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#GivingTuesday2017

The holiday season is in full swing as we’re about a week away from Thanksgiving! You may remember from our Angels Watching Over Us blog a few weeks ago that we referenced the launching of our new Drop by Drop campaign this year during Giving Tuesday. As November 28th (#givingtuesday2017) quickly approaches, we wanted to provide some more exciting details around this new avenue to give to Water To Thrive.

Giving Tuesday, perhaps better recognizable as #givingtuesday, is a global initiative that was started as a way to focus back on spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving traditionally has been a day of giving thanks, followed by every deal under the sun. From Black Friday, to Small Business Saturday, concluding with Cyber Monday, we give thanks and then buy buy buy! While consumerism in and of itself is not wrong, it has seemed lately it gets harder and harder to hang onto the true spirit and meaning of the holidays. Giving Tuesday bookends the shopping frenzy in an effort to bring us back to being thankful for what we do have, and giving back in whatever way we can. To learn more about the #givingtuesday movement, visit their website at givingtuesday.org.

This year on Giving Tuesday (November 28th, mark your calendars!) Water to Thrive will kick off our new Drop by Drop Fund to offer an additional way to give back. Our 100% Promise has always been extremely important to us, which means that 100% of every dollar donated to water projects goes directly to those projects. This has meant that we’ve needed to maintain funding for operations through other avenues. With fundraising events such as Chef’s Table, as well as our Water Angel commitments, we’ve been so blessed by those who have given directly to the operations of Water to Thrive.

We understand that not everyone has the financial means to commit to becoming a Water Angel. So our goal with the Drop by Drop Fund is to offer anyone who feels led the opportunity to donate any amount to the operational costs of Water to Thrive. Or, if you’d like to take the next step, consider making a five-year pledge to the Drop by Drop Fund (contact Susanne Wilson for more info).  We’re not wavering from our 100% commitment. What we’ve found is that as we grow internally, we’re able to accomplish so much more than we ever dreamed in the rural communities of Africa. Every dollar invested in operations equates to a $7 water return for a village, and this opportunity to raise more money on the operational side will help us continue to do big work in the years to come.

To donate on Giving Tuesday, head to w2tgiving.org/giving-tuesday. You are helping us continue the important work of building wells and changing lives.

 

 

Climb Kilimanjaro with W2T

Stop what you’re doing. Be still and take a moment to think. Close your eyes and let your mind wander. Ask yourself the question: “What events in my life have shaped who I am?” It’s a hard question at first, but the more you think the more things will start to come to you. Maybe it's milestones like graduating college and beginning your career. The birth of a child or the death of someone close to you. Late night conversations and trips that weren't just beautiful places, but that changed the way you look at the world and yourself. If you’re thinking about all these moments and are both grateful for them and desperate for more, then you may be hearing your adventurous spirit call to you - and we have just what it needs.

In June 2018, as part of our year-long celebration of our 10th anniversary of service, Water to Thrive Executive Director Susanne Wilson will be leading an expedition to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, in our service nation of Tanzania. Standing 19,318 feet above sea level, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. What better trip could you take to combine the adventure of a lifetime with changing lives forever?

Water to Thrive’s summer expedition will raise funds to support our mission of bringing clean, safe water to rural African communities in need, and will launch with visits to Tanzanian water projects. Afterwards, the group will begin the eight-day climb up the Lemosho Route of the mountain on target for a full moon summit.

The trip will take place June 14th – July 1st 2018, so mark your calendar. When presented with a challenge, it's tempting to try and talk ourselves out of it, and make ourselves believe we can't do it. So we leave you with these facts to inspire you:
 

  • South African Bernard Goosen twice scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro in a wheelchair. His first summit, in 2003, took nine days; his second, four years later, took only six. Born with cerebral palsy, Goosen used a modified wheelchair, mostly without assistance, to climb the mountain.

  • The oldest person ever to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro was 87-year-old Frenchman Valtee Daniel.

  • Nearly every climber who has summited Uhuru Peak, the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim, has recorded his or her thoughts about the accomplishment in a book stored in a wooden box at the top. (Now that’s a book I want to read!)

  • Almost every kind of ecological system is found on the mountain: cultivated land, rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and an arctic summit.

We’re making preparations, so make it your goal for 2018, and contact Susanne at susanne@watertothrive.org or by phoning 512.206.4495 for more information.

 

 

Angels Watching Over Us

The picture around Angels might be different from person to person, but the general consensus is that Angels are a special supernatural being charged by God to watch over and protect us. At Water To Thrive, we have a special group of wonderful people that watch over us, so to speak, and so we’ve dubbed them with the fitting title of “Water Angels”.

Now more than ever, donors are concerned with where exactly their money is going. A commitment we made early on was to be fully transparent and honest with our donation process so our contributors can give confidently, knowing that 100% of their financial donation toward water is going directly to water projects. However, every organization, whether a business or a nonprofit like W2T, has operational costs such as marketing, partnerships, fundraising, and in our case, travel to manage programs in the field. That money has to come from somewhere.

That’s where our Water Angels come in. Water Angels are a group of individuals who have committed to giving $1,000 or more each year specifically to help fund the organizational side of W2T. Oftentimes this generous donation is in addition to their financial giving toward building wells. We, in turn, work hard to keep administrative costs low. This group of people is so dear to us because not only are they invested in making change in the world, but they also stand behind the work that we’re doing here at W2T.

We understand that everyone isn’t in the position to make a $1,000 commitment every year, but may still want to help with our operational costs. Coming up on this year’s Giving Tuesday (Nov. 28th), we will be launching our brand new Drop by Drop campaign. This will be an ongoing fund to directly aid our operational expenses, and we will be seeking pledges of varying amounts from people who feel called to support W2T in this way. Giving Tuesday will be our chance to share this new campaign with you, as well as give everyone an opportunity to designate how they would like their donation to be used in a way we have not made available in the past. If you’re interested in contributing to operational costs outside of your normal well giving, make sure to visit www.w2tgiving.org come November 28th to give directly to the Drop by Drop Fund. You can also contact Susanne Wilson anytime at susanne@watertothrive.org to inquire about becoming a Water Angel. We are incredibly grateful for all our current Water Angels and so many of you who continue to bless us in so many ways. Thank you!

 

Village Campaign in Honor of the Reformation

 

The year seems to be flying by. If you’re anything like us, October seems to officially usher in Fall, and with that comes the knowledge that the Holidays are upon us and the year is quickly coming to a close. This year however, October has extra significance (apart from just the free candy we all look forward to). October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of the church.

The beginning of the Reformation was triggered by the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517. This made clear that a relationship with God is accessible to the common man, sparking a breaking away from the old rules of religion. On the 500th anniversary of his act of conscientious defiance, it is important to take time and reflect on how that moment changed the world religiously, economically, politically, socially, and intellectually. Water To Thrive is excited to be hosting an exclusive, one-night showing of the new movie Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World. This will be the only screening happening in Austin, so check out our Facebook page to RSVP!

 

Thinking about so many people laboring under harsh and relentless conditions all those years ago, who rose up and sought revolution, got us thinking about how in some ways not that much has changed in 500 years. Experience tells us that change will continue to take place. Even when transformation brings challenges, God is at work. We invite you to join us in putting your faith in action to bring clean water to the Chare Dike Village in Ethiopia, in celebration of the anniversary of the Reformation. Chare Dike village members are faced with a decision each day we never would even consider. Do they want to stay close to home and collect drinking water from an unsafe, local river, or do they want mostly women and children to set out on a 3 hour walk to a protected spring source? The spring would provide safe water, but the walk is anything but safe. The journey also consumes valuable time that is needed for earning a living and attending school. Together we believe we can change this and build a well in the Chare Dike Village. To learn more about this village and to give directly to this campaign, click here.

 

However you, your friends, and families may be celebrating this historic event, we look forward to hearing stories, and taking part in remembering by giving back. God Bless!

 


 

 

Happy National Coffee Day!

Photo above is of a woman preparing coffee for W2T travelers at a village in Ahferom, Tigray in northern Ethiopia.

 

 

It’s National Coffee Day, so grab a fresh cup and enjoy this post all about the drink many of us couldn’t live without! Whenever we’re visiting wells in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, we always look forward to the time spent with communities over a cup (or many cups) of coffee. When you hear about Ethiopian Coffee, the association you think of might be Ethiopia Blend from Starbucks. However, in reality it’s so much more than that. The culture around coffee is so strong in Ethiopia that they often have traditional coffee ceremonies. This ceremony is a process of roasting, grinding, brewing, and serving coffee in three pours to guests and friends in order to honor their presence. Learn more about an Ethiopian coffee ceremony in this cool video from SAVEUR Magazine!

Coffee is probably one of the most recognizable parts of Ethiopian culture, and not just because it leads the country in domestic consumption. It’s estimated that about 15 million of the country’s population rely on some aspect of coffee production for their livelihood. They are Africa's top producer of coffee, the world's seventh largest producer of coffee, and contribute around 3% of the total global coffee market product. That’s a lot of coffee!

Coffee has been part of Ethiopia's indigenous cultural traditions for more than 10 generations, and surprisingly the production process has not changed much. Nearly all work, from the cultivating to the drying, is still being done by hand and in rural areas. Coffee was originally discovered because it grows wild in Ethiopia, and while you can still find wild coffee growing in mountain forests, nowadays farmers cultivate coffee through four different systems: forest coffee, semi-forest coffee, garden coffee and plantation coffee, with the largest producers being the latter two.

We love our coffee as much as the next person, but through our travels have realized that in America we tend to live in a coffee culture of necessity. We need it to wake us up in the morning, or keep us going through the day. However, there’s something very honorable about the way Ethiopians respect their coffee. They celebrate the economic value the product has on the individual and the country, and in turn use it to honor themselves and eachother. So as you drink your coffee today, we hope you celebrate all that it represents, and of course, enjoy the yummy taste and the extra boost of energy!

 

Photo above is from a coffee ceremony performed during a site visit at the Gosu Kora Primary School in central Ethiopia.

The Final Countdown...

 

We’re getting so close to our annual Chef’s Table Austin gala we can almost taste it! There has been so much interest so far this year and we have been blown away by how much this event grows each year. Chef’s Table is our biggest annual fundraiser that helps offset the operational expenses Water To Thrive incurs each year. It is important to us that when people donate towards water, 100% of their money goes toward funding a well. It’s events like Chef’s Table that help us raise the administrative money needed to make this possible. Last year the 2016 event netted over $94,000! This staggering total was a game changer to the impact we were able to make in east Africa. We can’t wait to see what we’ll be able to accomplish next year because of your generosity at Chef’s Table Austin 2017!

Tickets are still available, but act fast before ticket sales close on September 18th! We also wanted to remind everyone that for all tickets purchased from now until the end of ticket sales, we’ll be donating $10 of the proceeds of each ticket sold to Austin Disaster Relief Network to aid our fellow Texans suffering from #HurricaneHarvey in Houston and surrounding areas. It is devastating to see the damage and loss as a result of this storm, but is so uplifting to see people from all over the country coming to Houston's aid. Water to Thrive wants to do what we can, no matter how small, to help our brothers and sisters just a few hours from Austin in the aftermath and rebuilding process after the hurricane. Because together, we are #strongerthanthestorm!

If you haven’t had a chance to look at this year’s menus for Chef’s Table, make sure to check out our earlier blog post, or log onto http://chefstableaustin.org/chefs. Don’t put off getting your tickets for too long because sales close at NOON on Monday, September 18th, and we don’t want you to miss out!

 

 

See everyone there!
 

 

*This event would not be possible without some very special supporters, and a huge thank-you is in order for these incredible sponsors of Chef’s Table Austin 2017:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Rotary Trip

  It’s always so inspiring to follow the blog when we have a group over in Ethiopia. We loved following Susanne and her group back in June, and we’re gearing up for our final trip of 2017! We’re always excited for our travels to check on the progress of wells, but we’re particularly thrilled about this next trip. Susanne, Water To Thrive’s Executive Director, will be leading a group to Ethiopia to visit specific wells that are in progress as a result of the Rotary International Global Grant.

This grant was the result of a few people turning “I’m only one person, what could I do?” into “I’m one person, how much more can I do” and coming together to affect change. In June of 2015, long-time supporters of Water To Thrive, Homer and Mary Goering, traveled to Ethiopia to visit well projects. They came back so inspired, they began giving presentations about their experience. One such presentation was given at Homer’s Rotary Club of Northwest Austin, where Kent Miller heard their story.

 

Kent, having spent time in Ethiopia himself, began wondering what could be accomplished by his community, and started to pursue a Rotary Global Grant. These grants support large international activities with sustainable, measurable outcomes. They have to fall into one of the Rotary’s areas of focus, the 6th of which happens to be water and sanitation.

 



Susanne Wilson with members of the Central Mella Rotary Club in Addis Ababa

 

The grant was approved and the reception by Rotary Clubs all over was so positive that 12 wells were fully funded. A key aspect of the Rotary Global Grant is that it has to involve a host Rotary Club in the country where the work is to be conducted. Susanne’s group will depart the U.S., and then meet up with our host Rotarians, The Central Mella Club of Addis Ababa. Together, the groups will travel to the specific sites where the Rotary Grant is working to establish wells. Anyone is welcome to come along on this trip, but act fast - the due date for the first deposit is coming up on September 15th, and travel will take place November 1st-15th. There are still openings available, so please reach out to Susanne directly at susanne@watertothrive.org for more information, whether you’re a Rotarian or not. We hope to have you be part of this amazing experience! 

 


 
Susanne and fellow Rotarian from Addis Ababa celebrating with beneficiaries of the Rotary Pilot Project in November 2016

 

Chef's Table Austin 2017

 

We’re just about a month away from our sixth annual Chef's Table Austin gala and our mouths are already starting to water just looking at these chef menus. Tickets are on sale for the September 21st event and we’re thrilled to announce we’re already SOLD OUT of our VIP tickets, though there are still plenty of standard tickets available. The gala will be held at the beautiful Hotel Van Zandt this year, and it’s wonderful to see that so many of you are as excited for it as we are. If you haven’t secured your tickets yet, make sure you do so ASAP by clicking here!

If you’ve joined us in the past, or know someone who has, then we don’t have to tell you what a fun and inspiring evening awaits. Chef’s Table Austin is our largest fundraiser for Water to Thrive and is a truly unique evening. Some of Austin’s top chef’s come together to create unique menus for 10 or more people that will each be auctioned off live to the highest bidder. This event helps us continue to do our work of building wells providing clean water, while giving you the opportunity to experience the amazing food we’re known for here in Austin by bidding on chef dinner experiences. Some can even be redeemed in the comfort of your own home!

(Image above is from Chef's Table Austin 2016 at the Brodie Homestead.)

 

We’re honored that head chefs from restaurants such as Olive & June, Salt + Time, Second Bar + Kitchen, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya and so many more who have taken the time to stand with us in support of clean water. Now we’re sure you’re thinking what we’ve been thinking, "How could someone ever choose?!" Well we've got great news for you!


THE CHEFS' MENUS ARE OFFICIALLY UP ON THE WEBSITE!!


That’s right, you can now log onto chefstableaustin.org at anytime to review each specially curated menu that will be auctioned off at the gala. Perhaps you’re interested in the delightful four course meal for 10 provided in your home complete with Jazz Music from Chef Janelle Reynolds of @t Large. Or maybe you’re not sure how many you want to invite or where you want the dinner... Then Chef Andrew Wiseheart’s menu from Chicon may be a perfect bid for you. If you win this experience, he’s standing by ready to collaborate with you on every detail of the evening. In addition, we've got menus from Chef Yesica Arredondo, Chef Bryce Gilmore, Chef Steven Meese, Chef Wolfgang Murber, and Chef Rob Snow.

There will also be a silent auction with signed memorabilia and high-value basket items up for purchase. Then before the live auction begins we’ll have a short program, and you’ll get to hear from each chef and learn why it’s so important for them to support our efforts to provide clean water for communities in east Africa. We look forward to Chef’s Table Austin every year because there’s truly something for everyone. Go check out the menus, gather your friends, and then come out for a wonderful evening of fun, food, music, and bidding for a good cause.


Bon Appétit!

 

June 29 - Tanzania and Back Home

Thirteen seperate plane rides, 22 different hotel/lodge moves, three countries, 65 water projects visited, countless handshakes, 7 different languages, 0 mosquito bites, hundreds of miles on bumpy dirt roads, 40,000 more people with access to clean water.

Our travels have come to an end as we wrap up in Tanzania. Our two partners in the country are St. Paul Partners and KINNAPA. Our partners in all three countries where we work are invaluable to what we do. They know the culture, language and need. At each village, we are greeted with "Karibu Sana" and learn the Swahili words of "safi magi" (safe or clean water). Although the country is somewhat tropical feeling, it is also very dry in the regions where we work. Clean water access in the district of Kiteto is only 35% and in the more rural areas, as low as 18%.

 

We are shown one current source of water which is a brown, dirty lake. Another is a swampy pond. It's difficult to believe people drink the same water that is used to wash clothes and water the livestock.

 

The last project we visited was a well providing water to a settlement of Masai. They are traditional pastoralists and historically move with their animals. Although rich in livestock, their lands are extremely dry and lack even surface water resources.

 

We are tired, but also encouraged by the great work of our partners. There is more work to be done and as Water to Thrive prepares to celebrate its 10 year anniversary, we have a goal to complete 1,000 wells total which would mean a record number in one year. It would also mean clean water for 600,000 since 2008.

Asante sana!
("Thank you very much" in Swahili)

 

June 22 - Uganda

After departing from Ethiopia, we traveled to Uganda to visit water projects with our two partners, Mityana Uganda Charity and International Lifeline Fund. We may had set a record for the number of projects visited on a single day which was from 7 to 10 projects.

The question that came up several times this trip was how does Ethiopia compare to Uganda? The most obvious answer is the people. I can now recognize someone from Ethiopia almost immediately. They are slight in stature, have high foreheads, very round eyes and chiseled cheekbones. They are also much lighter skinned as a result of middle east/Arab influence. I observe the difference as soon as I land in the Entebbe airport. Ugandans are very dark and larger physically.

The landscape is the next thing I see and feel. In the northern part of Ethiopian, the landscape is mountainous and very brown, covered with rocks and the vegetation is mostly cacti and the flat topped acacia tree. The air is so dry, I'm certain mummies could survive in tact. It is hot and what you might think of as typical African weather. Uganda is very green. I think I could easily be in Jamaica. It is lush and humid, but also hot.

Something else that always interests me is the mode of transport and transportation. In Ethiopia, the donkey is truly the
beast of burden. Camels are also used to transport items, but mostly, people walk. They also use the three wheeled tuk tuks which are decorated with posters, fake grass, eyelashes on the headlights and any number of interesting attire. In Uganda, the bicycle and boda boda (motorcycles) rule. I've witnessed the following items on motorcycles, chickens, four people at once, a huge box of eggs, a mattress, sugarcane, jerry cans, a platform of goats and any number of household items and produce. I've also witnessed that the bike is used for transportation, but many times it is simply pushed as it is loaded down with goods.

There are other contrasts, but the thing that they both have in common is the need for clean, accessible, safe drinking water. The villagers always express their gratitude and thankfulness for the gift of water, but many times they remind us that their neighbors need a well. My response is, "Water to Thrive will continue working to provide villagers clean water as long as their is a need".

 


 

 

 

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