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Not On Target

January 18, 2012

I’m going to throw some acronyms at you today.

WaSH Movement

Perhaps you have heard of them or (more impressive) you know what each stand for (without using Google).

WaSH simply stands for “Water, Sanitation, Hygiene”. The “Movement” portion is specific to Ethiopia. WSSCC stands for “Water Supply & Sanitation Collaborative Council”. In 2004, wsscc along with many other government organizations, NGO’s, faith-based organizations, the private sector (and many others) joined together to establish the WaSH Movement to improve Health and Sanitation in the very poor country of Ethiopia.

Starting in 2004, and each subsequent year thereafter, the movement began with a theme. The theme was to be the focus that each organization would have in order to strengthen the movement by ensuring that the same information was being provided throughout Ethiopia. The annual themes so far have been:

2009/2010: Urban sanitation and hygiene
2007/2008: International Year of Sanitation
2006/2007: Water quality under the motto “Keep Water Safe”
2005/2006: Appropriate disposal of human wastes under the motto “Use Latrines for Your Health and Dignity”
2004/2005: Proper hand washing at critical times under the motto “Your Health is in Your Hands”

Many key people are involved with the “Movement” and locals, government officials, representatives of NGO’s and many more engage to discuss and coordinate training and studies. The Movement places communities, women and children at the center of the activities since it is probable that they are the key players in changing the behaviors within their communities.

(I will be revisiting this point about women and the impact they have on their communities in a later post.)

This all “sounds” like a good plan, but it’s not working.

Ethiopia is not meeting its targets with the proposed improvement in health and sanitation in urban and rural villages. You can click here for the chart on trends and targets for improved sanitation and drinking sources in Ethiopia.

By 2015 the goal was to have at least 52% of the total population (urban and rural combined) will have improved sanitation facilities and at least 59% improvement in the use of improved drinking water resources.

Currently Ethiopia is at a mere 12% improvement (since 1990) in sanitation facilities and 38% (since 1990) in the use of improved drinking water resources.


Current research has shown that at a rate of this improvement, they will not reach their goal until 2098.

This post isn’t fancy. It’s about statistics and acronyms and plans. I share it with you for you to better understand (briefly) what is being done to improve the water supply and sanitation at a bigger level. It is much more involved than merely landing in said country, drilling a well, and leaving. It’s complicated, it’s frustrating, it’s overwhelming, but it’s not to say it is a situation without hope. It is important to know numbers. It is important to know statistics. It is important to know what is being done on the government level. The more knowledgeable you are about a situation, the better understanding you have on how you can be of assistance.

I also hope you don’t see the above percentages as just numbers either. They do have faces and I hope to see a drastic improvement well before the projected date of 2098. Will you join?

Sanitation and Water for All


Money Down the Drain (or Water Well)…

January 17, 2012

The landscape of Turmi, an eight to ten hour drive from Arba Minch, is beautiful – arid and dusty but filled with short mesquite trees. The scenery looked much like Tucson, AZ (if you don’t count the horrible roads and the fact that we passed giraffes and natives in their traditional garb). It is here, in Turmi, where we visited the well sites that Tom and Teresa want to rehabilitate.

Turmi, Ethiopia

One afternoon, Tom lead us down a dirt pathway (it should be mentioned this is on the church compound in Turmi where this well site is located). About 400 meters down the path we came to a well. The slab of concrete holding the well in place had actually shifted by 2-3 feet from the rain and flooding that occurs during the rainy season. A plaque was displayed prominently on the well naming the donor and date of installation (to include the depth that the well had been drilled). The depth of the well was decent. At least two aquifers had probably been drilled through, but it had been built on a small slope so gravity and rain only spelled defeat for this water well that was only around ten-years-old. As the cement slab shifted it allowed ground water to seep into the well, contaminating the water.

This well was broken, poorly designed, and a site for sore eyes. Below is video of this particular well.

A few questions kept haunting me throughout my time in Ethiopia, “Where was the follow-up from the foreign aid workers who had installed each well? Where were the plans to ensure that this didn’t happen and if a well did break (which they will break down from normal wear and tear) then who is trained to fix the well?”

I won’t name the organization who installed this particular well. I am not here to sniper off organizations, but I will make a very broad statement that I think many aid organizations do a lot more harm than good.

I did a google search on “broken wells East Africa” and very little came back in regards to addressing the broken wells. My search results turned up many articles and organizations who are installing new wells, which is good, but if we don’t look to see what was done in the past (in this instance the many dilapidated wells that scatter Ethiopian landscapes) then we will continue to make the same mistake over and over.

The impact can be significant in rehabilitating wells. I am impressed with Tom and Teresa’s motivation to improve the health of the communities (in the Southern Omo Valley of Ethiopia) and their dedication to what they do. They believe in rehabilitating the broken wells only once a relationship has been established within the community. Tom is currently recruiting men from the local villages to “apprentice” with him (through the help of his partner, Emany) who will learn how to repair and fix wells. Each of his apprentices will be responsible for maintaining the well and they will be able to fix and have access to the necessary parts locally so no third party involvement is needed once the training is complete.

(Emany – Currently partnered with the Rieder’s and Project Ethiopia)

I respect the avenue that Tom is taking in response to the water crisis. It’s a tedious and exhausting process, but one that I believe is sustainable. After seeing broken wells scattered across much of Ethiopia, I have become more cautious and aware of how to research organizations that are recipients of my donations and I challenge you to do more research before you give your money or your time to an organization. Look for sustainable approaches that are about opening doors for the locals rather than quick fixes to big problems. Ultimately, I don’t believe access to clean water is a quick fix. Digging (wells) is easy, but it takes time and personal investment in a community to see real change.

Better yet, if you are looking for an organization (specifically a water organization), then become a part of Project Ethiopia. I’ve seen the work they are doing with my own two eyes. I have laid hands on the broken wells that Tom and Teresa will rehabilitate through the help of the locals and sponsors like you.

For more information on water projects click here or visit (an organization that I respect and has a sustainable approach with their aid work).

What organizations are you proud to be a part of? What involvement do you feel passionate about?

Faith to Do It

January 16, 2012

I’ve moved (again) to Alaska. The past few months have been a blur and to give you a quick look as to why, here’s the past few months (bullet point style):

* August 31 – Movers packed up the last of our belongings in Columbia, SC
* September 1 – Handed over the keys and title of my Mini Cooper to the new owner (the last possible day to sell the car and it sold! Never give up hope!)
* September 2 – Packed up the last of our belongings in our Honda Element and headed for our new home – Anchorage, Alaska
* September 2-12 – Spent the next 10 days traveling and visiting friends/family in Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota.
* September 12-19 – One week in the car traveling through Canada and Alaska
* September 19-October 2 – Found a home (but couldn’t move in) and nailed down the last of my to-do list before I left for Ethiopia (and getting used to one way streets in Anchorage)
* October 3 – Left my husband, new home, and pup for Ethiopia
* November 5 – Stepped off a plane and into a frozen land of snow and darkness, but the shining moment was seeing a smiling husband waiting for me.
* November-January 1 – A busy time getting Christmas presents in the mail and getting a home ready (Matt had to unpack all on his own since I left before the movers had arrived in Alaska).
* January 1-Present Day: Job Searching

I committed to finding a job after the 1st of the year. Man, it’s the pits. Ha!

I am looking for work with a NPO here in Anchorage or any NPO in the Lower 48 that will allow me to work from home.

Much easier said than done. I have no contacts. No connections. No networks here in Alaska.

I am looking to work for a NPO, water related or specific to the community here in Alaska, to gain experience in the non profit sector. To better understand the inner workings especially after coming from the “for profit” business world.

But the past few weeks have left me exhausted. Either the jobs are not within in Alaska or they are with organizations that I am not remotely interested in. At times it can leave me feeling defeated; as if I will never find a job that I believe will be a good fit – or worse yet, I begin to believe that I’m not a good fit for any organization/business.

This blog was started because I needed an outlet for my passion – clean water for those who don’t have access.

I am still just as passionate about this crisis and I refuse to let my skills and desire to help be wasted away because of my lack of confidence in my capabilities.

This job search has made me feel less confident in who I am and made me compare my skill set to everyone/anyone. But lo and behold, God always knows my heart and knows just what to “say”. When I read this verse today I knew I had to share it with you.

Romans 12:3
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

Today I definitely didn’t think of myself “more highly that I ought”, but rather thought of myself just as God thinks of me: capable, wonderfully made, and filled with His peace.

So with that verse on my mind, I sat down at my computer and (boldly) I applied for a few jobs and contacted a few “Water organizations”. What have I got to lose?

I can’t stand living another week where I never follow my heart. My heart is for others. My heart is to apply my skill set to irradiating the water crisis. To give a voice for those who can’t be heard over the din.

I must continue to follow my heart. I must follow my passions and stop listening to my doubts. What are your passions and what is stopping you?

Speak Truth

January 11, 2012

I owe you an explanation.

In November I told you a little about Hiwot of El Olam in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was pretty excited to hear back from an organization, Girl Effect, who wanted to feature Hiwot and her work as the monthly featured organization on their website. El Olam was featured, but just not as December spotlight organization.

Here’s why:

I won’t go into details here, however, after doing more research and being in contact with a sister organization of El Olam here in the States on how potential donors could make donations, I was informed that there were certain events that had transpired with donations that concerned the sister organization; concerns that lead them to believe that El Olam wasn’t being as transparent and honest as they should be with donors funds.

I was deflated. I was on such an emotional roller coaster coming back from Ethiopia that upon hearing this news I went into a downward tailspin.

We are all human. We all make mistakes. And just because something is labeled “non-profit” or listed as a “Christian” organization doesn’t mean that there won’t be disappointments. I am learning this fact…the hard way.

With that being said, I also want to let you know that I am still in contact with El Olam. I have not closed the door. I will continue to reach out and find out ways I can be of assistance without donating money right now.

Project Wuha was started as a means for me to communicate to you about organizations with the water crisis. While this project, El Olam, isn’t necessarily “water” related it reminds me that I have the moral obligation to keep you up-to-date with information that I deem important (to speak the truth as I know it) and will allow you to stay plugged in with ways you can donate your time, money, or good will.

With every experience something can be learned. What have you dealt with lately that has made you take a step back, reevaluate, and press forward?

Guest Post #5: Lauren & Water

December 5, 2011

When I returned from my first trip to Ethiopia, I recall praying to God and being very upset. Through my tears I remember asking and pleading to God what I was to do with my experiences and I simply felt Him say, “see them as I see them…”
The truth is, is that I don’t believe we see most people, not just people in a developing world, as God sees them. We see our neighbors as annoying or people that we don’t really need to get to know. We see the homeless on our own city’s streets as beggars and a nuisance. So, “see them as I see them” took on a whole new meaning for me. I could no longer look at the homeless man that sat outside the Safeway store in Tucson as a “nobody”. I had to know his name. When I moved to Columbia, I knew it was important for me to actually get to *know* my neighbors. To actually have a relationship/friendship with the people that live only a few hundred feet from my front door. And Ethiopia, well, it’s a country that I view as a gift. It was my invitation to change and I will forever be grateful to God for using the people of Ethiopia to change my heart.
Today’s post from Lauren convicts me, once again, and serves as a reminder that we are here to live *relationally* with one another; to give of our time, our resources, ourselves. We do all of this because this is where change begins; not only a physical change in people’s livelihoods, but a change in our own hearts (for the better)…

Reflections on Ethiopia: Water

It bothered me that my kitchen is kind of small. Every morning I fill the coffee pot using clean water straight from the tap, turn around, take one step, and dump it into the machine. A little too convenient. I then have to walk to another room to press a button to turn on the water heater to take a hot shower and wash dishes. And yes, I have to wash dishes by hand because I don’t have a dishwasher (besides Paul). I also have to deal with the loathsome, mundane task of loading and unloading laundry into the washing machine. How inconvenient!

But then again I’m not one of the 884 million people in the world that does not have access to safe water (WHO-UNICEF). I don’t have to wash my clothes in a river that a goat or man just urinated or crapped in, and then fill my water bottle downstream. I don’t ever have to worry about my children drinking contaminated water like the Hamer girl we met below, and wonder if they will be one of the 1.8 million children who die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation (UNDP). I don’t have to walk several miles just to get any water and carry the 40lb weight of it on my head like most women in Africa and Asia (UNDP). I will never have to ration and prioritize every precious drop of water.

Instead, I am one of the average North Americans who uses 400 liters of water a day (UNDP). While the average person in the developing world uses 10 liters of water every day (Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)).

But these were just facts that I could emotionally and physically distance myself from. That way I could voice my every complaint about daily inconveniences without guilt or perspective. That’s why Facebook was invented right? The problem is that I went to Ethiopia and these facts took on faces. And these faces became friends. And now it’s downright PERSONAL.

In the face of tragedies, injustice, and crises like the water problem, we tend to ask “Where in the world are you God??” I’ve heard it said that God is likely responding with “Where in the world are My People??”

The greatest tragedy would be to stand before Jesus and hear him say:
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. (Matthew 25: 42, 45).

Tom and Teresa Rieder see Jesus in the little girl below. Do you see Him too?

Pray, Give, and Get Involved at

Christmas Conspiracy…

December 3, 2011

…also known as Advent Conspiracy. Check it out!

[AC] Promo 2011 from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

I was first introduced to Advent Conspiracy last year. I instantly thought, “Wow, this is awesome!” and I wanted to really give more of my time, myself, and I challenged myself to make my gifts (or at least put a lot more thought into them then I had previous years). However, I’m ready to take it up to the next level.

As I dried the clean dishes in the “kitchen” in Turmi, Ethiopia (with water from the well a few miles down the road…that had to be boiled…over a fire…that had to be started with precious firewood), I began to think of Christmas. Very odd thought to have in the middle of Turmi in October, but I started to think about all the decorations I would see upon my return (sure enough, the airport in Amsterdam had all the Christmas trimmings and bah-humbug attitudes to go along).

I mentioned to Teresa and Lauren (as I dried a plate) my idea of Christmas Conspiracy; instead of requesting gifts for myself, I would make a “list” of gifts for my new friends in Ethiopia. Lauren and Teresa jumped on board right away and here we are, only 22 days away from Christmas.

I initially thought of having only my immediate family involved, however, I thought of you, the readers. I wanted to share with you what I’m doing and maybe give rise to some ideas of your own. Maybe you could serve at a soup kitchen during the holidays, make all of your gifts, spend more time with friends and family, or instead of gifts for yourself, you collect them to give to others. Which is what I am doing this year. These are just a few ideas to make Christmas more personal and intentional.

I met many individuals while in Ethiopia, but a few are near and to dear to my heart (and to Lauren’s). I have included a (very) brief story of each individual along with Christmas ideas for each. This list is to generate ideas of how you can create your own Christmas Conspiracy and/or where and how you can donate a gift to someone very special to me in Ethiopia.

Ribka is a widow with three children (I believe). She is Tom and Teresa’s housekeeper and had us over for dinner at her home one evening. The power went out and we ate dinner by one solar light that was dim. She’s a sweet woman who cleaned up after 4 Americans every day – no easy feat!
* Rubber cleaning gloves (small)
* Thin hand gloves (similar to $2.00 gloves @Target)
* Good Earth Original Tea
* Flashlight & batteries to fit

Aswfaw is the guard on Tom and Teresa’s compound (same compound as the church) and he is in his late teens or early twenties. He has severe eye allergies and it has impacted his life negatively in many ways. Even with severe eye problems he still loves to read and hopes to go to college some day.
* Webster Dictionary (he told me it was his dream to have one, so he can practice his english)
* Book light and batteries
* Sunglasses
* Garden trowel (he is also a gardener)

Is a monkey. No, not really, but he is a teenage boy who is a bit mischievous, but polite, and can climb anything (seriously, I witnessed his climbing skills). He is currently living in Turmi and like most teenagers, he likes music and “super-fly” sunglasses.
* Inexpensive Mp3 player
* Sunglasses – the bigger the better! 🙂

Marta is a 19-year-old translator. She currently lives in Menegelte in a hut with her mother. Her father is a missionary with the Hamer people and so she served as our translator with them. She, like Yakob, enjoys music and making bracelets (showed her how to make friendship bracelets).
* Picture frames
* Embroidery floss of various colors (for friendship bracelets)
* iTunes gift card (I have an old iPod, just need music)

Emanuel is Marta’s older brother who is now working with and for Project Ethiopia. He left a well-paying job with a NPO based out of Seattle that was working in Ethiopia because he believes in what Tom and Teresa are doing. He is very well-organized and is familiar with the Hamer people of Turmi after living there for many years.
* White dress shirt (maybe a 17-18 in neck size)
* Notebooks (moleskin notebooks are great)
* Binder/folder
* Nice(r) pens

Melekeas is a worker who Tom and Teresa have hired to work for the Bekele family (featured below). He is working very hard to fix the Bekele’s home and to earn money to go to school. He just bought a bicycle so he can get around town much easier/faster.
* Backpack
* Bike lock

Bekele Family:
The Bekele’s are a family of 5. Bekele is training to be a brick maker. The mother (Amarech) has suffered from polio along with her son (Yigermal). The youngest is 8-years-old (Misganaye) and both she and Yigermal are attending school. Amarech’s mother, Ako, lives with them and spins cotton. However, there is so much more to say about them. They have been supported by Tom and Teresa, Project Ethiopia, and even my parents are serving as their “sponsor”. They currently are in a home where they bought it for the advertised price, but like many things in foreign countries, the people who sold them the home initially know they are friends with “Americans” and harassed the Bekele’s into signing a legal contract that states that they have to pay them more money. In American dollars this is $1500. If you would like to donate money directly to the Bekele family, please send a check to the following address and on the memo line write “Project Ethiopia: Bekele Family” (you will receive a taxable donation statement):

Emerald Bay Community Church
160 LaSalle
Bullard, TX 75757

Other gifts are as follows:
* Long socks for a 10-year-old boy (for his braces he wears on his legs)
* Long socks for a 5’8″ woman (she wears braces as well)
* Nail polish, lotion, hair boys (Misganaye)
* Stickers, paper, markers
* English bible
* Nice blouse (Women:L, Men:S)
* Hair Scarf

If you are interested in donating any of these items listed above, you can contact me here and I will send them wrapped in Christmas paper to Tom and Teresa in Arba Minch, Ethiopia. However, I won’t be sending the gifts until the end of January which is when Tom and Teresa will return to Ethiopia.

I truly wish you peace and joy this Christmas season!

Guest Post #4: Lauren & “Super Christians”

December 3, 2011

I’m about 2 days late on this post. I’ve been without internet for over 48 hours since a tall truck drove through our back alley and took out the cable (the cable line that is lit up with a big yellow tag that reads “Caution Cable Line”). Oh well. Anyway, I haven’t been able to post Lauren’s guest posts so I will do it over the weekend.

An update on Elolam and Girl Effect: Once the story is approved you will see it featured on their Facebook page. In the meantime there is no *easy* way to donate. I have information for her bank account, however, no way for people to make a donation online with a 501c3 status. I have been doing a bit of research, though, so stay tuned…

Lauren’s back with another great post and don’t let the title fool you, there were no “Super Christians” that we met along the way. Just people like you and me who are doing amazing things because of God. Plain and simple.
Without further ado…

Reflections on Ethiopia: Follow Me

’ve always been a little bit wary of missionaries. These “Super Christians” who were making the world a better place surely looked down on us regular folk. Missionaries were best admired from afar, but never too close so I wouldn’t feel bad about myself. So you can imagine that I was very worried when God asked me live and work with two missionaries in southern Ethiopia for three weeks. I thought “God, I’ll be walking on holy eggshells the whole time, and they will be offended at my earthly sense of humor and general weirdness! Do missionaries even laugh at jokes about poo?”

To my relief, Tom and Teresa turned out to be perfectly normal imperfect folk like me. Teresa has a Diet Coke addiction, Tom’s kind of a bad driver (sorry TomJ), and they even have tiffs like other married couples. They are also hilariously weird. When they met Jen and me at the airport, we noticed that Tom had a rat tail tuff of hair growing on the back of his head. Teresa had it cut it like that without his knowledge, waiting to see how long it took for someone to notice. I think the humor of the rat tail was lost on their Ethiopian friends because no one said anything until we arrived. We knew then that the Rieders were kindred spirits.

But while totally normal people, the Rieders are doing totally abnormal things for the glory of God.

Francis Chan asks in Crazy Love, “How many of us would really leave our families, our jobs, our education, our friends, our connections, our familiar surroundings, and our homes if Jesus asked us to? If he just showed up and said, ‘follow me’?” It’s not normal that Tom and Teresa left their families, their sweet dog Elle, and a nice home in a gated community. They were living the American Dream as retirees. A year ago they were cruising on the smooth roads of their safe neighborhood in a golf cart, and today they are dodging potholes, people, and goats in the Deathmobile (Jen’s fond name for the Landcruiser). It’s not normal for a woman like Teresa who suffers from severe back pain (a condition that almost killed her several years ago) to care more about the health and safety of women and children in Ethiopia. It’s not normal for an older (but not old!), fat (Tom’s words, not mine. And by the way, he’s lost 60 pounds since he moved to Ethiopia so now he’s a slim jim) to subject himself to the physical hardship of rehabilitating wells in the African bush so that strangers can have clean water. Why would Jesus call two people who had never served in the mission field to follow him so far and to such an extreme?

Because GOD DOES NOT CALL THE EQUIPPED, HE EQUIPS THE CALLED (thanks Pastor Reimer for reminding me of this on Sunday). None of us are too old, too young, too poor, too rich, too fat, too skinny, or too sick to be called. Jesus adds no disclaimer to His commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The truth is we are all called. The question is who is listening?

Pray, Give, and Go to: