Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Kenya Water Project

A brief note on this piece: I intended to interview Angie and Anika-the two women in this story. However, due to scheduling conflicts we did not have a chance to sit down yet. Once that is accomplished, I will rewrite with specific information and direct quotes from the two. Below are my three leads. I have picked the third lead, though it still has some holes. It is a quote Anika shared at a recent presentation and I need to get the remaining two examples from her.

I have not spent as much time on this as intended, so it could use some reordering and basic editing, so feel free to offer comments. Thanks!

Minnesota women tackle the water crisis in Kenya

LEAD 1: In August, 2007, two young women, part of a volunteer program sponsored by a religious group of women, set out for a remote village in Kenya. Their mission: to bring water to several villages facing water shortages and water polluted with amoebas and parasites. In order to accomplish this task, Anika Walz and Angie Van den Hemel would spend a year working with local community leaders to establish wells and rainwater harvesting, not an easy task in a country faced with adversity.

LEAD 2: Have you ever thought about how many gallons of water you use each day? The average American consumes 100-176 gallons of water per day between showering (20-50 gallons in just one 10 minute shower) or flushing the toilet (5-7 gallons per flush). In America, we turn on the tap and clean water flows. But across the globe, the fact of water is not so simple for Kenyans, who average 5 gallons of water per day.

**LEAD 3: “Imagine giving your baby his first bath in water teeming with amoebas and parasites. EXAMPLE 2….EXAMPLE 3…” (Note: these will be filled in following the interview)
According to the Millennium Goals set forth by the United Nations, Kenya is at serious risk of not meeting its goal concerning water by the 2015 deadline, meaning the 60-70 percent of Kenya’s rural population without access to clean water will continue to struggle for survival.

These people and their lives trace back and are rooted right here in Minnesota. Anika Walz and Angie Van den Hemel, two young volunteers with the St. Joseph Worker Program, are spending a year working to alleviate water poverty in the rural villages of Kenya. Walz and Van den Hemel got connected to this project, dubbed the Kenya Water Project, through their involvement with the Sisters of St. Joseph, a religious order that sponsors the St. Joseph Worker Program, an Americorps-affiliated year-long volunteer opportunity for young women to work in social justice and non-profit organizations. After spending the previous year volunteering at an organization in the Twin Cities, Walz and Van den Hemel “renewed their commitment” and signed on for a second-year residency, this time taking their passion for social change internationally.

This project, initially started by the Sisters of St. Joseph, who are devoted to a charism of love for dear neighbor, truly believe their dear neighbors are global. Their interest in this water project sparked with money donated through a local Rotary Club. Sister Rosita Aranita, a member of the Hawaii province of sisters took on this project and was joined in August by the two St. Joseph Workers.

The three worked in Kenya from August through January, at which time they returned to the states when violence over political elections surmounted in the country. Now that Walz and Van den Hemel have returned to Minnesota, their work continues. Though it is tough to be back, especially because it was months earlier than planned, the two admit they have to continue on with the work because they know firsthand the people they are working for. The Kenya Water Project is working towards raising enough money to establish or complete projects in five locations in Kenya: Kanam A, Adiedo, Soko, Koyier/Kamuga, and Wadghone-Nyongo.

The Kenya Water Project works in collaboration with local communities in Kenya and their leaders to develop plans to secure clean water for each community. The communities assess their own needs and identify resources, also selecting leaders to form Community Based Organizations. Those leaders manage and implement all elements of the water project, which range from harvesting to wells.

Three methods exist for water collection in Kenya, including: rainwater harvesting, borehole wells, and spring preservation. Depending on the land, the last two options are not always feasible, such as villages located near the highly polluted Lake Victoria. If wells are drilled too closely, they can cave or be spoiled by other sources of pollution. Walz and Van den Hemel cite that Kenya receives enough rain water annually for harvesting to be a solution to the water shortage, and it is the most cost-effective method.

For Walz and Van den Hemel, this project goes beyond just water. To the people of Kenya, clean and accessible water can provide the means for girls to attend school and not have to walk 10 miles every day in search of water. It means children and adults can drink clean water and not have to bathe or wash clothes in water contaminated by pollutants and sewage with amoebas floating freely. Access to clean water can provide the path Kenyans needs to survive and begin to thrive in their communities.

In order for the Kenya Water Project to continue to reach its goals and send proper funding to support the harvesting and well-digging, Walz and Van den Hemel will continue to raise funds. If you would like more information, or like a monthly update on this project, send an e-mail to waterproject@csjstpaul.org. To send monetary donations, contact the Minnesota office at 1884 Randolph Avenue in St Paul, or call 651.690.7044.

1 comment:

Paul Bauer said...

I liked the second lead, it dramatically contrasts what we take for granted with a serious and dangerous issue in other parts of the world.
This is a excellent story and with direct quotes from the women it can only get better. I don't know how far you want to go with this but I heard a very good presentation recently by Dr. D.J. Mulla, a professor at the the U of MN. He has travelled the world researching water shortage issues and there impact on local wars and conflicts, PB