April 2018 trip

3 weeks ago I returned from my 2nd trip to India this year and had the chance to see four recently completed projects with this being one of them.  It amazes me to see the simplicity of life that so many people live in rural India and how powerful access to water becomes; for this Gypsy community the water on the newly acquired land will ultimately bring homes.

I call that change, positive change which came because someone believed in what I was doing and they gave money; money which brought clean water and for this community, a chance at a better life.

Tent living no more!

2017 Results in January 2018

Wrapping up January and I think I’m still trying to figure out where December went.  This time of year is normally busy for me with all my travels to India which seems to be nonstop starting in September however this past year I cut out December and January’s trip so I won’t see the Selfie capital of the world till late February.  I only bring up the selfie thing because in the news today was a story of an Indian guy in Hyderabad taking a selfie next to the train tracks with an oncoming train and sure enough, he was hit, but lucky for him, wasn’t killed.  A head scratcher for sure, I guess anything for that perfect selfie.  Speaking of selfie, here’s one of me from my trip this past November. LOL.

 Highlights from 2017 –

  • 59 water projects funded
  • Annual support for leper community
  • Annual support for Lydia’s Girl’s Hostel including bunk beds and Christmas gifts
  • Solar Panel and paint for a Children’s Home of 235
  • Emergency Water Camps
  • Electrical Grid panel repair and school bus funding for primary school
  • Startup costs for 2 medical clinics

2018 marks also a rise in what I am now asking people to contribute for our water projects.  For more than a decade we were able to provide hand pump projects for $2000 and at this price we were afforded the ability to put some money aside into an escrow account to address future maintenance on our projects.  This past year, one of the items our Board of Directors tackled was a Director’s salary both for the present and for the future as part of a succession plan for that time when I need to step aside.  It’s somewhat strange to think of leaving something you started so long ago, something you have poured your life and soul into but that’s reality, at some point I will need to fade away and allow someone younger to pick up where I left off and take Wells for Life to places I could only have imagined.

I honestly don’t have any idea when my time will come but they say it’s never too early to prepare so, we’ve begun those steps which meant a salary for me which in turn means a new “ask” for our projects.  Our new number is $2500; still a reasonable and affordable number for clean water especially when you look at what we do, where we do it and the peace of mind that I’ll be there cutting the ribbon and drawing the water.  Proof positive that your donation is making a difference in rural India.

I leave with some photos of those whose lives were touched this past year by your generosity! 

 

November 2017 Trip

This past November I traveled to Trichy to visit our DPWA partners, Dhana and his son Prasanna, and because of their work, 11 new projects were opened many of them schools along with a home for the physically and mentally challenged.  It had been a little over a year since I was there last and it was good to be back in familiar surroundings opening new projects and seeing the impact being made in the area with clean water. 

This particular trip was really short, 5 days in fact.  I missed a day on the front end due to a delayed flight out of Kansas City which caused a missed connection in Chicago, but once I reached India everything went smoothly. Getting in the country took a bit of time but once the immigration fellows realized I wasn’t a threat my passport was stamped and I was granted entry.

So what’s next?  

I’m hoping to take a break actually and not travel in January.  We’ll see if that holds up.  I’ve traveled 6 times this year and last so taking a break might not be a bad idea.  I do have a ticket for late February/early March and plan on opening 6 projects in NW India and maybe some more in other areas, just not sure at this point as these decisions are based upon the level of our year-end giving.

When it comes to year-end giving, we, like all the other non-profits rely on those gifts to carry out our programs.  What set’s us a part from many of them is the fact that most of our contributions are used on programs, like bringing clean water and making an impact in the lives of men, women and children like you see here in this post.  This year we have brought water to over 50 places and I’m hoping we’re not done.

As you consider your end of year giving, take that next step and give, go ahead, make a difference and stand with me in bringing positive change to rural places in India.

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!!

October 2017

In a few weeks I’ll be back in India opening 10 new projects, this time in Tamil Nadu, which will bring our work to 51 fresh water projects this year.

Demand along with desire remains high throughout rural India for water projects especially in underserved areas where people have no access to water in their homes. Reportedly these 10 new places were of great need and now with the trip set I have learned an even greater need exists in some new communities so shifting of resources has taken place. Why do I share this? Transparency mainly and to highlight the fact that plans change, even the best laid ones, especially when working with other cultures and contexts. As a result, one must remain flexible, understanding and open minded when changes like this crop up.

Bottom line though for me is that people are served but further investigation is needed to understand why the change and is it the best course of action for the indigenous partner for whom we work through and for whom responsibility rests, or do we disregard the desires of the partner and just focus on the community and what it is they want or need?

I wish there was a quick and easy answer but honestly more work and thought needs to be done with all involved but in short, preference towards sustainability should be considered along with who derives the most benefit with the aim of serving the “least of these” first.

Time will tell how this all shakes out and I’m trusting in the fact that our partners, who have been serving the poor for over 20 years in their District, know better than I what’s best in their context and community and as such will share with me the steps they took to reach the decisions they made.

Working in India always has its challenges yet not without a lot of rewards, so even in this situation I’m looking forward to the payoff; changed lives because of clean water.

July 2017

Last week I returned from another successful trip to India. In this trip we dedicated 7 water projects within Andhra Pradesh and culminated the trip with a quick visit to the Taj Mahal. I had forgotten how hot things were in July but no hotter than Kansas I guess except Kansas doesn’t have the humidity of India. I was averaging 3 bucket showers a day along with several shirts; I was reminded of what life was like when I first lived in Dallas over the summer. Walk outside and instantly you start dripping, well same thing in India. Thankful for the air conditioner for sure.

Each of the communities visited were different, some felt cold and hard and others festive and happy, yet despite the feeling at the beginning, usually by the time water was coming from the pump smiles were being shared all the way around.

One of the first project dedications I did was hampered by a drunk fellow. He kept coming in saying things and seeking to disrupt the meeting. Finally I asked “what does he want?” only to hear “these ladies are lying and you shouldn’t listen to anything they say”. What to do with that? Back and forth he came and went, finally I let him stand next to me, listened to him, shook his hand at which point another argument ensued and he was forcibly removed. At that point I exited and made my way to the car, as I looked back I saw a lady push him down at which point I didn’t want to see or know more, I just felt sorry for him at that point.

As we drove away, I was reflecting about what had happened and peered down a side road and saw a face of a young woman which looked somewhat familiar but way out in the middle of nowhere? I inquired to Raja, my project partner, he lit up when he saw her because he knew her, and she was a 10th class girl that used to stay at New Life Children’s Home. We stopped the car and I rolled down the window to be greeted with a Viser how are you? A mini reunion followed, a welcome respite from what took place just 10 minutes earlier. When we were about to go the women from the village had gathered around the car and asked that we allow them to say just 1 thing, I said sure, no problem, they apologized for the behavior of the drunk guy and explained the back story. I thanked them for coming back and assured them I wasn’t upset, just glad that things were now under control.

The highlight though for me that day was seeing Swarna and knowing that she has a job in Hyderabad and is doing well; a blessing for sure.

Many more things I could share about this most recent trip but I’ll save the space for another time, I will say though that I was joined by some great friends, one of which taught my son twice during elementary school and after hearing about my work expressed a desire to join me one day in India. 6 years later that dream of hers came true and India forever touched her and changed her, hopefully I’ll have her back working alongside me in villages making an impact with clean water or education; only God knows.

Last Month

Last month I, along with my mom and sisters buried my dad, he was 86. His death was sudden for all of us but in the end I take comfort knowing he lived a full life and left a lasting impression on so many. More importantly though, he’s now in Heaven enjoying eternity with all those who have gone before him.

18 years ago my phone rang and it was my dad asking me if I wanted to join him in India. This question took me aback because I hadn’t told anyone that I was wrestling with life direction or purpose questions and for some type contemplating the question of “why am I here?”

Ultimately I took the call as a sign and resigned myself to the fact that I was headed to India. India, of all places; heat, humidity, smells, sounds and a lot of people were just some of the things that would come to mind, not to mention mosquitoes, malaria, cobras and any number of other diseases. Putting aside the fears I boarded a plane in Los Angeles about a month later bound for India.

After 2 ½ weeks I returned home. I couldn’t just dismiss my time in India as a one-time event. I saw too much, experienced too much, felt too much to just chalk it up to a neat opportunity and move on.

Deep down I knew something was happening but I had no clue as to what.

2 years later I find myself back in India; still asking the same questions yet little did I know that this trip would change my life.

There I am, in a village and for the first time confronted with the question of “Will you help us?” A lot of thoughts flow through one’s mind when asked by a stranger or even a friend for help. Most times one calculates out the cost of helping and within moments a reply is given based upon one’s risk assessment of helping. I’m no different. If the request is pleasant and the person asking holds some type of merit in my eyes then I might oblige, but if the environment or situation isn’t conducive, well, go ask someone else, I’m busy.

Imagine then sitting in a room and hearing a plea from the president of the village for clean water. Clean water to help redirect the course of life for everyone in the community because what they had wasn’t fit for consumption yet they had no other options.

At what point then does this become my problem? It doesn’t I thought and so I was ready to move on.

But then I heard my name being called. I looked around and no one there. Heard it again and it was then I realized who was speaking to me and the call was “I want you to bring them water.”

That was back in 2001.

As a result of that “call” I did what most should do but what most don’t have the courage to do, I said yes. That “yes” sent me off on a new trajectory in life and one which I never dreamed I’d be a part of or walking on. That “yes” changed me and I guess continues to change me because how do you say “no?”

I started Wells for Life because I said “yes” to God and was asked to bring water. I haven’t stopped. It’s been over 16 years since I started Wells for Life and we’ve brought water to almost 800 villages and communities. A miracle indeed especially considering who I am and my lack of abilities or resources.

Some time passed after water was brought to that first community and I got another call from my dad. He told me he was headed back to India and was taking my mom and was there anything they could do for me. There was I responded, I want you to go visit that original village for me and dedicate that water project. Let them know it was your son that said “yes” and let them know how grateful you are for the gift of water which brought them a new chance at life.

 

 

Suzanne well (1)

I share this story as a means of helping me grieve and celebrate my dad’s life and the impact known and unknown that he had on me. I also share it in hopes that you see how something can come out of nothing. And finally, I share this story to say, God can use anyone, just be open and say yes, and have a bit of faith.

18 years have gone by since that first trip with my dad and Wells for Life has brought water to 798 places throughout India along with financial support for numerous medical camps, people suffering from HIV/Aids, leprosy and a host of other projects aimed at making a difference in the lives of the rural men, women and children of India.

More work needs to be done, hundreds of villages still lack access to clean water and with your giving you can help change the direction of a community just like I did all those years ago.