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.