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Our First Students Graduate!

We have some exciting news! Drop in the Bucket has just celebrated the graduation of our first group of South Sudanese secondary students.

When we first started our scholarship program four years ago, we were not expecting inter-tribal war, a refugee crisis, or a global pandemic. 

But despite many enormous challenges, we have a wonderful reason to celebrate. The first group of twenty-five girls has officially graduated from secondary school. 

In the past four years, these girls have become part of the DROP family. We have mentored them through hard times, cheered on their victories, and watched them grow and thrive. 

The program started with 25 girls and is now sponsoring 140 vulnerable but hardworking girls to go to school. 

Graduating South Sudanese girls celebrate graduating secondary school in a program implemented by Drop in the Bucket

For the graduation, a group of donors funded a gift for each of them, which was a tailor-made traditional dress, handbags, and watches. The girls also got the opportunity to Zoom with supporters in the US. It was a wonderful day of celebrating their great accomplishment. Community members and education stakeholders also attended the graduation party. Some gave motivational speeches about how proud they were of these girls. The girls also read poems and spoke to the group about their experience.  

Click here to read more about our education program.

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Why is a Water Charity Educating Girls in South Sudan?

Why is a Water Charity Running a Program Educating Girls in South Sudan?

In sub-Saharan Africa, there are many challenges around educating girls. But when it comes to educating girls in South Sudan, the challenges are even greater. The country has been in some sort of war or conflict for decades and is one of the poorest in the world. Many are living in refugee camps. And most families find it difficult to provide even the basic necessities like food for their families.

Even if a girl does make it to secondary school, the odds are stacked against her actually completing all four years. 

Why Girls?

From the time a female child is born, there is an understanding that she will be married off for a dowry when she comes of age. And that is often at adolescence. Though it’s technically illegal to marry an underage girl, it is the norm that is practiced throughout the country.

Since it’s understood that after she is married, she will become the property and responsibility of her husband, it’s often perceived as a bad investment to spend money on educating girls. With this level of poverty, if given the opportunity, parents will most often support their male children first.

Most South Sudanese girls will have little say in their marriage. And with South Sudan being a polygamist country, girls are often promised to wealthy older men who already have wives.

Our Education Program

Drop in the Bucket’s education program offers girls the opportunity to attend good boarding schools where they are able to focus on their studies without the distractions of domestic duties and other struggles. We are generally supporting between 125 and 150 students who are enrolled at schools in Uganda and South Sudan. If a girl qualifies academically, we enroll her in a Uganda school, where the school system is more stable, with qualified female teachers and boarding facilities. For those who do not score high enough to be accepted in Uganda schools, we have opened the DROP dorm which provides boarding for the girls who are enrolled in day school in South Sudan.

Although the main goal of the program is to provide the girls with a structured environment where they receive an education, it also buys them four more years to mature and grow up while they delay marriage a little longer.

The program provides more than just tuition. We also ensure that the students have scholastic materials, personal items, academic coaching, food, accommodations, support structure, security and medical treatment.

For the graduation, a group of donors raised funds for a graduation gift of new traditional dresses, hand bags, and watches. The girls Zoomed with donors, which was so exciting and new for us all. It was a wonderful day of celebrating their great accomplishment. Community members also attended the graduation party and some gave motivational speeches about how proud they were of the girls and their great accomplishment. 

To quote Kofi Annan:

“An educated girl is more likely to delay marriage and childbirth, enjoy greater income and productivity, and raise fewer, healthier and better-educated children. Indeed, investments in girls’ education have proven to go further than any other spending in global development.” 

  – Kofi Annan – Former Secretary General of the United Nations.

So to answer the question “Why is a water charity running a program educating girls in South Sudan?” The answer is – water, sanitation, gender equality and education promote lasting change.

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Happy World Water Day!

Today is World Water Day. 

Maybe, as you read this, you have a glass of water within arm’s reach. Perhaps you enjoy your water ice cold…or maybe at room temperature. Some people prefer to drink their water with lemon. And some people still don’t have water to drink at all. 

Even if you are fortunate enough to live in one of the countries with a steady supply of clean water at your fingertips, by now you have heard the statistics about the global water crisis. And many of you have been actively supporting DROP to help provide some relief to suffering communities.

No matter how often you hear it, it’s still hard to believe that in 2021, one in every ten people on the planet still lack this basic necessity.

And it’s always heartbreaking to hear the personal stories about the women, girls, teachers, school administrators and so many others who spend valuable time each day walking long distances to collect water. The challenges they face on a daily basis are already enormous, without this added burden of searching for water. But being sick is worse. And having a child die from drinking contaminated water is unbearable.

Although our primary focus at DROP has been providing clean water for school children, in the past few years we have expanded our activities to also include drilling for more communities. We realize that we cannot provide enough wells to fully solve the enormous problem, but it is too difficult to turn our backs on those who are suffering. 

Time and time again, we have turned to our donors for help. And the incredible spirit of the DROP community always shines through.

Last December, DROP launched a campaign to raise awareness to the struggle rural healthcare facilities face in trying to provide clean water for their patients and medical treatments. You came to the rescue, donating enough to fund twenty wells for some of the most needy clinics, schools and communities in northern Uganda – some of which we are in the process of drilling right now. 

Since gathering our friends around the kitchen table and starting DROP 15 years ago, we have provided clean water to more than 250,000 people in more than 400 communities across Uganda and South Sudan. This is all thanks to the unwavering generosity, giant hearts and steady support from you – our donors, our friends, and our beautiful DROP family.

As we recognize World Water Day 2021, we hope you will give yourselves a pat on the back. We appreciate the sacrifices you have made to help support these communities with clean water. There is still so much to do, but we are making progress.

So take a deep breath before you sip your next drink of water and realize that your support is making it possible for people on the other side of the world to also drink water.

Your donations help save lives, instill hope, and contribute to eradicating the global water crisis. Please continue to support DROP. 

Your donations aren’t part of the solution, your donations ARE the solution. 

Thank you! 

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International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day 2021

Strong women seem to be an inspiring theme of 2021.

In January, Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first female Vice President of the United States, and the inauguration ceremony was highlighted by the breathtaking words of teenage poet laureate Amanda Gorman. A month later, on an entirely different planet, teams of impressive women play key roles in the Mars Rover project – the Deputy Operations Manager is Megan Lin, Carrie Bridge is the Science Operations Team Chief, and Erisa (Hines) Stilley is Entry, Descent and Landing Systems Engineer and Operations Co-Lead, to name just a few. 

In that spirit, on this International Women’s Day, we at DROP would like to acknowledge the strong females that we encounter in our work on a daily basis… 

The women in the villages raising their families while confronted with immense struggles. They may lack water, or power and sometimes even sufficient rain to grow crops. But they show up anyway, wrangle their kids off to school and somehow get the job done – day after day. They understand that it is our collective our responsibility to raise the next generation of leaders – the ones who will take the torch we carry and propel the world forward. 

To the adolescent girls in our education program who are being given the opportunity to attend secondary school through our scholarship program.  They may study by lantern and eat beans at every meal, but they are dedicated to meeting any challenge and rising to new levels.

To the teachers who are working to provide a positive educational experience under the most difficult of circumstances. 

And, last but not least, to the women on our own DROP team – the education officers, the administrative assistants, the cooks who travel with the drillers and live in tents and create meals over collected firewood, and the women who manage our DROP dormitories, nurturing the girls who live there as if they are their own children. 

Many of these women work day in and day out in their “day jobs” and then go home to take care of their own families, tending to children, cooking meals, washing clothes and the many other thankless but crucial activities that often silently fall on the laps of women. 

Today we are inspired by a group of professional women we encountered in Gulu, who organized a ladies afternoon to celebrate International Women’s Day. In the culture here, men cook the meals and women are encouraged to do other activities with their friends on this day. These women played games from their adolescence – jumping rope, playing cards and laughing together for an afternoon. 

But they all knew they would soon return to their precious and irreplaceable role as the glue, the water, the fertilizer and the sunshine that keeps their world growing, evolving and pushing forward despite obstacles we can’t even imagine. 

Please take a moment today to remember these women. And please don’t forget – even the pocket change we dismiss on a daily basis can play a crucial role in easing their burden. Their jobs don’t come with a welcoming gala or interplanetary adventures, but with your help, tomorrow they may. 

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February Drilling Updates

February Drilling Update

During the last few months of 2020, Drop In The Bucket launched an initiative to drill twenty wells at twenty health centers in the Pader district of northern Uganda. The campaign was a direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and addressed the grim reality that many of the region’s health centers were struggling to provide clean water for their patients. No water to wash their hands. No water to ingest medicine. No water to facilitate treatments, and no water to help with general hygiene and cleanliness. 
 
The situation was dire and required immediate attention, so we started an online campaign. The response from our donors was also immediate, and within just a few months we had all of the funding we needed to drill those twenty wells – and more. Our drillers are currently in the field, and work is progressing fast and efficiently. We are expecting another three wells to be completed this week, and there are no plans to stop working until all of the health centers on our list have clean water.

What difference can one well make?

Latigi Health Center II is a new facility, built in a recently updated building that houses both the healthcare facilities and staff quarters. But Latigi does not have running water. The only nearby water source is a well that broke down several months ago. This means that the health center staff have to walk several miles to a distant community and stand in a long line at the well, then walk back carrying the water. Without this water, they can’t clean their instruments, they can’t clean the facilities, and they can’t treat patients. This is also the only water they have to drink.

Salva Abaa is a nursing assistant at Latigi. He cares deeply about helping his community, but these days he spends far more time hauling water than treating patients. “The people who come here suffer a lot,” he tells us. “They come to my home asking for drinking water.” He is more than happy to help out when he can, but with so little water available, he can’t even clean his cup and dish after each use.
 
The Ugandan Ministry of Health has recommended that every health center should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized twice a day. Salva and his coworkers struggle to maintain these standards, but without an easily accessible water source the extra labor leaves them exhausted. Due to the lack of running water at the facility, Latigi is not treated as a priority by the government agency in charge of distributing medicine, and Salva says that deliveries are regularly late and the center is inadequately stocked. This means that even after working hard to gather water for the facility, they sometimes have to turn patients away due to a lack of medicine. For Salva – and the countless health care workers like him – not being able to help people in need is the toughest part of his job.

Twenty wells is not enough. We can’t stop until no patient is turned away – and clean water is where we can make the greatest difference. As we know from our own battles with Covid-19, personal and social hygiene are the easiest ways to stop the spread of communicable diseases, and we plan on continuing to raise money so we can keep drilling at more health centers and schools throughout the pandemic, and beyond. 
 
For a moment, think about how difficult it is to start your day without brushing your teeth. Or how you’d feel preparing your family’s food without being able to wash your hands all day. Or merely the thought of turning on your computer without that first cup of morning coffee. Think about how exhausting housework can be… Now think about carrying ten, fifteen, twenty gallons of water several miles – all before you can even start your work day.
 
Can we really make a difference from the other side of the planet? Just ask the doctors, nurses and health care professionals who are working around the clock to provide relief to people not only suffering from Covid-19, but countless other ailments we take for granted. 
 
Take Salva’s word for it – every dollar helps. 
 
Thank you for your continued support.  
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Today is Giving Tuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday. This is an opportunity to redirect your attention away from the constant stream of consumerism and focus on those in need. 

This year has brought many changes to all of our lives but one thing remains the same. There are families in Africa that need clean water. And here at DROP we are thankful for our loyal supporters who share our mission to help them. Together we are bringing water, education and development to rural Africa.

And in that spirit, we are gearing up to begin our current water project: 20 wells for 20 clinics in 2020. The team is loading the trucks now and heading out to begin drilling next week. We have almost reached our target of funding for 20 wells. But we need your help. Click here to support water for a clinic or health center in northern Uganda.

Drop in the Bucket Drillers load the trucks before heading out to start a new drilling project in Uganda.
Drop in the Bucket Drillers load the trucks before heading out to start a new drilling project in Uganda.
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Ogago Health Center II – Where the Security Guard has to Fetch Water.

Ogago Health Center II – Where the security guard has to leave her post to fetch water every day.

 

Owlla Christine - Security guard at the Qgago Health Center II in Uganda
Owlla Christine – Security guard at the Qgago Health Center II in Uganda

When Christina Owila applied to be the security guard at Ogago Health Center II, she knew her job would include creating a safe and welcoming space for anyone seeking care at the center and potentially heading off any would-be thieves. What she didn’t know was that most of her energy would go towards keeping the center stocked with water.

While there is a school near to the health center that has a well, it is a shallow well rather than a deep borehole well like the ones that Drop in the Bucket drills. It has also been broken for more than a year. During the rainy season, this open well floods with polluted standing water, making the water unsafe to drink. The closest safe water source is a well at the distant trading center, a grueling walk in the hot sun. The trading center’s well also charges for the use of the well, a common practice in Uganda.

Christine wakes up hours before Ogago opens to make sure the center has the water it needs for the day. Whenever possible she makes the long walk to the training center, but money, time restrictions, and high demand mean that more often than not the open well is her only option. The patients at Ogago desperately need water to drink and use to take their medications, and new mothers need safe water so they can sponge bathe their newborns. Using water from the open well puts both new moms and their babies at risk of infection, but any water is better than no water.

Cecilia Avero is the director of Ogago Health Center II. She works tirelessly to find solutions for the water problem, but the center simply does not have the funds for a sustainable solution. The added strain of the coronavirus pandemic has made a difficult situation significantly worse. The new guidelines from Uganda’s Ministry of Health mean that the center has to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized twice a day, but this added workload also means more time spent walking for water.

Both Cecilia and Christine do everything they can to make sure their patients have clean water and sanitary working conditions for the medical staff, and the burden of the work and keeping the space clean is a lot to deal with. A well at the health center would change everything for the staff at Ogago and would allow them to spend their days with confidence and allow them to focus on their patients without the additional burden of walking for water.

How Can You Help?

Drop in the Bucket is currently running a campaign to raise the money for 20 wells at health centers in Pader district. By providing these healthcare specialists with clean water we can help them better serve their communities and help save lives. But we need your help!

While a single donation may not seem like it will make much of an impact, together we can turn every drop in the bucket into a wave that will change lives for the better. Please consider making a donation so that Cecilia and Christine can do what they do best: provide a safe healing space for their community.

The Ogago Health Center II in Uganda
Ogago Health Center II

To help Christine and the staff at Ogago Health Center please visit our 20 wells for 2020 clinics campaign.

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Drop in the Bucket is Drilling Wells for Health Centers in Uganda

Around the world, millions are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. And in rural Uganda communities have the added challenge of living without access to clean water. One place lack of water becomes a striking concern is rural health centers and clinics.

Rural clinics are the first line of health defense for remote communities throughout Africa. These local medical facilities, often staffed with only nurses, midwives or medical assistants, are the thing that stands between life and death for vulnerable and sick community members.

These are small but crucial institutions. They may be stark, with few instruments and minimal staff but they are a true lifeline.

Since the majority of households have only a bicycle for transportation, each day, in villages throughout Uganda, sick, injured and pregnant patients are walked, wheeled or physically carried into these rudimentary facilities with life-threatening conditions such as malaria, typhoid, infections, and yes… flus and viruses.

Although there are many challenges faced by the tireless healthcare workers, one of the biggest concerns is lack of clean water.

Imagine having to collect unclean water to clean a wound, give a feverish child some medicine or clean off a newborn baby. And now, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages, imagine adding the responsibility of protecting the community and patients from the deadly and highly-contagious virus.

Last month, as we wrapped up our most recent drilling projects, the local leaders from Pader district requested a meeting with us. They drove two-hours to our office to discuss the possibility of DROP drilling water for some of their desperate rural health centers. And although we did not have the funding at the time, we knew we had to try and help. This is why we are reaching out to you. We know times are tough for everyone right now, but if you are able to help, we could use your support.

How you can help!

So, for the remainder of 2020, DROP is dedicating our entire focus to raising money to drill wells for 20 health centers in Pader District of northern Uganda.

Please join us and support our campaign – 20 wells for 20 clinics in 2020.

Thank you for your support.

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August Drilling Updates

The COVID-19 crisis has had an enormous impact on the whole world for most of this year. And here in Uganda, life has also been at a standstill. Schools have been closed since March, gatherings of over a dozen people are banned, and all borders have been tightly shut down. But fortunately, since the need for clean water was so urgent to help fight the virus and protect the communities, Drop in the Bucket has been allowed to keep drilling, although under strict guidelines.

We recently finished drilling 12 wells for communities and schools in Pader and Nwoya districts of northern Uganda. And, last month, we were given the green light to finally begin our community trainings. With guidance from the local Covid-19 task forces, we have now completed training all of the village water management committees on strategies for proper care and maintenance of those new wells. The participants were required to wear face masks and sit in marked positions that adhere to the social distancing guidelines during the trainings. We also included an additional hygiene component that focuses on COVID-19 related procedures for operating the hand pumps and keeping the community safe. Water users are also required to wear face masks around the wells at all times, avoid congregating, and wash their hands before pumping water.

It has been a long three months of working without community involvement. Because of COVID-19, the communities were not even allowed to watch drilling progress. This was not normal and we missed them.

Our 2020 campaign will be aimed at providing clean water for 20 clinics and health centers in northern Uganda. Please consider supporting this campaign as we work to help these communities stay healthy and fight the virus.

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An Update from our Director April 2020

Greetings from Uganda. I hope everybody is staying safe and managing the new and unusual lives we are living during this coronavirus global crisis.

It’s been a dramatic couple of months for the world. When I returned to Uganda at the end of January, life was very different than it is today. Over the past couple of months, we’ve been reading reports about the unimaginable global death toll and hearing stories about the impact the COVID-19 lockdown has had on almost every corner of the earth.

Here, in the communities where we work, most people lack the basic necessities that are essential to fighting off a deadly virus – clean water and soap. And an outbreak of a virus like COVID-19 could easily devastate the country. For that reason, the nation has been actively participating in the global effort to shut down, social distance and stop the spread.

In February, the government began monitoring, testing and quarantining travelers coming in from high-risk countries. And by mid-March, a full shutting down of the country was underway. Businesses stopped operating, except those selling food or medicine. The airport was closed and students were sent home from schools. All public gatherings were banned, and even funerals were prohibited.

By the beginning of April, even more stringent measures went into place. All transportation, both public and private, was stopped. The remaining borders were closed and the military was dispatched to enforce a 7PM curfew.

Now, the streets of Uganda are empty.

The usually bustling streets of Kitgum, Uganda stand empty during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the people are being kept well informed. There is a website that is updated daily with the latest statistics on testing, quarantines, tracking and tracing. And the president gives regular speeches on the radio, which is the way everybody here gets their news. Even in the deep villages, people use radios to keep up with the outside world. He provides information on how the virus is easily spread and strategies for protecting yourself and others. He regularly reminds the country that it is their social responsibility to not get each other sick. And the best way to do that is to stay home.

And although these are some of the most extreme measures in all of Africa, there is no question that if coronavirus were to take hold here, it would be a disaster. Left unchecked, COVID-19 would tear through this country and they do not have the medical infrastructure to manage it. Without sufficient PPE, something like this would also take out a good percentage of their medical force and the country cannot afford to lose their valuable nurses and doctors.  Also, since so many rural villages do not have clean water, the virus could easily infect entire communities.

Empty streets in Kitgum Uganda during the Covid-19 pandemic

So the country completely shut down. And, as with the rest of the world, it has not been easy. Most people here live day to day and have no savings. Weekly village markets, which provide vital food, supplies and small economic opportunities to rural communities, have been stopped. But there was no option. The markets attract large numbers of people who crowd onto lorries bringing them from the villages. The entire way of life here is social and involves being very close to others. It is a breeding ground for a contagious virus.

But, for us here at DROP, it has been business as usual. When the shutdown began, the government officials in the district we are working appealed to us to please keep drilling. They granted us special permission to have our vehicles on the road and even provided soldiers to guard our equipment at times. We have had complete support because people here know that clean water not only saves lives, it also helps fight COVID-19. And we plan to help as much as we can, including expanding our community trainings to include a component that focuses on COVID-19, with tips on how to stay safe and stop the spread.

For the past 14 years, DROP has made it our mission to bring clean water to these rural communities. Last year alone, we drilled over 40 wells. And this year, despite the pandemic and country-wide lockdown, we have not let up.

Although the world can feel dark at times like this, it really brings a ray of light to the people here to know they have not been forgotten and that we are still coming, as promised, to bring them clean water.

So, thank you for your continued support. Stay safe and please keep washing your hands!

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