RANCHO SANTA FE — Rancho Sante Fe Rotary and fellow Rotary clubs played a big part in raising more than $1 million for the nonprofit group Water For Sudan to buy equipment to drill wells in the dry, arid region of southern Sudan where the need for fresh water is enormous.
Refugees from the second Sudan civil war, which ended in 2005, have returned to villages with no paved roads, no electricity, no organized plans for development and no clean water supply.
“You don’t have to go very far to find a place to drill a well,” Burl Jordan, Rotarian and Water For Sudan volunteer, said. “Everybody is in need of a water source.”
Dep Tuany, formerly of Sudan, knows the impact of Sudan’s lack of clean water firsthand.
“I lost my son to it,” Tuany said. “One of my kids was a victim of waterborne diseases. I am heartfelt that children are still dying as a consequence of waterborne diseases.”
From 1982 to 1994, Tuany lived with his wife and children in a Sudan refugee camp. He was unaware that the water he and his family drank at the camp carried waterborne diseases that would eventually cause his son’s illness and death.
The shortage of clean water and lack of education about clean water standards is something Tuany is working to change.
Tuany became an activist for clean water in 2004 and a spokesperson for Water For Sudan in 2007.
Rancho Sante Fe Rotary Club heard Tuany speak about the crisis in Sudan and made it their mission to ensure Sudan villages have clean drinking water.
Before Water For Sudan drilled wells for 45 villages, it would take the villagers up to eight hours to fetch water from sources that were often 10 miles away. The water they carried back was usually unsuitable for drinking.
“It would take eight hours, four going and four coming,” Tuany said. Children were usually sent to gather water. After a daylong trip there was no time for children to attend school.
Wells have changed life in those villages. “Now it takes one hour and it’s clean water,” Tuany said. “It’s a pure gift from America.”
Water For Sudan has been digging wells in southern Sudan for three years.
To put more wells in place, Tuany traveled to Sudan with Jordan and the Water For Sudan team last January to pick up the new drilling equipment, drive it to southern Sudan and drill wells.
Daytime temperatures were more than 120 degrees and nighttime temps were 105. The trucks that transported the drills traveled over rutty roads at an average speed of 5 miles per hour.
The first stop was Maiwut, where Tuany’s mother lives.
“My goal was to bring it (a well) to my mother,” Tuany said. “And save other children still suffering.”
In Maiwut houses are scraped together out of mud, grass and other available materials.
There is a notable presence of mosquitoes. Clouds of 50 mosquitoes at a time will land on people. Flu and malaria are common ailments.
Jordan stayed in Sudan for more than a month to help with moving the equipment and setting up the drilling schedule.
Tuany stayed for six months to oversee drilling operations in Maiwut and the larger area of Ulang.
Ulang is made up of about 200 smaller villages with populations of between 50,000 and 25,000. The future goal is to establish a well in every village in Ulang.
“The work is still huge,” Tuany said.
“It’s the biggest mental challenge I had yet,” Jordan said. Unfamiliar with the land and the culture, Jordan was not sure what to expect.
“We were extremely welcome,” Jordan said. “They knew we were there to help change their living situation.”
The problem in Sudan is getting more global attention and help is slowly coming from nonprofit groups like Water For Sudan.
The new well-digging equipment purchased with monies raised locally makes a significant impact. The drill allows deeper, wider wells to be dug. Clean water from wells support life, building and future farming and commerce in Sudan.
Tuany and Jordan will return to southern Sudan with the Water For Sudan team next year. The goal is to dig 30 wells a year.
It takes about $9,000 to dig a well. Future wells depend on ongoing fundraising that Rancho Sante Fe Rotary and other organizations stimulate.
Providing clean water is a focused mission for Tuany and his collages. “People see a different color,” Tuany said. “They see other people far away and think about their condition.”
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