I’m in the air again and want you to come along with me, this could be an historic trip for our work in South Sudan and Africa in general.
Let me explain.
By now I hope you are all as adept as I am at explaining the uniqueness of our birth and structure. We are truly an indigenous organization. "A local solution to a local problem”. Water is Basic is the brainchild of the Sudanese religious leaders who gathered in 2006 and worked as a team, a unified team, to come up with a plan that they could implement to bring restoration and hope to their war torn country.
Nine years later they have installed 500 new wells and restored another 76, bringing restoration and hope through water to over 1,000,000 of their fellow country men, women and children.
One million is a lot of lives saved but that still leaves millions more thirsty and few places to which they can turn. That is why I am on this "one week whirlwind trip to Africa”: one night on American Airlines, one night in Uganda, one night in South Sudan, one night in Rwanda, one night in The DRC, one night in Burundi and then a final night on British Airways before returning home. The Rwanda, Congo, Burundi part is to hopefully break an impasse on our WiB consulting project bringing water to the 30,000 people of Kibumba, DRC. The government is demanding high taxes, which is simply not ok. However, it’s this dip into Juba, South Sudan that I want you know about today.
The U.S. office of Water is Basic is really an awareness and funding engine with just me full-time and some truly amazing folks giving of their skills part time (Michele in Portland, Abbey and Susanna in Dallas, ChurchBiz in Austin, as well as a faithful board). Then there are all of our faithful volunteer water warriors who raise the banner and raise a lot of money...that would be you!
So why am I on route to South Sudan? My high school friend and WiB supporter from New Hampshire and fellow water warrior, Frank reached out to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to see if we might partner together in South Sudan. CRS has a major water department and has been faithfully involved in South Sudan since long before peace came. Now they are looking to work more closely with local solutions. Within days of Frank's email I found myself on a conference call with CRS in Juba and their Baltimore headquarters. A week later I was sitting at a small Himalayan restaurant in Baltimore with CRS's water director Vanessa Tobin...a true water hero. We hit it off immediately.
Vanessa has been leading water solutions for more than 30 years, since long before water became the big emphasis it is now. She knows more about water crises than anyone I have ever met and she is passionate about local solutions. Hence why we hit it off.
It was Vanessa who insisted I get on a plane ASAP and meet with the staff in Juba. Bishop Taban and I meet with them tomorrow to discuss partnering together in South Sudan to bring lasting water solutions more quickly to the people of South Sudan. CRS's network, staff and influence partnered with Water is Basic's local solutions, sounds like as good a combination as we have seen since chocolate and peanut butter!
These are very tough times in South Sudan with 1,500,000 displaced people, thousands dead and nearly 40% of the population in deep food insecurity. The recent internal fighting has chased many organizations away, caused donors to move too easier countries and left all of us exhausted and sometimes discouraged. It's good to discuss linking arms with some of the faithful who simply will not give up on this country.
I take off from London grateful to have so many friends of our work supporting us by raising awareness, investing funds and prayers and simply staying in the game. We are just $5,000 away from funding our two Land Cruiser pick-ups and launching our two "special forces" well restoration teams. With a decade of hard won experience and respect, we are prepared to move ahead in South Sudan. With you and our new partners who knows what the next decade will yield?
Stay tuned for updates as we move boldly forward...together.
BTW we will gladly show you where your IRS tax refund can do some wonderful good.