End of the Road Podcast Launching Soon

Welcome, friends! I’m so excited to welcome you to the End of the Road podcast! My name is Cathy and I’ll be your host and “tour guide” as we journey together to some of the most remote, challenging places on the planet.

I’m a Seattle native, loyal Sounders fan, wife of the best third grade teacher – quite possibly – on the planet, and mom to three amazing humans.  

Cathy in Lolkuniani village.

I’ve worked with World Concern, a faith-based humanitarian organization headquartered in Seattle, for the past 11 years and had the privilege of traveling to some of the places where World Concern serves… Places where I’ve never felt so far from home in my life. Places where absolutely nothing is familiar. Places I fell in love with, and that changed me forever.  

I cannot tell you how excited I am to see this podcast come to life. I know this sounds cliché, but it truly is a dream come true.  

The vision behind this podcast is to take you – our listeners – to some of these places through the stories and experiences of our guests. They have lived and worked far beyond the end of the road … from a village that takes an entire day to reach by canoe through the Congo jungle … to a war-torn city in the Middle East, you’re going to hear, first hand, what life is like in some of these places, and how God is present and active in these places and in the lives of people who live there – moms, dad, kids, families – just like yours, only they live at the end of the road.  

You’re going to hear from some incredible people who have sacrificed so much to serve, live, and work in some of the toughest places on earth. They’ve experienced unimaginable things, and met people you’ll get to meet too, through their stories here on the podcast. I can’t wait to introduce you to these selfless humanitarians – our guests on the podcast. I’ve handpicked each one, because I know tidbits of their stories, but even I learned so much in my conversations with them. You’ll be amazed.  

I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in my experiences in places like Bangladesh, where 165 million people live in crowded urban slums and bustling rural villages. Or northeastern Kenya, where Samburu tribespeople have survived as pastoralists in the bush for centuries… or the mountains of Haiti, far above the teal waters of the Caribbean and far from the chaos of Port au Prince, where families live in tiny villages with no running water, electricity, or infrastructure of any kind. 

As I mentioned, these places – and more so, the people I met there, changed me. Now, these places are not the places you’d go on a typical church mission trip. That’s why I want to take you there – virtually – through these stories.  

A young girl poses for a photo in Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh.

I want to introduce you to people like the 13-year-old girl in Bangladesh who sobbed and told me through her tears that she was about to be forced to marry a much older man, because it was the only option her parents felt they had in order to feed her siblings. Her name was Rima… I remember sitting down on the steps of a school to talk with her and hear her story. She was about 13, but she looked very young. She was wearing a school uniform – the only thing keeping her from being married off to a family friend, a man in his mid-30s.  

I want to tell you about walking 5 miles through the dry, barren desert of Eastern Kenya for water with a strong, beautiful, resilient Samburu mother who made this walk every morning of her life. During this moment, I realized we shared something… We were both moms, both working women, both human. And we shared a deep desire to make the best life for our kids as possible.  

And I want to share with you how God was so present, right beside me, in each of these situations – reminding me that he is with them too – every person… 

I’ve learned some things in my time at the end of the road – about myself, about people, and about God. Let me share a few thoughts with you as we prepare to travel together… 

First of all, I learned that I have a lot to learn. I know so little about the world, beyond my own familiar surroundings. I had no idea how mind and heart-opening it would be to visit places I thought would be scary, uncomfortable, and disturbing (spoiler alert: they are mostly all those things!).  

I remember right before my first trip to Haiti, I was telling my mom where I was going. Her naïve response was, “Why in the world would you want to go to a place like that? It sounds awful!” Now, my mom has lost her filter a bit in her older years, but I wonder if most of us, deep down inside, think the same thing about these places. They sound awful. And I’ll admit, I thought that way.  

After working a few years for World Concern, I was sifting through photos of Bangladesh for a project I was working on, and I remember looking at the crowded streets – there was literally garbage piled up so high on either side of the street, it was like a 10-foot wall. In one of the photos, there was a cow standing on top of this pile, eating the garbage. And in another photo… much more heartbreaking. In fact, it’s a photo that has stuck with me ever since. It was of a young boy, maybe 8 years old, shirtless, but wearing a pair of adult pants that were sinched up around his waist and tied with a piece of rope or string. He was picking up a piece of rotten fruit from the garbage pile and smelling it – I’m sure to check if it was safe to eat…  

So I was looking through these photos, and I thought to myself, that is NOT a place I ever want to go. I’d go to some of the other places World Concern works, but not Bangladesh.  

Well, God has a sense of humor, you know? My very next trip, I was assigned to go to Bangladesh to interview and capture stories of young girls who were at risk of becoming child brides. Bangladesh has a longstanding and harmful practice of child marriage. I was like, really, God? After I said that’s the last place I’d want to go? Yes, really, He said.  

That trip, and subsequent trips to Bangladesh, changed my heart for that place. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it was so foreign to me, and yes, it was hot, stinky, indescribably crowded, and all the hard things. But I prayed for God to help me see the people there the way He sees them. I prayed a dangerous prayer – for Him to break my heart for the things that break His. And He did – into a million tiny pieces. 

Another thing I learned is that I have a much greater capacity for empathy and compassion than I thought I did. We can become so consumed with the struggles of our own lives that we forget how important, and I’d even say, freeing (from self-absorption) it is to consider the needs of others before your own.  

I’ve also learned about people in my journeys. I’ve learned that people are essentially the same, when you get down to the heart and soul. We have the same needs, desires, and even similar dreams.  

Lastly, I’ve learned a ton about God at the end of the road. Mostly that He is there. Always. Constantly. He is present in the hard places, and He loves the people there – those who by chance were born into such hard places.  

God was always present with me there, but He used the hard places I’ve been to show me how utterly alone I am in the world, and how much I need Him.  

I remember one time, in a very remote part of Northern Kenya – I’m talking 8 hours by car from Nairobi, the last hour and a half on very bumpy dirt roads (so bumpy I’m shocked I didn’t break a tooth!), and the last half hour beyond where the dirt road ends and goes into the bush! That’s how remote we were. 

We stayed in a guest house that was basically a concrete room with bars over a square cut out in the concrete wall to make a window and bugs were everywhere. And for the first time, I got sick with a stomach bug in the field, and I was down for the count. So, I didn’t travel with the team out to the field that day. I stayed back at the guest room. Alone. No cell coverage. No internet. No nothing. Just me in that concrete room. And I didn’t feel well at all.  

God was there, and eventually showed me through two angels—World Concern staff who checked in on me—that He was right there with me. He heard my cries for help, and He sent them. I was able to rest peacefully the remainder of the day. 

I hope this gives you a little taste of what it’s like at the end of the road. There is pain and there is beauty. And we can learn so much about ourselves, about people, and about God, if we’re willing to make the journey. I’m so glad you’re joining me!  

So buckle up, my friend, this is not your average church mission trip… Are you ready? Prepare for takeoff … we’re going to The End of the Road. 

Dedicating a week of prayer for Haiti

This week I read a story about a mom with a very ill infant who desperately needed treatment at a hospital in Haiti. However, with the severity of events in Haiti, she found herself searching for an extended period and far distances for a hospital that is open and operational to care for her baby. As I continued reading, I realized this story only touches the surface of many for the unfathomable reality of those in Haiti right now.  

Maybe you’re like me and sometimes feel that some of the gut-wrenching events and turmoil happening in other countries are so much bigger than yourself. You’re kind of right. See, many of us may not be in a position to go and fix things for our neighbors physically, but we can most definitely commit to praying for them. And that is the first step we can take right here and right now.  

With our prayers this week, we can devote time to pray specifically for a revival in Haiti. We can look in scripture and be reminded of Mark 2:1-12 and recall the events of Jesus forgiving and healing the paralytic man by the radical faith of his friends who went to the extreme for him to receive healing. That is the power of prayer we are believing in for Haiti. We’re praying that the prayers and power of Christ will be a catalyst of revival and cover the present crisis in the entire country.  

Pray with us as we pray the following for Haiti:  
  • Nonprofit and mission staff in Haiti 
  • Hope and restoration for Haiti’s economy 
  • The church in Haiti 
  • The leadership of Haiti, its government, and the political and security situation in Haiti 
  • The people of Haiti

I sometimes have to remind myself that catastrophes, casualties, and crises are no respecter of persons – this alone is a reason to approach them with genuine empathy. Whether near or far, we can stand in the gap and pray for Haiti. The ability to join together for an entire week and pray with faith, humility, and intentionality for those whose lives are and have been impacted and forever changed is what this week is about.  

Be encouraged and empowered by knowing you can pray for those impacted, and it’s your thoughtful prayers that can reach the corners of Haiti. Continue praying for Haiti with us by visiting our prayer page

Reaching Haiti earthquake victims at the end of the road

Astrelle’s harrowing story of rescuing her elderly parents from the rubble

The terrifying moment the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti’s southern peninsula on Aug. 14, 55-year-old Astrelle was outside the home she shares with her nine family members, including her elderly disabled parents, daughter, and infant grandson. Astrelle was getting ready to go to the market when the earth started to shake.

Mercifully, just minutes before the quaking began, her grandbaby, who was sleeping inside the house, woke up and began to cry. The baby’s mother had gone inside and brough him out. But Astrelle’s parents were still asleep inside…

Astrelle’s first instinct was to run inside the house to get her parents out, but she was thrown down by the earth moving, hitting and injuring her head on the ground. She looked up and saw the walls of the house starting to collapse with her parents inside.

One of those walls crumbled, burying her parents beneath the rubble. Miraculously, they were still alive.

“After the tremor we had to pull them out from under the rubble and they were both injured.”

Astrelle’s mother recovers from her injuries inside the family’s badly damaged house.

“After the tremor we had to pull them out from under the rubble and they were both injured,” Astrelle said, recounting the chaos after the quake. Unable to take her parents to the hospital, she did her best to treat their injuries herself.

Despite the extensive damage to the home, the family felt they had no alternative but to sleep inside while Tropical Storm Grace dumped rain on southern Haiti. Caring neighbors gave Astrelle some salvaged metal sheets and tarps to help protect them from the storm.

Astrelle’s family lives in a small remote village, located near the epicenter of the earthquake. It’s barely accessible by road and the village itself is more than half a mile from any road. The World Concern team was the first to reach the village to assess the damage and their needs.

“This is the first time since the earthquake that an organization has come to visit us…”

Astrelle stands outside her home, where collapsed walls have been replaced by tarps in an effort to protect the family from rain.

“This is the first time since the earthquake happened that an organization has come to visit us,” said Astrelle’s daughter. “Hurricane Matthew had severely damaged our house, and no one helped us. We repaired it with our own means, but now the situation is beyond us and we don’t know what to do if no one comes to our rescue.”

If you would like to support World Concern’s earthquake response and recovery efforts in Haiti and give emergency supplies, food, water, tarps, and rebuilding assistance to families like Astrelle’s, you can donate online at www.worldconcern.org/haiti.

Keeping Haiti in the forefront of our thoughts and prayers

I have a confession. I haven’t been thinking about Haiti enough. My thoughts, as they often are, seem to be consumed with my life, what’s going on in my country, my world, my family, my home, my job (which is even partly to think about Haiti), COVID numbers… the list goes on.

I want my concern for others, especially those who are suffering, to be my natural, first instinct response. But I’m selfish, and Haiti’s crisis does not hold its rightful place as first in my thoughts.  

It seems like the world is not thinking about Haiti enough either.

Why is that? Are we desensitized to suffering, disasters, violence, poverty, and now see these tragedies as the norm?

I’ve been there—to Les Cayes, the hardest hit city on the southern peninsula in Haiti. I’ve been to Haiti several times, but I visited Les Cayes in 2012. It’s beautiful and hard there. It’s where I put my feet in the turquoise Caribbean waters, and ate fresh fish that came from those waters alongside fried plantain. And it’s where I met some beautiful people who have lived really hard lives.

Tens of thousands of homes, buildings, and churches were damaged or destroyed in the Aug. 14 earthquake that struck Haiti’s southern peninsula.

The southern peninsula of the backwards C-shaped island is often in the direct path of Atlantic storms that form to the south and creep slowly north, gaining strength and sucking up water before unleashing furious wind and lashing rain on this and other defenseless islands.

But until the morning of August 14, earthquakes were not in the minds of many living along the southern coast. In fact, some moved from Port au Prince after the 2010 quake devastated the city, in search of safety. Their worlds were once again shaken to the core when the minute-long quaking jolted them awake.

Marie Yolene lost her 14-year-old daughter in the earthquake.

It wasn’t until I saw the face of a distraught mother yesterday in a video our field staff shot—the vacant look of trauma in her eyes—that I was jolted awake and reminded of what’s happening in Haiti right now.

This mom, Marie, who lost her 14-year-old daughter, Marilyn, is one of thousands who lost loved ones, homes, everything.

Her circumstances and pain deserve my full attention. If nothing else, I need to pray. I need to move the people impacted by this crisis to the top of my prayer list, every day, and throughout the day.  

I moved recently and while unpacking boxes, I came across this painting. I bought it in 2012 from a man who was selling his artwork on the street in Haiti. I’m going to finally frame it and hang it in my home so I can remember Haiti. Every day.

We invite you to pray with us for people suffering in Haiti, and elsewhere in the world. Visit our prayer page to join us and let us know how we can pray for you. www.worldconcern.org/prayer

If you’d like to help families affected by the earthquake in Haiti, please visit www.worldconcern.org/haiti.

How taking a few steps can protect an innocent child

In a little over a week, on Saturday, May 8, World Concern will have its annual fundraiser focused on protecting children, called the Free Them 5k.  Many of you reading this have signed up, either to run, jog, or walk, or have agreed to sponsor someone – thank you!

But what is protection?  What does it mean, in practice?  The idea of protection has gained real momentum in recent years, as people in general become more socially aware in an inter-connected world.  But is that all it is, an idea whose time has come, in a world that has the capability for better social reflection?  I think not…

Those of you who are familiar with the bible will know that the broad issue of ‘justice’ is a constant throughout scripture.  It is not new.  It actually reflects who God is at the core of His being.  Ancient Hebrew law talks about not extracting everything from your field or vineyard, in order to leave something for the poor and the widow, and even the ‘foreigner’ in society.  The prophet Isaiah berates his community, Israel, for being super-religious, but neglecting the fundamentals of being a caring society, and reflecting the nature of God in how they cared for the needy.  In Jesus, we see His care often in those He ministered to.  And in the early church we see it in how they sold their belongings to help one another and shared everything.

As we lead up to the World Concern Free Them 5k, I think about where this money we raise will go. One of my favorite projects World Concern does that illustrates what ‘protection’ looks like is the work we do to keep young girls in school.  So many young girls are taken out of school, or never even get to go, because their parents have no money to pay basic school fees. Some can’t afford to feed their daughters, so they sell them off in an arranged marriage. 

World Concern works in Bangladesh to provide girls with scholarships so they can stay and school and not have to be married off.

These practices lead to so many other things, such as abuse, neglect, early pregnancy, and in the end, a continued life of poverty. Keeping them in school dramatically alters their trajectory, often preventing early marriage, and launching them into society at a productive level, where their income earning potential is radically different to what it would have been otherwise.  And they are unlikely to experience a life of grinding poverty.  These are all relatively small investments.

So, whether you run or jog or walk in your neighborhood on May 8th, support someone who is running the 5k, or are perhaps exploring the idea of child ‘protection’ for the first time, know that your involvement is vital and changes the trajectory of a child’s life.

There’s still time to join the Free Them 5k. Sign up for free today, or donate here: www.freethem5k.org

A female student takes notes in class in rural Bangladesh.

Celebrating Water in a Dry, Thirsty Land

A celebration took place on the banks of a riverbed in the barren region of Samburu, Kenya, a few weeks ago. Just beyond the blessing ceremony was a rare and precious sight—something previously very difficult to find in this part of the world: water. Lots of water.

The pounding seasonal rains that normally create rivers of muddy water and flood the hardened soil gushed over a newly constructed sand dam and filled a huge reservoir that now holds enough water to provide a reliable, year-round supply of clean water for nearby villages.

This is indeed something to celebrate in Samburu, and here’s why…

The plight of women in this drought-prone part of the world, who walk for miles every day to collect water for their families, is evident in the life of a mom named Lolmodooni. We joined her on her journey through prickly brush where cheetahs hunt their prey in the blazing desert heat.

When Lolmodooni reached the dry riverbed, she began to dig into the sand, smelling the wet soil for animal and human feces. Once she hit water, about two feet down, she began to scoop the grey, milky water into her 20-liter water jug. This water is not safe to drink, and likely made her children sick, but she had no choice… until now.

See Lolmodooni’s walk for water through the lens of filmmaker Doug Irvine, who shares his experience visiting this remote part of the world in this video.

With the support of World Concern, the new sand dam was constructed with local community members doing much of the work. It not only provides natural filtration of the water through the sand, and a hand pump for easy access, it dramatically reduces the distance women have to walk to get water.  

“We thank God for this sand dam because before we used to walk tens of kilometers in search of water and then walk back home,” said Narikuni, a 30-year-old mother of four. “It is tedious and time consuming [collecting water]. Our children were forced to stay at home and miss school because of water shortage, but now that the sand dam is less than a kilometer from our home, we will be able to get enough water and have time for other errands.”

Clean water means better health. A water source near home means safety for moms and their kids, more time in their day to do the things that matter, like work and go to school. And abundant water also means more food, a healthier diet, and income.

Sand dams raise the water table, so they are an effective way to regenerate soil, enabling vegetation to grow. With this, the communities can be trained to grow vegetables which will improve nutrition and lower food costs. Vegetables can also be sold at the local market, generating income for families in the village.

So, why not just dig a well in the village? In an area like Samburu, digging wells is not always possible. The water table may be too low, and the water is often brackish, making it not fit for human consumption.

World Concern uses innovative approaches to provide clean water, depending on the context, location, and needs. In areas where it rains very little and wells are not possible or cost prohibitive, sand dams offer a possible solution.

A sand dam consists of a concrete wall built on a seasonal riverbed. With time, sand builds up on the dam. Beneath the sand, water is stored and protected from evaporation. It also filters the water and makes it clean. A well installed with a handpump is usually constructed on the banks of the same river since the water table is raised by the sand dam, and a storage tank retains clean water for quick access. Watch this animated video to see how sand dams work.

Abundant, clean water in a place like Samburu is indeed reason to celebrate. You can be a part of making clean water a reality in a remote village. To learn more, visit www.worldconcern.org/water.

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground…” Isaiah 44:3

How We See ‘The Other’

A couple of months ago, I wrote about the challenges of racism in the context of World Concern’s work globally.  Here in the US, the issue of race dominates our headlines almost daily. We also bring our own background and experiences to the story.  But as is clear from scripture, Christ calls His followers to an entirely different standard—the standard of how we ‘see’ those different to us.

But race is part of a wider issue. At its heart, it is about how we see ‘the other’ – neighbor, passer-by, enemy.

At World Concern, how we see ‘the other’ is core to our transformational work.

This last weekend I was challenged by something I read in the Bible, in the Book of John, chapter 9.  It’s the story of the encounter with the man who was blind from birth.  In brief, Jesus and his disciples saw this individual, but the narrative has a blunt beginning—the disciples remark, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”  No soft entry, no introduction; rather “whose fault is this?”  Don’t we do this all the time?  We see someone, perhaps of different nationality, perhaps with a disability, perhaps homeless, and we immediately categorize the person.  “They are like this because…” We put them in a category to define them, to perhaps stigmatize, perhaps blame. 

I am indebted to Paul Miller for his insight into this passage from his book Love Walked Among Us:

“The disciples see a blind man; Jesus sees a man who happens to be blind.  The disciples see an item for debate; Jesus sees a person, a human being like himself. They see a sin, the effect of man’s work; Jesus sees need, the potential for God’s work.  The disciples see a completed tragedy and wonder who the villain was; Jesus sees a story half-told, with the best yet to come.”

When we look at someone, do we see a problem, a category, or a person?  We put people in boxes to control our own discomfort, and almost certainly to set ourselves at a distance from them.

In our work, we have this problem, but we try to recognize and remedy it when it happens.  We often talk about “beneficiaries” “recipients” or “the poor.”  Worst, as the world becomes more data driven, we reduce people to a number.

But this innocuous encounter tells a different story.  The disciples saw a blind man; Jesus saw a man, who happened to be blind.  The difference is subtle but ultimately transformative; it humanizes the ‘other’ and opens up the door to compassion and kindness.

World Concern President, Nick Archer, listens to community members in a rural village in Chad. At World Concern, our work starts with listening and learning.

We work in communities of very diverse needs.  Are they poor?  Often, yes.  Are they non-literate? Maybe.  But fundamentally, who do we see, as in really see? It may be easier to categorize, maybe even an automatic reaction; but we try to see the individual who, regardless of what I think or what the world tells me, is made absolutely in the image of God.

Seeing ‘the other’ is core to what we, as the people of Christian faith, are called to. It is what we, as World Concern, are called to. In partnering with us and being part of our story, we invite you into this same journey.

How Practical Gifts Saved and Transformed Angelina’s Life

This article contains advertorial content provided by World Concern for promotional purposes.

When Angelina Agol gave birth to twin boys, she was overjoyed. But her joy turned to panic when she realized that her weakened, undernourished body couldn’t produce milk to feed her babies.

Angelina and her newborn twins were starving.

Angelina was worried about her children’s health, knowing she couldn’t feed them.

In South Sudan, where Angelina lives, the vast majority of families struggle to find food to eat. Some are so hungry, they resort to eating leaves off trees to survive.

“There was no food to eat,” she said. “Then, these babies were born and they were suffering. I was not able to breastfeed them… that’s when World Concern came in.”

Local staff assessed the babies’ weight, growth, and nutrition levels and immediately referred them to an emergency feeding program. Angelina and her babies spent 13 days in the hospital-based program, where they were treated for severe malnutrition.

When they were stabilized and returned home, the family received emergency food and financial support.

“We were given soup, milk, fish, tomatoes, and eggplant. I also received food and recovered. I was given eggs and goat’s milk,” she said.

Angelina’s life dramatically improved when she received goats, which provided much-needed nutritious milk and income for her family.

Things really began to improve in Angelina’s life when her family received goats and chickens through World Concern’s Global Gift Guide. In South Sudan, livestock are like having an instant bank account. Not only did Angelina’s family now have milk and eggs to eat and sell for income, seeds and agricultural training, helped them grow vegetables for a stable, nutritious diet.

Her kids and her garden are not the only thing growing in Angelina’s home—her goats and chickens are multiplying too. In fact, her original female goat has given birth to twins—three times! Over a two-year period, her flock grew to 21 goats.  

She started a small business making insulated containers to keep food hot or cold. And she has taught other women to do the same. Entrepreneurs like Angelina are empowered to grow their businesses and increase their income by joining a savings group.

Angelina was empowered to start a small business making insulated containers to keep food warm, and trained other women to do the same.

Through these practical, life-saving gifts Angelina received, she experienced God’s incredible love for her for the first time in her life. And when she was healthy enough to learn about His son Jesus, she opened her heart to Him.

“I have now become a Christian, and I go to church regularly,” she said.

“If World Concern had not intervened, my children would have died, just like other children in this village have died,” said this grateful mom. “I was helped by World Concern. That is why my children are now healthy, and they are living.”

To give practical, life-saving gifts like the ones that helped Angelina’s family, visit World Concern’s Global Gift Guide at www.globalgiftguide.org.  

Angelina’s twins are now growing strong and healthy, thanks to a stable, nutritious diet.

Now That’s Sustainability!

After 10 years, a community well gets an upgrade

Ten years ago, the community of Oltarakwai in rural Kenya, got their first taste of clean, clear drinking water from a new well, built in partnership with World Concern. Everything changed in the community.

Girl at well
A young girl pumps water from the well’s original hand pump.

“During the dry season, when the springs began to dry up, we had to wait overnight to get some water to take home,” recalls Namna Olorupa, a village elder, of what life was like before the well. “We also drew water from open pools which we shared with our livestock and wild animals like hyenas.”

The well was a Godsend, providing safe, accessible water to families for over a decade. “During the 2017 drought the [well] served us and up to 5 neighboring villages. They would carry their water with Donkeys and Motorbikes,” said Namna.

You can imagine the strain on the well’s handpump with hundreds of families from multiple villages using it round the clock. Maintenance on the well became more frequent, and parts for the hand pump had to be replaced often.

New well pump
Joyful community members can now just turn a tap and fill up their water jugs.

But this year, the well in Oltarakwai got an exciting upgrade. With the help of World Concern and Nairobi water company Davis & Shirtliff, a solar pump, tap, and 3,000-liter water storage tank were installed at the well, drastically improving its output and efficiency, reducing maintenance, and saving precious time.

No more long lines of people waiting to fill up water containers at the pump. No more strenuous pumping water constantly, and no more replacing broken or worn out pump parts.

Just clean, safe water flowing from the simple turn of a tap!

women at the well
Mayiani and Noosiruai are thrilled with the new solar pump.

“This solar powered-water project is the best ever,” exclaimed Mayiani Meyagari, a joyful community member. “We no longer have to strain as we pump water like before. With the new tap, we now take less time fetching water. We are now utilizing the extra time in our kitchen gardens and making beaded artwork for sale.’’

‘’The water is very clean… there is now no scarcity even in the dry season,” said Kimanyisho Noolbariko, who also lives in the village.

“We are no longer worried about tomorrow; where our next source of water will come from.”

– Elder Namna

Elder Namna says he sees a brighter future for his village because of the well improvements. “There is so much water being pumped by the solar pump. I see a lot of potential. It can even be used to do small scale irrigation. We are no longer worried about tomorrow; where our next source of water will come from,” he said.

“God has used you to bring this project to us. Every kid that is born from this year will grow up testifying of the goodness of this water.”

– Elder Meyagari
happy elders
Elders Namna (left) and Meyagari praise God and give thanks to those who helped bring this sustainable source of clean water to their village.

Another village elder, Meyagari ole Salankat, credits God for this transformation. “God has used you to bring this project to us. Every kid that is born from this year will grow up testifying of the goodness of this water. This protected water will save us from water borne diseases like typhoid. My village was blessed to have the original hand pump. We prayed for you, and see, God has worked through you … we now have a better water project.”

On average, it costs just $20 to provide clean water to one person. To find out how you can help deliver safe drinking water to a village like Oltarakwai, visit www.worldconcern.org/water

The Vital Importance of Water

Animals drink from a water hole in South Sudan.

During my time living and working with World Concern in East Africa in the 1990s, I remember visiting a community in the Juba valley of Somalia. This village was hundreds of miles from any safe water source, so World Concern rehabilitated a well in the area. As I approached the massive area that surrounded the well, an astonishing sight came into view. Multitudes of people and animals crowded around the water source, trudging through mud to reach the water.

As I watched people drink from this well, it really hit me how critical this vital resource—water—is to human survival, and to any possibility of escaping the grip of extreme poverty, sickness, and hopelessness.

People and animals surround a water point.
People and animals surround a water point in Somalia during the 2011 Horn of Africa famine.

My thoughts shifted to the thousands of other communities who were (and still are) waiting for water. The impact of water-borne diseases on people—of parasitic infections on children—is staggering. Children’s bodies are depleted of nourishment, growth is stunted, and their systems weakened by intestinal worms that suck the nutrients from their food and cause constant pain. Young girls and women spend the better part of each day walking 5 to 10 kilometers carrying 20-liter jugs of water on their heads or backs…

And I asked myself, how can we change this story?

It’s hard to imagine living your entire life lacking water and under the threat of water-borne illness. I only had one experience in Somalia when I got sick from water—and it wasn’t even from drinking it! I had a rule: Never eat salad. As long as I ate cooked food, I knew the bacteria and parasites would be killed in the cooking process. But for whatever reason, I decided one time that the hotel I was staying at was nice enough that I would eat a salad there. Boy, was I wrong. I got so sick. I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say, I won’t ever forget that experience.

The fact is, the tiny droplets of water that had come in contact with the lettuce in the washing process contained microorganisms that I couldn’t see. The hidden danger in the water was invisible.

I learned my lesson, and thankfully recovered in a few days. But millions of people don’t. They live with constant sickness that ravages their health and traps them in a cycle of suffering.

A girl draws water from a pump well.

Their only chance at freedom from sickness and suffering is a sustainable source of clean, safe drinking water. And the good news is, that’s possible. I’ve witnessed the dramatic impact clean water has on lives and entire communities.

We can change someone’s life by changing the quality and purity of the water they drink. I don’t know what else is quite so life-giving as when you give a community water. It actually makes me emotional to say that. When we connect with people at the point of human need, it’s profound.

Africa, in a lot of ways, shaped my theology. And I believe that water is a reflection of God’s goodness to us. The hope and opportunity clean water gives people is so powerful.

Water is life.

Nick Archer in Somalia.
World Concern President Nick Archer lived and served with World Concern in East Africa in the 1990s and early 2000s.