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Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville funds two more water wells in Niger
June 1, 2017

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Through a Rotary District 7090 matching funds grant, the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville funded two water wells in the developing nation of Niger, a sub-Saharan country in western Africa. Niger has consistently been listed as the poorest country in the world, according to the United Nations Human Development Index. The two wells are located in the rural villages of Gonzare' B'eri and Kollo Peul near the capital city of Niamey. They were installed in December 2016.

In addition, this Rotary club sponsored two other water wells in Niger in 2010 through a previous Rotary District 7090 grant, and another well was individually funded by two members of this Rotary club in 2012.

Past Rotary District 7090 Governor (PDG) Pravin Suchak attended the May 23 meeting of the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club, held at The Parkview in Westfield. Suchak, who was District Governor in 2009-2010 and who is a member of the District 7090 Grants Committee, commended this Rotary club on its "unique partnership in Niger." He stated, "Because of your efforts, more villagers have nearby access to fresh water. Mothers do not have to spend half of their days hauling water from long distances. Young girls can now attend school and get an education, instead of getting water. The wells will improve the health of the people in these communities."

PDG Suchak presented to this Rotary club a reimbursement check in the amount of $1,746.27. The total cost of materials, pump fabrication, drilling, installation, maintenance and sustainability of the two wells was $3,492.54. Suchak also gave an informative program on The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. Its mission "is to enable Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty."

Accepting the check for this organization was Jim Wakeman, Club Foundation chair, who was largely responsible for drafting and submitting the grant application. Wakeman stated, "In August 2010 fellow Rotarian Sue Hammond, who is my spouse, and I had the opportunity to visit Niger. We traveled to various remote villages and well sites, and we witnessed wells being drilled. Seeing firsthand the benefit of clean water in terms of health, education and overall quality of life in these communities was profound."

Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville President Mike Harrington said, "Our Rotary club has long been an active contributor and participant in local, domestic and international service project initiatives targeting health, education, and clean drinking water needs. This year was no exception, as our club, with the District 7090 matching grant, funded the drilling of these two wells that brought clean water to two communities in Africa. The Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club thanks our local communities for their generous support and participation in our various fundraising events that help to make all of this possible."

Partners in this grant were members of the Rotary Club of Niamey-Gaweye of Rotary District 9102 in Niger. The lead Rotarian contact for this project in Niger was Gaston Kaba. He and his associates helped to select which villages would receive the wells, and coordinated the installation with the well driller and the village chiefs. The pump for each well is a hand-operated model that lifts the water using a series of rubber washers on a loop of rope, inside of a tube, rather than using a hand-operated pressure type. After completion, villagers were provided with training in the operation and maintenance of the wells.

In recent years Niger has experienced the world's lowest life expectancy and highest infant mortality rate. A major contributing factor to this situation is the lack of access to a supply of healthy water. The Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville's Niger Water Wells Project provides clean, accessible water through the drilling and installation of water wells. The work is completed by a local contractor, who hires area men to hand drill the wells using an auger. Water is typically found at a depth of 16 to 32 meters.

The water from existing wells has been tested and has been shown to be of good quality. In addition to the dramatic improvement in the quality of the water, accessibility is greatly improved. The task of obtaining water can consume the better part of a day. This is because some villagers must travel many miles to access existing water supplies. The water is collected by laborious means, and it is carried back many miles to the villagers' communities. The tedious task of getting and transporting water is usually assigned to young females and mothers.

Well sites are established in needed areas, within close proximity to one or more villages. If a village is fortunate enough to have a school, then the well is located near the school. Accessing the clean water will take about one quarter of an hour, instead of many hours per day. Therefore, there is an increased opportunity for young girls to attend school, instead of hauling water.

The literacy rate in Niger is approximately 27 percent. Though universal schooling for both genders is promoted, the reality is that males typically attend school in greater percentages and for more years than females. The proximity of the wells, and the improved efficiency through the use of the manual pumps, reduces the amount of time the young females must devote to getting water to such an extent that the girls are then able to attend school and receive an education.

At the end of his presentation during the May 23 meeting of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville, PDG Pravin Suchak concluded, "The Rotary Foundation does so much good in the global community. Rotary International's six areas of focus are peace and conflict prevention/resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, and economic and community development.

"The Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club's Niger Water Wells Project aligns with five of RI's six areas of focus. When I was DG in 2009-2010, I asked fellow District 7090 Rotarian Roy Sheldrick about the many water wells he helped to establish in Haiti. He told me that once a Haitian said to him, 'When Rotary came to my village, children stopped dying!" I believe that your water wells in Niger have given children the opportunity to live and to receive an education.'"

For more information about the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville's Niger Water Wells Project, contact Jim Wakeman, Club Foundation chair, at jimwakeman67@gmail.com or 814-450-1866.

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