But, because Water Is Basic is ultimately a South Sudanese project, we haven’t let up a bit. That’s right -- we’re still drilling wells with the same intentionality we always have, in spite of the uncertainty and turmoil.

On my most recent visit with Bishop Taban, we talked through the potential need for new rigs. As many of you know, we raised over $30,000 in April with the idea of buying a new drilling rig. Bishop Taban was blown away by the generosity of WiB’s donors, but responded with a simple, “No thank you.” Instead, he asked us to commit the funds raised through PureCharity towards renovating our compressors and main trucks.

The local answer was simple -- we can still get a lot more out of this equipment and we are committed to getting water to desperate people, now!

Six years ago, this kind of on the ground local decision-making would not have been possible. Today, we see more and more responsibility residing where it should -- the folks on the ground. As much as we care, they will always care more. As much as we learn about their country, they will know it more intimately. This was our goal all along and seeing the results is a great encouragement.

More than 1,000,000 people have been displaced in South Sudan in the last six months. As a result, we are seeing conflicts erupt around water points as more and more people try to access limited clean water sources. Again, I am amazed at the wisdom of our friends in South Sudan. Instead of taking a well-deserved break while our compressors were being renovated, our crews decided to answer the requests of local officials and repair very old wells in high-population areas. As more and more displaced people arrive, they are finding newly restored, working water wells instead of rusted out pipes. Two thousand dollars is all it takes to refurbish a well and the local officials have identified 21 for us to get to as soon as possible. We have completed six so far.

Water remains an urgent, basic need in South Sudan. For only $3.75, you can give someone the gift of life. It may not seem like much to you, but water is basic to preventing disease, providing education, and building a nation. Our friends are desperate for help, and we believe that clean water provides a foundation for an empowered, self-sustaining community. If you haven’t donated in awhile, please consider giving clean water today. Try a multiple of $3.75 and know exactly how many folks you are giving life to. For those of you who donate regularly, thanks for your continued, life-giving gift.

WiB Director, Bishop Elias Taban, Receives 2013 Clinton Global Citizen Award

We are unbelievably proud and excited that our Director in South Sudan, Bishop Elias Taban, received a 2013 Clinton Global Citizen Award last night. Essence covers the event well:

 

During the 2013 Clinton Global Citizen Awards in New York City, hundreds of people gathered to honor men and women whose work and advocacy contributed to the social change within their respective communities, and the world.

The Clinton Global Initiative, which was founded in 2005 as a way to bring leaders together to brainstorm and create solutions to the world’s most difficult problems, has taken a moment each year to emphasize community involvement through the awards ceremony.

One of this year’s honorees, National Bishop Elias Taban of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, stepped on the stage to share his personal story that was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Born during the civil war in Sudan, his mother left her village and ran to the forest where she lived with her newborn for three days, hiding from the brutality that would soon follow.

A few years later, Taban was recruited as a child soldier where he witnessed the worst of poverty, war and disease. Taban was later able to move forward with this life, enrolling in school and studying both theology and civil engineering before going to work for the people of both South Sudan and Uganda as a religious leader.

A man of great conviction, Taban addressed guests at the awards ceremony last night, “Today, to be honored here with this great award, is a miracle from God to the nation of the people of Southern Sudan and Africa at large.”

 

The Ru Story I: An Origin Tale

"So what do you think? Can we create a film for Water is Basic?" My question edged on overconfidence.
"I don't think so." Steve Roese, director of the organization, had the look of a man burned by false promises too many times.

I was shocked. Why wouldn't the executive director of a non-profit want a documentary that highlighted its quest to bring fresh water to the population of South Sudan? Studying Steve's doubtful eyes, I began to mentally retrace my quest to complete this short documentary.

 

A year before, I dined at a local café with friends Joel Smith and Jason Wendel while we dreamed of making a film together.
Joel, a self-taught videographer, ran a successful business creating promotional videos for church services. Talented but creatively bored, Joel had always wanted to try his hand at a short film.
My travel buddy Jason Wendel owned a small web design company. As a fellow movie buff, we spent years fantasizing what it would take to make our own film. Up to today, there were lots of ideas but no follow through.
In my early 20s, I had the opportunity to fulfill a dream and attend the Victor Duncan Film School. This one-year intensive program taught me the basics I needed to start experimenting with visual storytelling. It also helped me realize my niche was writing and producing unique stories. I wrote and produced some video shorts, developed a few audio productions, produced a small Celtic play showcased in festivals and on stages in Ireland, the U.S. and Canada, and I authored two award-winning books. But 20 years later, I still had not created the short film I dreamed of producing.

When Joel proposed we do a film together, my immediate response was to come up with a hundred reasons why it would not work. But then I realized this was my chance of seeing my dream come to pass.
"I'm in. Let's make a film."

For the next year we casually passed ideas back and forth but nothing grabbed hold of our artistic curiosity. Although we were all busy with obligations and forced to shove our dream to the side, we never let each other off the hook. The three of us kept mining ideas, hoping to eventually hit pay dirt—or in this case, pay water. In September of 2009 Water is Basic revealed itself to be the treasure we had been seeking.

Steve Roese had gone to South Sudan to help facilitate a weeklong assembly of community leaders to discuss the most vital needs of a people who had suffered 56 years of civil war and religious persecution. Increased education, medical aid, business training, food supply, and community building were all raised, but one need outweighed all of these. Of the 9 million South Sudanese, 90% had no access to clean water and 80% of hospital visits were caused by waterborne-illnesses. Every day, the average family spent 6 hours finding and preparing water to drink. Without clean water nothing else mattered. Water was basic to survival.

Water is Basic was born from this meeting.

Partnering with Sudanese leadership, Irving Bible Church bought a drilling rig and raised the capital to help fund a Sudanese-run company to dig bore holes. Within a few years, WiB became an independent and stunningly successful non-profit and I knew there was a worldwide story to tell.

We would create a short documentary featuring a true account of 12-year old child who spent the majority of his or her day collecting water. Like countless South Sudanese children, the child was deprived of an education because most of the day, every day, was spent carrying 40 pounds of water the miles between the run-off spot that served as the village’s water source and home. That one child would represent a billion people on our planet who had no access to clean water. At the same time, we would record WiB digging a bore hole in that child's village, giving us the unique opportunity to see his or her life changed immediately. We knew this film would work and this was the story I pitched to Steve.

Although Steve’s “I don’t think so” reply temporarily stunned me, I was not ready to give up.
"What if the film cost WiB zero dollars? We'll produce a film funded by outside folks who believe in WiB. And Joel, Jason and I will give all of our talent for free. There will be no financial risk." Steve had no more arguments and the deal was made. By that November, we were on our way to Sudan to shoot our documentary.
Before I left his office I gave Steve one last promise. "By the way, this documentary will be so good it will be in film festivals across the United States."

Steve looked at me and laughed. "Let's just complete a film."

WiB Friends: Stephen Elder

One of the questions we get asked most often is this: "I agree with your model that is committed to empowering local people in South Sudan, but I still want to be involved with your project. How can I help?"

Our typical answer is, "Great! How do you want to get involved?" We're not being flighty or dodging the question, we really want to know. Just like we're committed to empowering local people in South Sudan to bring the gift of clean water to themselves, we're equally enthusiastic about empowering our supporters to use their unique gifts/abilities/connections to support WiB the best way they can. Saying "here, fill out this form and show up at this time to do something you may or may not be qualified/excited to do" just isn't our style.

With that, I'd love to introduce y'all to our friend Stephen Elder. Today is his 31st birthday, and marks an end to his campaign of awareness and fundraising for WiB. For the past 31 days, he has run for 3.75 miles (the average distance girls in South Sudan travel daily for clean water) carrying a 5 gallon jerry can full of water. He's taken vine videos and Instagrams, tweeted and blogged and encouraged his friends and family to donate to clean water.

It's a simple vision: I'm going to run for miles with 50+ pounds of water for 31 days, so that 100s of girls never have to do it again.

And it worked. So far, he's raised over $4,000. That's enough to drill a clean water well in South Sudan. That's enough for hundreds, maybe thousands of girls to never have to run for 3.5-4 miles with 50 pounds of water again.

What can you do? How can you help?

Let us know what you're doing!

Ikea Develops Refugee Housing

Ikea, known for cheap, put-it-together-yourself furniture made for small apartments, has turned its eyes to a global problem -- temporary shelter for refugees. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that there are around 10.4 million refugees worldwide, most living in camps of makeshift tents. The 50+ year civil war in Sudan created hundreds of thousands of displaced South Sudanese and Darfur citizens, who are now leaving their temporary camps to come back home. The DR Congo has an enormous refugee population, and Syrian refugees are nearing 10% of the population of neighboring countries.

Shockingly, most refugees live in "temporary" camps and tents for an average of 12 YEARS. The makeshift homes currently being used, however, are not equipped to last that long.

“Quite frankly, the tents haven’t evolved much over the years,” says Olivier Delarue of UNHCR. “They still rely on canvas ropes and poles.” These rudimentary shelters are small, provide little privacy for families and are meant to only last around six months."

Enter The Ikea Foundation's solution -- an affordable, easy to build shelter that can be assembled and used long-term, then broken down and moved somewhere else when it's no longer needed. 

 

Shipped in cardboard boxes and pieced together with allen wrenches and other simple tools, these Ikea houses could revolutionize the way refugees are housed internationally. Right now, only around 100 of these units have actually been produced and are being tested in Ethiopia and Lebanon, with a market-busting price of $7,500. But, the Ikea Foundation hopes that it can get the price to around $1,000 in mass production. It still sounds expensive, but the average heavy duty canvas tent costs around $500 and breaks down much faster.

What do you think? Could these actually scale and solve a global problem?

Happy Birthday South Sudan

 

July 9th is South Sudan's birthday! It's hard to believe that only two years ago, the people of South Sudan democratically voted to become the world's youngest nation. 

It hasn't been easy, but good things seldom are.

For a great perspective on the past two years of independence, as well as a look towards the future of the young country, read this interview with Amnesty International's expert Khairunissa Dhala. 

 

Our Kickstarter

We've got 16 days left to raise another $11,000!

 

Our short film, Ru: Water is Life, has been seen by thousands of students across the country and the requests keep pouring in.

In order to share Jina's story with as many people as possible, it's our goal to create a DVD package with educational and promotional materials that we can send to these schools/organizations, instead of spending the money to fly out and speak to them every time. In the end, we can save tens of thousands of dollars AND spread the message of clean water to exponentially more people.

Win, Win, Win!

 

Please share our kickstarter with any one you know who would be interested in helping us create a tool that will educate and inspire students across the country