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Small water charity named among best in Canada
Lifewater Canada builds wells for communities in need
By Kaelynne Makan
When safe water flows freely from kitchen taps, it’s easy to forget how devastating contaminated water can be.
Lifewater Canada, a small Canadian charity with project sites in Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Haiti, works to bring safe, clean water into communities.
“We work intensively with local teams to train, equip and empower them to be able to do the work of repairing pumps and drilling wells,” says Lifewater Canada president Lynda Gehrels of Thunder Bay, Ont.
|Built with the support of Lifewater Canada, community members celebrate a new well in Haiti -- bringing fresh, clean water to their area.|
In the ongoing pandemic, the need for clean, safe water is amplified even more as the simple act of handwashing slows the spread of the virus. “Our local teams are deemed an essential service and have been able to carefully continue their business,” says Gehrels. “The water still flows” despite global travel restrictions, ongoing lockdowns and shipment supply delays.
Communities ask Lifewater to drill a well, then pay a very small portion of the average $5,200 cost by contributing some money (usually about $100), some materials (sand and/or gravel), and/or some “sweat equity” (shoveling dirt, mixing cement, etc.).
These contributions help to encourage a sense of community ownership and responsibility for the project. Then Lifewater’s trained local employees drill the well, equip a community designated caretaker to maintain it, and provide important health and hygiene workshops.
Gehrels recalls the story of a grandmother who attended a workshop after her three grandchildren had died from contaminated water. She had returned the following year to share how the workshop had helped her provide life-saving information to her family, saving her niece’s life.
|Liberian girls often haul buckets of water from rivers long distances away.||Local teams are trained and equipped to do drilling and repairs.|
Gehrels says their work impacts girls especially, who typically have the household chore of hauling water. Girls who once hauled 25-kg buckets of often contaminated water from distant water sources are saving an estimated 31,147 hours per month, according to Lifewater research.
Gehrels shared how Lifewater Canada was founded on a single question asked by a pastor in Liberia who said, “How can I preach the gospel, how can I share the love of Christ with somebody who is dying because they don’t have safe water?”
Since its inception in 1995, Lifewater Canada has drilled more than 1,729 new wells, repaired an average 50 hand pumps a month, rehabilitated 269 old wells and constructed 109 new washrooms around the world. The small charity, with only three part-time Canadian staff, has been recognized by Charity Intelligence as a top ten charity for donor impact and one of only 11 charities in Canada with an overall A+ rating.