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Happy Fasika

Traditional sanctuary at an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian church

 

Today, as Good Friday ushers us into a weekend of togetherness and remembrance, we wanted to stop and take a moment to reflect. Often the commercial holiday of Easter casts a shadow over the true meaning of the holiday. We forget that Lent is a precursor, to remember how Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Good Friday is to honor the day of the crucifixion when Jesus sacrificed himself for us. And Easter Sunday is not just the event, but rather the resolution, and the day we celebrate His resurrection when all was made whole again. What stands out for us during this time of remembrance, is the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus was for all. It was for everyone, and in a way binds us all together, reminding each of us that we are more similar than we are different.

Traveling to the remote villages in rural Ethiopia is a stark contrast to the luxury we enjoy here in the States. At first it can feel overwhelming and out of place. However, once you begin interacting with the people, it is a comforting reminder that while circumstances may divide us, humanity bonds us. The longest standing religion in Ethiopia is the Orthodox Church, and enjoying the community of shared faith in God is always an uplifting activity during our trips.

As we enter this weekend, we have our brothers and sisters on our mind. Because Ethiopia follows a different calendar (more fun blog posts to come on that soon!) they often celebrate Easter, or Fasika, weeks after we do. However, this year the Celebrations fall on the same day for both of our calendars, and we’re so excited to celebrate together. Culturally, the birth of Jesus (Christmas) tends to be the more focal holiday for us here in the States. In Ethiopia, while Christmas is celebrated, the larger annual celebration is Fasika. The Orthodox belief is that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus was the fulfillment of the word of God.

That’s definitely worth celebrating! To complete the fasting of Lent, Ethiopians attend church on Good Friday, and begin the preparations for the coming celebration, when the fast will be broken. Where we tend to celebrate the main event Sunday Morning, the main religious service in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church takes place on Saturday night. It is a somber, sacred service with music and dancing until the early hours of the morning. At 3:00 a.m. many return home to break their fast, and a chicken is slaughtered at midnight for the symbolic occasion. Later in the morning, after everyone has rested, a sheep is then slaughtered and the feasting and celebration of Easter Sunday begins.

This weekend, while you celebrate with your friends, family, and loved ones, take a moment and remember our Ethiopian brothers and sisters who are celebrating with us. While the distance between us may seem great, remember that there’s more that connects us, like the love of Jesus, than the geography that separates us.
From all of us at W2T, Happy Easter to our American friends, and Happy Fasika to our Ethiopian friends!

 

 

 

World Water Day 2017

 

In the age of social media, we’re suddenly aware of every silly celebration like International Talk Like A Pirate Day and urged to celebrate “accAHRRrrdingly”. While I’m just as much of a fan of National Send A Card To A Friend Day as I’m sure you are, today we wanted to stop and really focus on why today, March 22nd, World Water Day exists.

Naturally this is an important day to us here at Water To Thrive. Sometimes it’s more fun to focus on National Cake Day (November 26th in case it’s not on your calendar like it is on mine), than to stop and think about not having clean water, which is the reality for so many globally. WWD was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. Currently over 663 million people worldwide are living without a safe water supply close to home. That’s an overwhelming statistic that is hard to comprehend let alone know how to react to. The UN however, didn’t designate today as WWD just in an effort to raise awareness. They designated it as a day of action.

 

It’s easier to feel like you’re contributing by biking to work on Earth Day or buying chocolate for a loved one at the grocery store for Valentine's Day. But how do you “celebrate” World Water Day? We’ve all been at this point of overwhelmed inaction at some point. The gravity of the problem is so big that we get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing because it’s easier. We get it, 663 million is a big number. But so is 400,000, which is the number of lives Water To Thrive has been able to impact through the wells we’ve built in remote villages in Africa. Each well that we build costs $5,000 to fully fund, another big number. What we so often forget is that numbers are made significant by the context of time, quantity or bigger amount they are put into. For instance, 20 years is much harder to wrap our minds around than 1 year. 663 million people is basically impossible to fathom, but 7 people is manageable. Depending on who you are, $5,000 might seem like a fortune, but $70 for some of us is the coffee budget for the month.

 

Today, on this day of action, we don’t want to focus on the big numbers - sometimes it’s more than we know what to do with. But a number is constructed of lots of smaller numbers working together to get to the bigger number, and that’s where our focus lands. Our reality, and our focus today, is that $70 provides clean water for a family of 7 for 20 years. Those are 3 small numbers with a huge impact - not on numbers, but on people’s lives. If $70 is still too large for you to consider, what about just $10 which provides one person the gift of clean water? We’re all human and we’re all responsible for each other. Today we’re not focusing on wells, we’re focusing on people.

 

On this World Water Day, commit to changing lives through clean water. Whether you help 7 people today or just one, know that it ALL matters. You have the power to make a difference. Donate now by going to www.w2tgiving.org.

 

Happy SXSW

 

If you’re here in Austin, TX with us this week, then you may be enjoying all the SXSW festivities. Music has become such a big part of the culture here in Austin, that it got us to thinking about how music plays such a big role in people's’ lives across the globe. An experience we always love is getting to immerse ourselves in the the Ethiopian culture when we go visit the wells we’re working on in Africa. We’d be lying if we said that the singing and dancing that takes place for all occasions there isn’t one of our favorite parts of our trips.

 

If you’re heading to any concerts this coming weekend, you’ll have a wide range of styles to choose from. While music is loved in our society, it doesn’t have quite the same traditional cultural roots that it does in many other countries. Ethiopia is a country that is a musically traditional country. While in addition there is still contemporary, or popular music, these musicians and artists still sing the more traditional songs of the country as well. Here in the U.S. people tend to have a music genre they prefer, where most audiences in Ethiopia still choose to listen to both popular and traditional styles of music.

 

The survival of more traditional music could be attributed to the lack of availability. Much of Ethiopia is extremely poor and the remote villages are hard to access. Because of this, tribes and different ethnic groups are associated with their own unique sounds. Click on the image below to view a video that Jazzy, our Communications Coordinator, took while visiting the Dorze Tribe in Ethiopia in November.

 

 


 

As expected in the bigger cities, like Addis Ababa or Dire Dawa, a wide variety of artists and music is more readily available. Internationally, artists like Gigi have brought Ethiopian music to a more popular and wider audience in more recent recent years, especially here in the United States. Check out The Best of Gigi here to get a better idea of the variety of Ethiopian music today. In true cultural form, Gigi also continues to sing the traditional songs she was raised on. Click here to listen to Gigi sing the the traditional song "Gole" from her 2003 album Zion Roots in Agaw, the language of Gigi's father's village.

 


  So this weekend when you’re out amongst the SXSW crowds, stop and listen to a new artist you might not have made time for in the past. Or if you’re ready for a new experience altogether, dive into the sounds of an exotic new country like Ethiopia.

 

 

 

Thank You!

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you! We wanted to pause for a moment to say thanks to everyone who contributed to Amplify Austin this year. Whether you donated, shared our posts, talked to your friends, or helped us fundraise in other ways, we thank you. With the funds raised during the 24-hour Amplify event, we were able to match the funds the 5th grade class at UT Elementary School had already raised, and fully fund their well!!

 

As always, the additional donations received have been put toward the funding of future wells, dedicated to the donors of Amplify Austin 2017. We’re so thankful for the support we continue to receive and all that each of you do to help us continue to provide clean water in these remote communities. Because we have been blessed by you, we are able to bless others. So, again, thank you.

 

 

 

One Day Only

It’s Amplify time! We’re one week away from the annual fundraising day, and excited to partner again with Amplify Austin. If you didn’t know, this is a wonderful platform provided by I Live Here, I Give Here to connect local donors with Austin area nonprofits. As a nonprofit founded and based in Austin since 2008, we love to partner with our local community. Mark your calendars, because this year’s Amplify Day begins at 6pm March 2nd, and ends 24 hours later at 6pm on March 3rd. We love this event and, as always, we pledge that 100 percent of all donations made go directly to clean water projects. So, every penny raised by Amplify Austin will let Austinites help serve a rural African community in need.
 

If you were part of our campaign last year, then you may recall how your generous donations helped us successfully reach our $10,000 fundraising goal. Additionally, as part of our campaign we partnered with Canyon Creek Elementary School and were able to match the money they had already raised to complete the funding of their well. We are so thankful for these kids and the hard work they put in, and to everyone who helped us reach our goal.

Canyon Creek Elementary

 

It continues to humble us to see so many different people, from various backgrounds, and over many generations, come together to help change the lives of those living without clean water. Last year our Executive Director, Susanne, went to speak to the 5th grade class at UT Elementary School. After Susanne’s water presentation the students immediately jumped into action to fund a well. Through various fundraisers - including selling postcards they designed themselves - these young students are already over a fourth of the way finished funding their own well! We love partnering with all of you to reach goals and fund wells, so we’ve pledged the first portion of our $10,000 goal for Amplify 2017 to go toward matching the progress these kids have made on their well campaign.

 

Susanne at UT Elementary UT Elementary Students

 

After we’ve matched UT Elementary’s fundraising efforts, every $5,000 we raise will fully fund one well in a rural African community, with recognition going to Water to Thrive's Amplify Austin Donors. Are you excited to donate, but afraid you’ll forget on the day? Not a problem. Through our Donation Page on Amplify's website you can schedule your donation at any time, and it’ll be charged on March 2nd during the event. We’ve already had over $1,000 in donations scheduled! Be sure to check our Facebook page frequently throughout this 24-hour period to see our progress in reaching our goal of $10,000. We’re excited for the big day next week, and to see how our Austin community will help us impact these African communities in need.

 

 

 

Pack Your Bags!

      After the Holiday season, January seems to be a month of hunkering down, and settling into a new year. But f you’re anything like us, as it gets deeper into February, you are starting to dream about the end of winter, warmer weather, and vacation! So where are you planning on going this summer? Haven’t decided yet?
 
We’re busy planning and preparing for our trips to Ethiopia, and we’re inviting you to come with us and do something a little different with your vacation this summer. Come travel alongside our team in exploring the cities, experiencing the culture, and witnessing firsthand the impact clean water is having on this amazing country and its people.

 


We’re blessed to have partners on the ground in Africa to oversee the ins and outs of our well projects. Two or three times a year, we get to travel to meet with these in-country partners, view progress, and celebrate completed wells. The best part is that we get to take people like you along with us. We’re continually blown away by the generosity that we experience from the people who donate, fundraise, and contribute to funding these wells. We do our best to help you feel connected to the process with photos and stories, but there is nothing that can compare to having the experience for yourself. So, we are intentional about opening our trips to travellers who are interested in our mission and in supporting our beneficiaries. We believe this can be a powerful experience, but you don’t have to take our word for it. Krista was one of our interns who traveled with us to Ethiopia and Uganda this past summer, and here’s what she had to say about her experience:

“It’s hard for us to imagine not being able to turn on the faucet and brush our teeth. Or not being able to press a button to wash our clothes. We can’t fathom what it would be like to never have the chance to bathe or shower. We run 5K ‘fun runs’ not realizing that people across the world walk that every day just to get a dirty, yellow, plastic can full of water that may or may not make them ill. We can’t picture ‘drinking water’ with dirt swirling, and worms swimming around. These people can. In fact, that’s all many of them know.
During 3 weeks in Africa you can meet a lot of (amazing) people, learn a lot about a vast array of topics, and visit a lot of project sites (39 to be exact). You can drive a lot of bumpy roads, kill a lot of bugs, take many bush stops, dance often, laugh a lot, and celebrate the gift of life that is clean water. You can start to get to know and love a culture and a country (or two), but what you can’t do is come home unchanged.” 

     


Every trip is special and unique and we can’t begin to imagine what a trip will mean to you. What we do know is that there’s truth in what Krista so eloquently states: “I couldn’t truly capture this experience and what it has meant to me in an infinite number of words, but I can let it change me.” So we invite you to come with us this summer to see how it changes you. Please reach out to us at team@watertothrive.org for more information, and we hope to see you soon. 

 

We're Ready for an Exciting 2017

Happy New Year! Yes, we know we are nearly a month in, and the timeline for the greeting has passed. However, with our first blog post of the year, we wanted to welcome you accordingly.


At Water to Thrive, we’re in full swing getting ready for an exciting year ahead. So, we wanted to take a moment to formally invite you to come on our journey with us this year. It’s going to be full of excitement and possibility, and we want each of you along for the ride.

 

This year we’re excited to provide regular blog updates, so you can keep up with all that we have going on here in Austin, the U.S., Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda. We are able to bless people with the life-giving gift of clean water, because all of you have blessed us. It is with this grateful heart that we embark on the endeavor to keep you up to date on all the ways your generosity is impacting others, both near and far. We plan on having lots of fun along the way too!

 

If you‘ve been following our Facebook and Instagram accounts, than you already know that we have three trips currently in the works. If you didn’t know, here’s what you missed:

 

  • We are thinking about visiting Germany to experience some of the celebrations for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and then on to Ethiopia. This trip would take place in the latter part of May to early June, however, for this trip to be viable, we will need at least 9 travelers.

 

  • The second trip of the summer will be 2-3 weeks in June or July. We will travel to the Tigray region of Ethiopia and visit many of our completed projects, as well as some yet to be constructed wells.

 

  • Finally, we have been working on a Global Grant for ten Rotary-sponsored well projects in Ethiopia. In November, we would love to take a group of Rotarians along with us to experience firsthand the impact that Rotary is having on people across the globe.

 

If you're interested in our 2017 trips, please email us at team@watertothrive.org, and follow our accounts to stay up to date. You can also find more information about these trips in our January Newsletter. We’re excited to have some of you along, while the rest of us stay connected virtually through our Travel Blog.

 

We are so excited to share with you what is certain to be an exciting year! Check back regularly for updates, stories, travel posts, and so much more. As always, please feel free to share our posts with your friends and family. We want to partner with you in educating, and inspiring, others about the work God is doing through clean water in rural Africa. Looking forward to connecting with each of you again soon... Here we go!

 

 

Follow our new Travel website!

 Our executive director, Susanne Wilson, and outreach and communications coordinator, Jazzy Schwolert, are in Ethiopia for a few weeks, traveling to water projects and meeting with in-country partners. This is Jazzy's first trip to Ethiopia, and on our travel website, she is sending blog posts that capture her experience. We hope you will join us at w2ttrips.wordpress.com as we follow her days.

 

 

 

New Travel Site!

 

Hello, friends!

 

Our next group of travellers, led by our Executive Director Susanne Wilson, has arrived safely in Ethiopia and has begun their journey to visit some of our wells.

To keep up with their trip as well as other trips in the future, check our new travel site: www.w2ttrips.wordpress.com. You can also subscribe to get email updates when we post something new. Just click on the "follow" button on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and submit your email. Now you'll get the latest right in your inbox. 

On the new blog we will post stories, pictures, and updates for each of our trips. We hope you'll join us in following along on these adventures!

 

Sincerely,

Jazzy Schwolert
Water to Thrive
Outreach and Communications Coordinator

June 5: Last Day in Ethiopia!

 

The morning is filled with sharing the worship service at the first and one of the largest Mekane Yesus congregations in Ethiopia, founded in the early 1950’s. In a beautiful, simple sanctuary that seats about 300, the service started sharply at 10:00 am, and the pews were packed to overflowing by 10:30. The service concluded about noon.

 

 

Mekane Yesus Choir

 

One of the joys of the morning was hearing the congregation’s choir sing 4 songs. Beautiful!  We also witnessed a baptism and got to hear a young, enthusiastic intern from the seminary preach the sermon.

 

Water to Thrive has had a working relationship with Mekane Yesus – Development and Social Services Commission (DASSC) since 2012. This arm of the church does community engagement and support and we have implemented over 100 water projects with this partner.  After the service, we met with national leadership of the DASSC as well as representatives of the 3 synod DASSC organizations with whom Water to Thrive is currently working.  We continue our discussion over a nice lunch nearby.

 

During lunch, the skies opened up with heavy rain (and a little hail too!)…..it put a little damper on some last minute shopping before heading to the airport but everyone managed to get everything taken care of.

 

As you read this, the majority of the group will be winging its way back to Texas…..the Moellers and Kolanders will be heading to Tanzania for another week of adventure.

 

As we draw a close to this week, it is important to acknowledge those who have helped make this possible….

-        The members of Triumphant Love who so generously supported the Celebrating Wells of Love campaign to honor our Pastors and build more wells

-        Pastor Norb Firnhaber who authored our wonderful devotions each day

-        The staff and leadership of our partners at Relief Society of Tigray and Mekane Yesus-DASSC

-        And of course Johannes and Alem with Diversity Tours

 

Blessings to all who helped make the journey through Ethiopia such a memorable experience!

 

- Dick

 

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