What Grant Approval by The Rotary Foundation Means & Thanks to You

Digging Wells for Oltorotua

The approval of the grant by The Rotary Foundation (TRF) is a huge step forward. It means that three wells will be dug and the villagers will be provided hygiene training, to take advantage of the health benefits from clean water. It also means the Nakuru-Great Rift Valley (GRV) Rotary Club will oversee that the wells are constructed according to the grant.

Grant approval means TRF will match contributions. For those who donated through UUCF, I will be turning the money over to the Fredericktowne Rotary, who will then disperse funds to TRF, as will the three other contributing Rotary Clubs and District 7620.  TRF will then disperse funds to the Nakuru-GRV Club. I still need to get an exact figure from our treasurer but, according to my database, $6886.20 was donated thru UUCF. However, $3200.20 was used for the hydrogeological study (we needed to know that water exists under the village and where!) and will not be matched. Remaining funds held by UUCF to be put into the well project and matched by TRF total $3686.00.

This initial grant does not, however, provide for latrines. A sanitation project is a future goal; digging the wells is a good first step.


The Well Story

In 2008 Carl, daughter Hope McGonigle, granddaughter Jen and I visited Jackson Liaram’s village of Oltorotua. Although we were thrilled to be made honorary family members because we supported Jackson’s study to become a safari guide, we suddenly realized how difficult it must be to raise a family on a few gallons per day of impure water—water that the women walked up to 5 miles each way, each day to collect in heavy containers while the men herded the family’s cattle.

When I asked Jackson about the possibility of wells, he replied that obtaining water for the village was a dream of his. Not easy because the Maasai had been traditionally a pastoral people who moved as the rain greened the grass, with no experience digging wells and no money to do so.  I had read articles about various organizations that, for a thousand dollars or perhaps a little more, dug wells for homes in Africa.  I can raise that much money easily, I thought.

Little did I know then about the water table in East (vs. West coastal) Africa, sustainability issues, hygiene needs to accompany wells, sanitation training to protect water supply, hydrogeological studies, elephants that rip out equipment with their trunks—I could go on, but let’s just say I was incredibly naïve about digging wells. Thank goodness Steve King of Leonardtown Rotary entered the picture!

For making the dream of Jackson and the Oltorotua villagers come true, I thank everyone who stuck a toe in the well project. I cannot possibly thank all of you personally but please know how much each dollar contributed is appreciated. 100% goes to the project, a project that has been immensely gratifying to me.

When I put out a jar for contributions at last year’s Latino Festival, a boy about ten years old read the jar’s message to his younger brother and sister: 

 Can You Donate 38¢?

 (More is okay!)

 38¢ x 100 people will provide one Oltorotua villager with clear, potable well water & change that person’s life…for life.

The three youngsters all reached in their pockets for change. I was touched at their generosity but didn’t think to get their names. I do have the names of most people who have contributed so please watch the scrolling list for names.

Jackson & MaryThanking specific people is always dangerous and I don’t want to hurt feelings, but, along with Jackson, I give special thanks to:

  • Jerry Kruhm, my Floridian brother-in-law who suggested I contact the Maryland Rotary District Governor.
  • Paul Frey, Rotary District Governor who put me in touch with Steve King.
  • Steve King, who has been both tireless and relentless in writing (and re-writing) the grant application. He also visited Kenya, where he and fellow Rotarians met with Nakuru-Great Rift Valley Rotary members, talked with the villagers and Oltorotua Water Committee, and located the wells. In the U.S. he routinely contacted key U.S. Rotary members about the project, spoke at numerous clubs, and—let me be honest—kept me calm and in the loop over the last 3-1/2 years.
  • Frank Faust and Steve Brown, who traveled to Kenya with Steve and have encouraged Rotary participation in digging these wells.
  • Golden Rule Travel, which has provided excellent and reasonably priced travel arrangements.
  • Catherine Tomno, who led the Nakuru-Great Rift Valley Rotary in agreeing to partner for the well project.
  • District 7620 Rotary Clubs, especially Leonardtown, Lexington Park, Fredericktowne, Carroll Creek, and Prince Frederick.
  • Tim Winter, who led the project through the final critical months.
  • Karen King, Steve’s wife whom I now call friend.
  • Hellen Mutungi, at Elite Digital Solutions in Nairobi, the very first person to donate to the wells.
  • Judy Thompson and Anna Maslowicz, whose help and kind words kept my hopes high that the wells would indeed happen.
  • Barbara Kenny, who painted “Africa” and gave me permission to use it on notecards to advertise.
  • Dorothea Mordan, whose work created this blog with scrolling names and a thermometer and solved multiple IT problems.
  • Community Montessori School, which took up a special collection after I described the exciting Maasai culture to the students and plan to do so again this year.
  • Supportive friends and also strangers whose names you can read as they scroll by.
  • Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick members, who have contributed each year and been trusting that the wells will indeed be dug.
  • UUCF volunteers and staff, especially Janice Schlepp, Meg Menke, Sandi Smith-Gill, Sue Thomson, Dottie Hall, Turner Stokes, and Tibby Middleton, who have handled paperwork and contributions and publicized Dig This Well!
  • UUCF Social & Environmental Justice Committee, who truly act on their belief in good deeds to help the world.
  • Carl, my wonderful husband, who always supports me no matter what crazy idea I have.

Jackson is now in his safari camp for the start of the Great Migration of herds from the plains and their swim across the Mara River, if they escape the jaws of predators waiting for them, but he has promised photos and a report from the villagers when he returns to Oltorotua.

Below are some photos taken when Rotarians from U.S. and Nakuru met Oltorotua villagers.

Image 02

Image 3

Image 01

ImageImage 2Image 03Image 05Image 04

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