i returned from India last month having opened 10 water projects in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. During this trip I invited my daughter to join me so she could experience in a small way what I experience when I’m gone so many times throughout the year. The journey at times was arduous but in the end I trust rewarding for both of us, how else can you look at traveling with a teenager who isn’t used to the rigorous schedule of India? She was a trooper though and despite not being with me for the entire trip, I did let her hang out at a children’s home for almost a week, I know India has a place in her heart.
Next week I pack my bags and head back to India for 11 or 12 days and will be opening projects in Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Karnataka. I’m packing in a lot for such a short time but 11 places are receiving water and I’ll be scouting out a project for a friend who just purchased some property and is starting a children’s home near Chennai.
Aside from this work, I’m already looking forward to the fall and lining up projects in Gujarat and Maharahjatra and possibly back in Odisha, so a busy time and a time for the windows of heaven to open and funding for all this work to fall down!!
One of the projects in Gujarat I’m excited to visit and fund is for a small school of tribal kids. They look like the cutest kids ever and the water is going to help strengthen their efforts as they do the best they can at providing an education for these little youngsters.
Kerala, the southernmost state in India has been in the news recently because of all the rain and flooding. The pictures coming out of Kerala are tragic and many blame God for the increased rains, unfortunately this is misplaced blame as God doesn’t send destruction on people and if you don’t believe then just read about Jesus and what he says about God’s viewpoint towards people.
Wells for Life doesn’t have any operations or partners at this point in Kerala so we are not involved in any efforts of relief for those caught up in the flooding, nor are any of our indigenous partners. If you are reading this post and want to be involved financially in Kerala and the relief efforts then message me and I’ll route you to places where your money will be wisely spent. If you want to read a bit about what has happened and see some photos, here’s an article that I found interesting – https://thewire.in/environment/debunked-eight-malicious-myths-about-the-kerala-floods
As always, our work is based upon gifts from everyday people like yourself so no matter the size of gift, we’ll make good use of it. More projects need funding, more people need clean water!
In mid June the Niti Aayog report was published highlighting the water crisis that is now taking place in India. The unique thing about this report is that it’s the first of its kind and took 2 years to complete. It had support from both the public and private sector which was remarkable and resultantly provides one of the clearest pictures of where India is at today in regards to water.
I found the report insightful and despite the fact that it is alarming there was a hint of optimism especially if the report gains political traction on the local, state and national level.
Here are some of the reports highlights which should give you a glimpse into the realities that India now faces with clean water. After reading these if you want to look at the entire report you can click on this link – http://www.niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/document_publication/2018-05-18-Water-Index-Report_vS8-compressed.pdf
- India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history. Already, more than 600 million people13 are facing acute water shortages. Critical groundwater resources – which account for 40% of our water supply – are being depleted at unsustainable rates.
- Droughts are becoming more frequent, creating severe problems for India’s rain-dependent farmers (~53% of agriculture in India is rainfed17). When water is available, it is likely to be contaminated (up to 70% of our water supply), resulting in nearly 200,000 deaths each year18. Interstate disagreements are on the rise, with seven major disputes currently raging, pointing to the fact that limited frameworks and institutions are in place for national water governance19.
- More worryingly, the low performers on the Water Index are home to ~50% of the country’s population, thereby highlighting the significant water risk faced by the country. The low performers are, worryingly, comprised of the populous northern states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana, and others, and are home to over 600 million people36. The poor performance of these states on the Index highlights a significant water management risk for the country going forward. Further, these states also account for 20-30% of India’s agricultural output37. Given the combination of rapidly declining groundwater levels and limited policy action (as indicated by the low Index score), this is also likely to be a significant food security risk for the country going forward.
- These results highlight the growing national crisis of groundwater—54% of India’s groundwater wells are declining in level due to extraction rates exceeding recharge rates and 21 major cities are expected to run out of groundwater as soon as 2020, affecting ~100 million people42. This crisis is further driven by a poorly defined legal framework for groundwater that rests ownership with landowners and leads to unchecked extraction. This crisis is most acute in the Indian agriculture sector, where groundwater accounts for 63% of all irrigation water43.
13Source: World Resource Institute
14 Baseline water stress measures total annual water withdrawals (municipal, industrial, and agricultural) expressed as a percent of the total annual available flow for 2010. Higher values indicate more competition among users.
15Source: WRI Aqueduct; https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/6-3-crore-indians-do-not-have-access-to-clean-drinking-water/storydWIEyP962FnM8Mturbc52N.html; https://en.reset.org/blog/water-borne-diseases-india
16Source: Census 2011
17Source: State of Indian Agriculture, 2015-16
18Source: WHO Global Health Observatory
36Source: 2011 Census of India
37Source: Planning Commission Databook 2014; India Energy Statistics 2015
42 Source: WRI; World Bank (Hindustan Times, The Hindu)
43Source: FAO AQUASTAT database
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!
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!
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!!
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.