Writer and humanitarian aid worker Shelly Galvin recently contributed an article to the Impakter blog about Drop in the Bucket’s work in Uganda. It covers a brief overview of the history of Uganda, the origins and history of Drop in the Bucket and talks about some of our programs, like our village savings groups and our work in menstrual hygiene management.
John and Stacey have learned a lot over the last 13 years since DROP’s inception. But, one thing has been a constant- their dedication to creating solutions that last. They don’t want to return to the same villages time and time again to repair and re-drill wells. Rather, they want their work to have a wider, more encompassing reach. The water issue is far more complicated and intricately interwoven with the poverty and inequity present in Uganda than they had anticipated.
Today is World Refugee Day! It’s a good day to reflect on the work we did last year at the Palabek Refugee Settlement in Uganda. The project provided clean water to thousands of South Sudanese refugees who had arrived in Uganda with nothing except the clothes they were carrying. Many of the refugees had walked for several weeks to get to the settlement. They arrived with their families and the clothes they were carrying, but little else. Children walked for hours in the hot sun with no shoes. Mothers walked carrying babies on their backs.
The refugees were fleeing the drought, famine, and conflict of South Sudan and arrived at Palabek hoping for peace, stability and the chance at a new life. One of the wells we drilled was the first well that the refugees would reach on arrival at the settlement.
We were proud to have been a part of this project and thank everyone who helped make it possible.
Additionally, a generous donation from packH2O provided 25,000 water backpacks with taps to help transport the water and keep it clean.
Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day. Discussions about menstruation have long been taboo. But the world is changing. And as we strive to lift up the girls we work with and support them in their quest for education, this is a topic we cannot overlook.
Since 2015, DROP has been implementing projects that train students about Menstrual Hygiene Management.
In the areas we work, a large majority of girls are not enrolled in school and those who are usually drop out by 5th grade. Supporting these girls means understanding all of the issues that affect them, from cultural and political to basic health and hygiene. Although there are many reasons girls lose out on education, forced early marriage, weak support structure, and menstruation are at the top.
The fact is, menstruation keeps girls home from school in many parts of the world. Over time they end up dropping out due to missed days and falling behind, as well as the inconveniences and embarrassment. But this is mostly due to lack of information and supplies. With our program, we tackle the taboos head-on. Along with constructing school toilets with handwashing stations and changing rooms, we have a comprehensive program to inform both boys and girls about menstruation.
We place informational posters around the school, work with the teachers and form clubs that use plays and songs to discuss sensitive topics. Our teams also organize instructional workshops for both girls and boys on how to sew washable, reusable pads out of local flannel. And we train mothers on selling the pads to the local community. It may seem simple but the impact of this program is huge.
On this Menstrual Hygiene Day, we salute the people around the world who are breaking down the barriers and confronting these taboos. These girls deserve the same opportunities as boys to explore their potential because knowledge is power. At DROP, we believe in using all the tools we can to spread knowledge and empower the next generation.
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.