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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".

 


 

 

 

June 14-15 - Back to Addis

Upon returning to Addis, I met with members of the Central Mella Rotary Club. This club is the host club for a Rotary grant written by the Northwest Austin Rotary Club. The grant will provide 12 water wells serving over 7,000 people and will include sanitation, hygiene, maintenance and oversight of the water wells. After the meeting, the W2T group toured the operations of a social enterprise called Timret Lehiwot, or Alliance for Life. The organization was founded in 2004 and focuses on creating healthy, inspired and empowered women. The women who are served are the most marginalized of society; domestic workers, handsmaids and those in the sex trade industry. The women are provided vocational and business training so that they can become self-sufficient. The organization also serves as a business incubator for the women once they graduate from the program. One of the most interesting projects they support is the training of women who are disabled. The women run and maintain public toilets and receive the income paid to use the facilities. In addition, women who graduate can form cooperatives and even apply for micro-loans. Timret Lehiwot is next focusing on the husbands and male partners of the women to educate them in the hopes to provide for gender equality.

    

 

After the tour, it was time for some last minute shopping before Kathy and Brizi head back to the states. We hit the Shiro Meda which is an outdoor market. The experience can be a bit of sensory overload as the stalls are located beside a very busy road jammed with huge tour buses, taxis, cars, pedestrians, a van equipped with loud speakers asking for donations to cover a injured man's hospital bills, and vehicles parked at off angles ignoring any sense of order. Added to the noise and fumes are the hawkers asking you to visit their stalls and the homeless people asking for your change. Each of us managed to negotiate and make some good bargains. 

 

  

 

Every W2T vision trip culminates with dinner and entertainment at a traditional restaurant. The three of us decided to dress in the traditional style which was much appreciated by the hotel staff and the other diners. The entertainment for the night was several vocal acts interrupted by traditional dancers. The Ethiopian style of dancing is unlike anything I've witnessed. The movement is all shoulders and neck and truly defies human anatomy. The men and women dance separately and never touch in a way that seems to tease and invite. The men also use some high jumping antics and footwork that would be sure to impress even the America's Got Talent judges. 

 

Today/June 15th ...our group parted ways as Gashaw and I head to Uganda to visit more water projects while Brizi and Kathy take a late night flight back to the US. Kathy expressed her gratitude for an amazing experience and for having her eyes opened to the water issue. When asked about her favorite part, it wasn't sitting amongst the monkeys in the Simien Mountains or the amazing landscape or even the great bargains, but it was the joy and gratitude she felt from the people in the villages who now have clean water. 

 

June 9-12 - Reminders that Water is Life

 

After we left the Simien mountains, we traveled to meet up with our partner, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST). We visited many villages and we were often greeted with groups of villagers singing, clapping, popcorn being thrown about, dancing and the happy sound of the "lalalala" that the women use while celebrating.

The words of thanks were heartfelt and touched us all. More than once we found ourselves in tears moved by the change that the simple gift of clean water brings to rural villages.

The days have been long, hot and difficult as we traveled over dirt roads that provided what the drivers like to call the African massage.

 

 

However it is worth it when we see the faces of the children and the smiles of the people. They remind us that water is life. It touches everything. The women are relieved of the back-breaking work of walking 2, 3 and even 4 hours to collect one jug of dirty water. The children can spend their time going to school. It reduces illnesses and even death. It also provides peace, as usually neighbor fights neighbor over water.

 

Most of the celebrations include the tradtional coffee ceremony where women and men sit in separate groups. The women first roast the beans and pass the smoke among the group. Then the women pound the roasted coffee beans and the grounds are poured into a jug and cooked over a portable stove. The grounds provide three pours. The coffee is served in tiny cups. The coffee is dark black and very strong. Along with the coffee, we enjoy injera, bread, shiro, more popcorn and roasted barley. They have so little but want to share and for us to enjoy.

 

Today we encountered something that can best be described as Ethiopian fondue. A mound of barley dough was formed into balls that were stabbed by a stick and then dipped into the berbere. This delicate palate had one small bite and I'm pretty certain the spiciness burned off a few taste buds.

We are sad to leave each time as we depart from a village. The people line up, waving, smiling and now are happy to have clean water.
 

 

 

 

June 8 - Simien Mountains

We traveled to the Simien Mountains which are over 10, 000 feet altitude. In fact, we stayed in the Simien Lodge which is the highest Lodge in Africa. 

 

The mountains are home to the Walia ibex, the Simien Wolf, leopards and the Gelada monkeys. 

 

We hiked on a trail that revealed some of the most spectacular scenery we'd ever seen.  The bird watching presented us with species of birds unknown. The flora and fauna of the mountains are amazing and extremely fragrant. Thyme grows wild as does a type of tomato. 

 

 

The highlight of the hike was being able to sit almost unnoticed right in the midst of the Gelada Monkeys. They are the only grass eating primates and can devour a kilo a day. They have a unique social system and live in large groups with each alpha male having six or seven females. They have a complex vocal range that is very similar to humans. In fact,  it felt like we were in a crowd of people with all of the grunts, moans, squeals and growls. Probably most interesting is the fact that they sleep in cracks and crevices along the cliff face. The cliff hanging is their way of avoiding their predators, the hyena and the leopard. 

 

After our hike, we enjoyed our dinner around a roaring fireplace. It's difficult to comprehend that we were cold after the sweltering heat at the lower elevations. We were treated to hot water bottles to slide between the sheets which were very welcomed. Tomorrow we are geared to Axum to meet with Water to Thrive' s partner REST. 

 

 

 

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