A project to bring clean water to a small village in Nicaragua has grown into one of the largest aid programmes by any Rotary club in the world.
That project, to finance the drilling of a water well, has ballooned into a massive effort bringing clean water to more than 200,000 in villages throughout Nicaragua.
“The club saw a need and devised a way to meet that need,” said David Peterson, who has been active in the project for many years.
“It has grown quite a bit, and we’ve been able to reach so many more people over the years.”
The Rotary Club of Tulsa (Oklahoma, US – D 6110) continues to bring a shot at a new life to thousands of Nicaraguans each year.
The local club has drilled 515 water wells in Nicaragua, now averaging between 30 to 40 per year, since the programme started in 2002.
Now, 16 years later, the clean water project is fully funded by the Rotary Club of Tulsa and jointly operated with a Rotary club in Nicaragua.
The project has become a wide-ranging act of kindness by Tulsans.
“One time, we were down there on the clean water project and we were headed to a village where the person that was meeting with us had just died,” said Brenda Melancon, a Tulsan who has been actively involved in the project.
“There was no money for a funeral, so we paid for it.”
“We send a group of people down there every year. We’re always running into stuff, and we do our best to help in whatever way.”
However, the basic purpose of the project is to bring clean, drinkable water to small villages in need.
The Rotary Club of Tulsa, in conjunction with a Rotary Club in Leon, Nicaragua, operates a water well drilling rig.
There is a project manager and three drillers who work year-round on the project.
It is not cheap; the equipment cost is $400,000, and the annual budget is about $90,000.
But the result is priceless to the villagers who rely on the clean water.
Wells are often drilled either in the centre of the village or near schools and hospitals.
“We’ve drilled many of the wells near a school for a reason,” said Peterson, a retired district judge.
“Before the wells, the children might have to walk two or three miles to a stream or lake to get water and bring back home. As a result, they couldn’t go to school.”
“This way the children can go to school and then return home in the afternoon with water. That water is then used by the family in a lot of ways. They water gardens and use (the profits from the gardens) to pay for schools. They use the water for animals. It all works together.”
Rotarian Ben Windham, a trained geologist, does a lot of the research and organisation for the project.
“I think I really enjoy seeing these wells bring people clean water, but it is also great because it helps keep the kids in schools,” said Windham.
“I study the geology for the wells, and then I help organise the supply network. Each year we send down a container of supplies for the project.”
“We used that container shipment to help take medical supplies down there, too. No need to waste space. There is a need, and we have the space and we have been able to get those supplies for generous people here in Tulsa.”
Rotarian Linda Bradshaw, who operated a well-known gymnastics school in Tulsa for decades, also is involved in the clean water project.
Every year she helps organise a visit to Nicaragua by 20 or more Tulsa Rotarians to see the project and talk to villagers about needs.
“Everyone has different jobs — such as David is sort of our diplomat as a former judge,” said Bradshaw. “Ben does geology and ordering parts and equipment.
“It seems like everyone in this club, and it is a very large club, contributes in some way. Yes, it is a big club, but this is a big project. It takes everyone.”
The project has changed in recent years. Central America has been suffering through a multi-year drought.
As a result, the wells must be dug deeper and with more sophistication.
“In addition, the people have to be very careful about conservation and making sure they don’t waste any water from the aquifer,” said Peterson. “So there is some education with the villagers to make sure they take care of their supply.”
At a recent international Rotary event, there were projects highlighted all over the world being organised and funded by Rotarians.
The clean water project by the Rotary Club of Tulsa is considered one of the largest, if not the largest, of the aid projects.
“When we go down each year, the villages where we’ve drilled these wells will always have a celebration for us,” said Bradshaw.
“I really believe there is no greater blessing than the gift of water.”
“Unless you go down there and see it for yourself, and see the impact it has on those people and their villages, it is hard to imagine.”
“The well becomes a community gathering place. The last time we were down there, a villager got up and said, ‘Thank God and thank God for you.’ It was very touching. You realise how much of an impact you can have for people.”
Source: Tulsa World