Last year, while working in the Palabek Refugee Settlement near Kitgum, Uganda, we met a young man named Bosco. Bosco was working with a videographer as a production assistant and at one point borrowed one of our cameras to take some still photos. Stacey, DROP’s director, was impressed by his work and decided to stay in touch with him.
Several months later we surprised him by loaning him a camera and suggested he start capturing life in Kitgum. DROP had set up an Instagram page, but didn’t just want to post photos of our work. We also wanted to show a little bit about daily life in Uganda. Bosco was excited to have a camera to use, as up until that point he had only been able to borrow cameras from his teachers and had never been able to take photos every day. But photography was clearly something he was very interested in pursuing. Our only request was that he sent us photos to post on our Instagram feed, and you can check them out here or by searching the hashtag #kitgumstreets
Here are some of Bosco’s photos, with an explanation of is happening in the photos.
In rural parts of Uganda, homes are often made out of mud and sticks with thatched straw roofs. The huts or “tukuls”, stay surprisingly cool even in the most intense heat.
Bigger buildings are constructed with bricks. Wooden molds are filled with clay to create the bricks. Once dry, they are stacked in a small pyramid, covered in straw, and set on fire . Here are some photos from Bosco of the brick making process.
Looking at our website, there is a lot of information about the wells and toilets that we build at schools, but at DROP we do more than just water and sanitation. Several years ago we started an education program in South Sudan that focuses mostly on providing secondary school scholarships to girls. The program started four years ago with 28 girls, but this year it expanded to include 128 students in the program. All of the students are girls with one exception. Meet John Deng. We met John when we were operating in Torit, South Sudan. He was bright, hardworking and always talked about his dream of going to school to study agriculture.
John was born in South Sudan, but the fighting forced him to leave and he ended up spending a large part of his childhood in the Kukuma Refugee Camp, where his family still lives. Today he graduated from a two-year agriculture program at Kampala University and is on his way to a career in farming.
Congratulations John, you are proof that people can overcome adversity and achieve their dreams!
You can do a lot on your own, but think what you could do with a group? Start a fundraiser with your business, school, church, team, or organization group! Once your well is drilled we’ll send you photos of it being used. That way you can see the faces of the children you helped. We will also place a tile with the inscription of your choice on the tile as a permanent commemoration of your achievement. Learn More.
The greatest gift you can give is the gift of life. It’s hard to wrap our heads around the fact that while we all have so much, some people only need one thing to improve their lives, clean water. Next year on your birthday ask your friends to do something different. Give them the opportunity to change an entire community’s lives. Why not donate your next birthday and instead of gifts ask people to help build a well in your name? Learn More.
Drop in the Bucket president, John Travis, spent the day in Palabek Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda.
This is an excerpt from the day:
Over breakfast I sat with Thomas Liere, our WASH Officer, and planned the activities for the day. We had a lot of new wells to see in the settlement but the roads were dangerously muddy and there was a major storm brewing. We needed to get an early start to beat the downpour.
Our team is comprised of Ugandan and South Sudanese nationals. For most of them, war, displacement and crisis have been part of their lives. For many, their formative years were spent either watching the war swirl around them, being corralled into refugee camps or serving in the military. Your options are limited when you are a child of war.
We spent the day handing out Pack H2O backpacks to refugees for carrying water. It is difficult to imagine leaving all of your belongings and lifelong memories behind to flee fighting. They say that donors are growing tired of the global refugee situation. But after spending time with this community today, I hope it is not true. They need us now more than ever.
As we worked today, Thomas began telling me stories from his childhood. His father had been a village doctor but he died when Thomas was young. And like so many other children in this region, being the oldest, he was then expected to care for his mom and five siblings. But Thomas refused to quit school because he knew the value of an education and he had big dreams.
But at the age of twelve, Thomas’ world changed forever. He saw his first airplane – an Antonov bomber from the Arab-controlled north. It had come to drop bombs on them. The country was at war.
Like most men and boys in the region, he first tried to register for the army. But the recruiters turned him down due to his size and age. As the fighting escalated, Thomas’ entire community was forced to leave their homes in search of safety. They knew that anybody who stayed was at risk of being killed, either by the bombs, the soldiers, or hunger and sickness.
The women and children from his community began walking. They had heard about a safe place across the border. There were rumors of the journey taking a month to travel on foot. And walking was their only method of transportation. Thomas’ siblings were full of questions. How long would they walk? Would they ever be able to return home? Would there be dangerous animals along the way? What would they eat? And would they need to cross rivers? None of the children knew how to swim.
Luckily, after walking several hours, they were picked up by a UN truck and driven to the Kenyan border. For the next nine years, the Kakuma Refugee Camp would be home to Thomas and his family.
Everything in the camp, from food, to soap, to firewood was purchased using ration cards. But education was free and Thomas took advantage of that. As the war raged on, the camp became increasingly overcrowded and everybody grew more desperate. Although there was barely enough to eat already, the family decided to sell half of their rationed food. They were familiar with being hungry and needed to find a way out.
With time, Thomas saved enough from selling food to buy a bike and started a bicycle taxi service. With the money he made, he was finally able to leave Kakuma and enroll in a nearby university. For the next fifteen years, he struggled in and out of school, depending on the security situation, availability of funds or family obligations. In 2007, the at the age of 23, Thomas reached a milestone – he bought his first pair of shoes. Until this point in his life, he had never owned a single pair of shoes. And in 2017, ten years after that, he finally graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from Wau University.
Thomas is now giving back to the community he loves. He spends his days working with the refugees. He organizes trainings for water management committees, well maintenance and repair, and hygiene promotion. He seems proud of his struggle and accomplishments and you can tell that the children in the refugee camp look up to him. People in this region know first-hand that war is completely destructive. It is all they have ever known. They also know their children are the only hope for a peaceful future.
At the end of the day, although the grey clouds and threat of thunderstorms stalked us nonstop, we escaped the rain. But talking with Thomas and the refugees living in the camp, really put a human face and personal story behind the refugee statistic we all hear. Everybody you meet out here has a traumatic tale of their journey. War leaves nobody undamaged. But their stories are not finished yet.
As the sky began clearing up and the sun came out, I realized that there was a lot of hope in the people I had met today. They hear rumors that the world is growing tired of them – the global refugee crisis. But these are people, not statistics. And if we have any humanity left in us, we cannot turn our back on those who are helpless and displaced because of war and turmoil. We have to continue to cheer them on, give them faith in the future and encourage those children to believe they have the power to change their lives.
For past the six years Dean Gray, an American government teacher at Norwalk High School, has organized a student-led program known as Giving Charity to Charities.
The program calls for 12th-grade students in social studies classes to select a local, national or international charity organization to receive the proceeds from campus fundraising drives held by the students.
The selections are based on the personal interests or connections the students have to issues or causes. Since 2013, the program has raised a total of $75,000 that have gone to 54 different charities.
In addition to an annual winter student assembly on campus where the classes present their donations of $1,000 to charity group representatives, there are usually also acknowledgement letters or phone calls received by the school from each of the charity groups.
But this year, there was a special sort of thank you that was offered by Drop in the Bucket, which received a $1,000 donation from the students.
Drop in the Bucket, a Los Angeles- based organization that provides drinking water and sanitation systems to schools in African countries, passed along some photos of young students in Uganda expressing their gratitude. The shots showed the African youths with warm smiles holding a sign that said: “Thank You Norwalk High School.”
Gray was happy but not entirely surprised to see the kind messages. “It’s another success story of our kids making a difference in people’s lives. Fresh water. How awesome is that?” he said.
Bailey Martinez, 18, is the student who did the research to find a water-related charity to propose to classmates as a donation recipient. He found out that unlike some groups that just passed along funds to other organizations that perform the work, Drop in the Bucket was different. The nonprofit was directly involved with staff on-ground in the countries doing the labor to plan and develop the systems.
“That’s was one I really liked. I felt that they did the most and they’re based here in L.A. and thought that was con- venient,” Martinez said. “I think clean water is something we take for granted and it’s not something everyone has.”
Over a three-week period, Martinez along with more than 300 other seniors hawked chewy energy bars on campus
to fellow students and then also sold them off campus. All of the teams did fundraising in the same way for the same amount of time. A total of $13,000 was raised for 13 charities. An additional charity, Race to Erase Multiple Sclerosis, received $1,000 donated from a local golf tournament organized by teachers and staff.
“Every year it’s unique,” said Gray about the program. “The kids find new charities and new ways to help people. It’s very personal for them. And 54 total charities are impressive. It’s amazing to be a part of it.”
Nineteen students representing the teams, along with teachers involved in the program, were recognized at the Feb. 26 meeting of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District Board of Education.
Welcome to Drop in the Bucket’s first update of 2018. We are proud to report that we ended last year on a fundraising high note. Although December has always been a successful month for donations, this year was exceptional! We thank you for your impressive generosity. Your support makes all of our work possible!
As the crisis in South Sudan continues, refugees are packed into settlements and camps on the northern border of Uganda. And DROP remains dedicated to maintaining a presence in both countries.
Our drilling team in the Palabek Refugee Settlement at the northern border of Uganda has been working tirelessly to provide water to the camp and surrounding community. Since the beginning of the year, we have already drilled nine wells. Our goal is the maximize the dry season and drill another twenty new wells before May.
We are also planning to upgrade some of the high-yielding wells by adding solar pumps and multiple tap stands. This will allow the water points to serve more people and alleviate long lines.
While Drop in the Bucket started as a water charity, our program now covers significantly more than just water. In our February newsletter, we hope to share some information on the South Sudanese girls in our education program who are determined to graduate high school and not become lost to another generation of voiceless child brides.
Need a last minute gift idea? This year, give the gift of life!
Drop in the Bucket is making your gift shopping easy with this holiday e-card!
Need something for that hard-to-buy-for friend or relative? We’ve got you covered!
Go to our donation page and check the “Make this donation in someone’s name” box. Enter their name, email address, your message and select the amount you want to give and you are all set. No long lines at the register, no parking hassles, no crowds to contend with. And what better way to show someone you care than to help children in need.
Every day, between 2,000 and 4,000 people cross the border from South Sudan to Northern Uganda seeking nothing more than survival.
Since the fighting broke out in 2013, more than 1.5 million people have fled South Sudan, making it the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. More than half of these refugees have resettled in Northern Uganda. Fortunately for them, Uganda has one of the most welcoming refugee policies in the world. Refugees are not just given temporary shelter, they are also provided with land to settle and grow crops.
But this unprecedented mass influx is placing enormous strain on the country’s resources and local infrastructure. The UN estimates that it only has 14% of the funding necessary to meet the needs of the men, women and children in these camps.
In an effort to address the crisis, the government recently established Palabek Refugee Settlement in Lamwo District of northern Uganda. Palabek currently hosts 30,000 refugees and that number is growing daily. But the camp needs basic infrastructure to operate. There are currently no organizations drilling for water in the camp and the people are drinking water that is trucked in from a nearby river.
DROP teams are perfectly positioned to help with the crisis. Our drilling equipment is being mobilized now to Palabek. And our team has been warmly welcomed by everybody from aid agencies, national government and refugees because we have funding to start drilling the first five wells. But they will need more water!
This is where you can help! We are appealing to you, our donors, to help us raise funds for an additional ten wells. Any donation will help. In return, we will share photos during the drilling and keep you updated on our progress. By giving the settlement clean water, we can immediately start saving lives in what is being called Africa’s largest humanitarian crisis. Please click this link to make a donation.
Today is World Water Day and this year we decided to commemorate the day with a new video. The video is titled “How long do people in Africa walk to get water?”. The video attempts to frame the water crisis in a different way by setting the long walk for water, that people in Africa do every day, in an American location.
The video one was directed by Nathan Karma Cox and shot on location in Studio City, CA at Black Market Liquor who generously allowed us to shoot during the day before they opened. The video was produced by Cory Reeder and features music by Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga who played all of the instruments on the track including kazoo. Vocals were provided by Stone Sour guitarist Christian Martucci and the graphics were created by Rodrigo Gava from Gava Productions.
We are really happy with how the video turned out and are excited to release it today. Please help us get the word out by sharing the video on your social media pages or by making a donation.
Today is International Women’s Day and to commemorate it we decided to share the story of a woman we recently met in Uganda. Meet Betty.
For most of her life Betty has been a housewife who had to rely on her husband when she needed anything. Her family could not afford to send her to school and educating girls was not considered a priority. Betty is determined that her children will not fall into the same trap.
Betty has always been ambitious, but had a hard time finding anyone who would listen to her. One day, one of her neighbors told her about a local savings group he was a part of. The non-profit organization Drop in the Bucket had drilled a well at local School and had set up the group. Her neighbor suggested that she come to a meeting to see if she was interested in joining. At the meeting, she saw her neighbors applying for loans and using them to start small businesses. She immediately knew she wanted to join.
Betty took her first loan of 100,000 UGX ($28) to Lake Kyoga where small boats would come in loaded with freshly caught fish. Betty inspected each boat as it came in seeking out the highest quality fish and haggling for the best price. Once she had spent all her money, she carried the fish back to town to the local market.
After making a small profit the first week selling to local vendors, she noticed that other towns would come to the market and buy fish from those vendors a higher price. The next day, she decided to wait for them on the road into town and sell to them directly. Her plan worked and soon she was making a much larger profit than any of the other vendors. She also noticed that people would pay more for dried fish, so she quickly learned that skill too.
Betty’s life has changed! All of her children are in school and she is proud of the fact that she can easily afford to feed, clothe and educate them. All Betty had ever hoped for was that someone would believe in her and give her a chance. That chance came when she joined the savings group. A small loan of just $28 changed the whole course of not just her life, but also the lives of her children.
Today we celebrate Betty and millions of other women like her. Women who can take something small and turn it into something powerful. Happy International Women’s Day! Today we celebrate together.