SOLANA BEACH — Rancho Santa Fe Rotary and fellow Rotary clubs play a big part in raising money for the nonprofit group Water For Sudan to buy equipment to drill wells in the arid region of southern Sudan where the need for fresh water can mean life or death.
Last month, they got a special shot in the arm from a 16-year-old Torrey Pines student, Charlie Reed, who, along with the help of the members of her Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club-sponsored Interact Club, hosted a Water for Sudan fundraiser. Working with other members of the Interact Club, Reed put together the party held at her father, Martin Reed’s Sequoia Solar business in Solana Beach. It featured live music by her friend, Connor Fabiano, plus appetizers and desserts that were homemade by Interact club members
“It was a wonderful event,” the young hostess said. “We raised nearly $2,500.”
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,” Rotarian and Water For Sudan volunteer Burl Jordan said. “Everybody is in need of a water source.”
Dep Tuany, a former Sudanese refugee and now director of the Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego, knows the impact of Sudan’s lack of clean water firsthand.
“I lost my son to it,” Tuany said. “One of my children 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 and his fellow Sudanese were unaware that the water they drank at the camp carried waterborne diseases that would cause infant 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 Santa Fe Rotary Club members 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 the youngsters 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. In Maiwut, houses are scraped together out of mud, grass and other available materials and mosquitoes are a constant scourge prompting flu and malaria.
“My goal was to bring it (a well) to my mother,” Tuany said. “And save other children still suffering.”
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 25,000 and 50,000. 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 for supporters of Sudan is getting more global attention, although 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. 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 again next year with the overall goal to dig 30 wells a year. It takes about $9,000 to dig one well. Future wells depend on ongoing fundraising that youngsters like Charlie Reed, Rancho Santa Fe Rotary and other organizations stimulate.
The new well-digging equipment purchased with monies raised locally makes a significant impact. The new equipment allows deeper, wider wells to be dug, supporting life as well as building, future farming and commerce in Sudan.