Mission Trip 101


Going on a mission trip changes people for the better, they become more adaptable and open to new cultures and traditions that may have seemed strange at first. However, before even hopping on the plane to Africa, Latin America, or whichever region, you should learn the basics of preparing yourself for a mission trip! Check out our Pinterest for some ideas on dress and packing lists:
What to pack?  
You need clothes that are versatile and easy to move in, capable of surviving any sort of unexpected mishaps that are bound to happen. A poncho or even a windbreaker can be a lifesaver if you’re heading to a more highland region. For girls, a maxi skirt or dress is so comfortable to walk around in during those days where you can explore the town!
* There is a cultural difference about what is “modest” so keep that in mind (both women and men)! So capris or long pants are always a good choice.
*Climate and/or altitude change can affect your body’s overall equilibrium, so make sure to bring medicine that you think will help you. Examples include pain relievers, Pepto-Bismol, etc. And a small first aid kit! Here is a list on what you need:
While you’re there remember why you came: to help a community!
If you’re interested in participating in a W2T mission trip: May 14-28, 2015 and on June 4-18, 2015. Check out the information for both on our website:


Amplify Austin: Austin Comes Together for a Day of Giving!

   It is not often that hundreds of non-profits can get together and be given the change to receive support from a large community, but on March 5th this is exactly what will happen! Amplify Austin is a sort of go all out day of giving aimed to raise funds for great organizations through the help of great people in the Austin community. Around the same time World Water Day is coming up and we’re all so excited to share our passion for increasing awareness on global water issue, come out and join our cause!
  Use the hashtage #AmplifyAustin as you help spread the word! You can also post on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter: “I Amplify Austin because…” and always use #AmplifyATX 
  W2T is still a small organization with so much room to grow and to help even more communities not only in Africa but around the world. One of the most basic and vital things that all of us need no matter who you are or where you live is water. Not just water, but clean and safe drinking water! The effects of lack of access to clean drinking water in Africa widens the gender gap, lowers the education level that can be reached by children in a family, and lastly can risk the life of people wanting to break the poverty cycle in which unsafe water is putting them in.
To break this cycle, W2T hopes to give one of the most vital necessities but only with your help! Living in Austin is a blessing because of all the generous and caring Austenite’s always looking for a good cause to support. We hope to see you and all your best friends, co-workers, family participating at Amplify Austin to support our campaign for World Water Day!
Here are some quick details on Amplify Austin, so mark the date!
When: March 5th   at 6pm to March 6th at 6pm. It is a 24 hour giving day! Drink some of our coffee to keep you awake!
Where: Your own computer! Go to to make a donation to W2T and many other great organizations in Central Texas.

“A Typical Meal in East Africa: Doro Wat Edition”


There is richness in African food that cannot be rivaled in any other genre of food. The flavors of Ethiopian, Ugandan, and Tanzanian cuisine are unique and full of depth because of local spices and ingredients available year round. Here is a peek of different yummy African dishes that are definitely worth trying!

Let’s start off with one of W2T’s most active partners, Ethiopia! Common national dishes include wat (a close relative of curry), injera (think of it as a thin flatbread), and Kitfo (spiced raw beef). Not one dish is like the other but together they complement each other so well. Here is one recipe for a version of chicken wat called Doro Wat:

Doro Wat Recipe

·         3 pounds boneless chicken, breasts and thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 large onions, chopped, 4 cloves garlic- minced, 2 sticks (1 cup) butter              


·          1 cup red wine

·          2 cups water

·          2 teaspoons salt

·          1 teaspoon ground cardamom

·          2 tablespoons garam masala

·          1/3 cup hot smoked paprika

·          1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

·          2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds

·          1 tablespoon dried thyme

·          3 tablespoons tomato paste

·          1 tablespoon sugar

·          1 lime, juiced

Place all the ingredients, minus the lime juice, in a slow cooker and cover. Cook for 4-6 hours--depending on your slow cooker settings--until the chicken is tender. Then mash the chicken to shreds with a potato masher (or the bottom of a ladle.) Stir in the lime juice and keep warm.

If you’re brave enough, come out and maybe you’ll see this recipe at Chef’s Table Austin hosted by Water to Thrive, contact for more information!


Well Wishes, well thought out:

Our communities may be thousands of miles away, from Ethiopia to Uganda we love the people! To express how much we care, a hand written letter traveling across the ocean is a small but deeply personal way to keep in touch with the people that have benefitted from the hundreds of wells W2T has built in the past years. Think of it as a well wish, anything you wish to bless them with. Pick up the pencil and write away!

One of the main languages in Ethiopia is Amharic, a close relative to Arabic! From a simple greeting to a word or two in your Well Wish card, the language barrier narrows just a sliver. Other languages spoken in the countries Water to Thrive reaches out are in Tanzania and Uganda where Swahili is regionally spoken. As said perfectly by the great African peace maker, Nelson Mandela: 

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” 
 Nelson Mandela 

What is Well Wishes?

Well Wishes are letters our donors, supporters and well campaign participants write to the communities we serve. Many W2T campaigns write letters to the community they are funding a well for, and Water to Thrive’s implementing partners will deliver Well Wishes to your community…sometimes snapping pictures of them receiving their letters! You can also go on a mission trip with W2T and possibly deliver your Well Wishes in person! 

How do I Participate?
Go to our resource page and print out Well Wishes postcards. Once you have your postcards written, send them to our W2T office, and we will deliver them to:

**the community you are funding a well for
**a community who needs your Well Wishes

W2T office address:
Water to Thrive
8701 North Mopac Expressway #105
Austin, TX 78759

Contact for questions



World Water Day Challenge

On Sunday March 22 2015, Water to Thrive will observe World Water Day to spread awareness and observe critical water issues that impact the entire world. To learn more about WWD check out the UN’s World Water Day website.



(click to watch our World Water Day video above)


W2T’s World Water Day Challenge:

This year, Water to Thrive is challenging schools to team up and ‘adopt’ one of the countries we serve and compete in raising the most funds for your country!  Participating schools should raise awareness through social media, videos, and all over their communities to gain support and raise donations. 


To participate:

1) Contact Lizzie by 1/15/15 at- and select a W2T country you wish to support (Ethiopia, Tanzania or Uganda).  Multiple schools will be joining your team to support the country you’ve chosen, so Lizzie will send your school representative a country team Facebook Group to join.  Get engaged, share ideas, and spread awareness as a team!

2) Your deadline for raising funds is on World Water Day (March 22, 2015)…so get creative and start your fundraising campaign as soon as you can! Make sure you at least set a goal of $5,000--enough to fund a well.


The top TWO schools who raise the most funds (no matter which country they support) will receive:

-a pizza party funded by W2T—contact Lizzie for details


-information on their well’s village

-GPS coordinates of their well

-pictures of the well once complete

-rights to signage on the well


All participating schools that raise enough funds for a well in their country will receive:

-information on their well’s village

-GPS coordinates of their well

-pictures of the well once complete

-rights to signage on the well


W2T Travel Diary

Thursday, December 18, 2014 (from Washington D.C. Dulles Dec 19)

Before departing Northern Ethiopia today we visited two hand dug wells and I wondered if there might just by happenstance be some special moments.

The first was special effort – every step up this steep grade and care was needed dealing with loose gravel and rocks.  At one point I said – do you want to do this on your last day in Ethiopia –Ed?

Just before these ladies started filling their jerry cans the person who has the responsibility of the opening and closing times unlocked the handle. Opening times for this well is 7-9AM and 4-6PM and the well has only been open for a week.  We are at an elevation of over 6,000 feet.  The well depth is 12 meters or a bit over 36 ft.  That is one of the miracles of Ethiopia – the water table is quite close to ground level.   And our experience is that the water rarely needs to be treated.  It is tested.

When we asked where the previous source of water was we were shown this collection point and was told that as the dry season continues it would become more polluted.

Following some introductions and a few words from us this gentleman raised his hand to speak.  His message was clear and strong – I am very grateful for this well – I would rather go without food than be without this wonderful water.  Thank you so very much.  It is wonderful to represent the donor and to see and hear the gratitude. 

Then this woman spoke and did she speak with emotion.  Her message is we would invite folks we know from our neighboring village and prepare food and they would not eat it because the water we used came from the previous water source – they shunned us.  Now we can invite them and the applause from those in attendance was strong along with their special sounds. 

Our way back to the vehicle was led by Zamichael and it was much less difficult.  He is a 9th grade student and walks 2 hours each way to school.  A primary school is pictured behind Zamichael. 

Our final stop at this well serves 70 plus households or about 350 beneficiaries.  Again note the greens placed on the base and is done as a sign of hospitality for our coming.  So many humbling things done for us.  This well has slightly longer opening hours – 6-10AM and 3-6PM.

Children are always curious at our presence and these are either on their way to second shift or coming home from first shift.   

I am now on the plane heading for Washington, D.C. with a refueling stop in Rome.  Plan is to not get off the plane with ground time of about 1 hour. 

It is now the 25th day of our trip and the experiences have been many.  The absolute top consistent experience is the time at the well or spring protection system.  The joy and gratitude for water is heartwarming and no words describe it for me.  Water to Thrive has a mission of providing water in rural Africa by matching generous donors with receiving communities. 

Need a few days, however I am hopeful of summarizing this trip with some reflections and thoughts.   

-Ed Scharlau




















W2T Travel Diary

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our start today was been delayed as a result of fuel problems – pricing, delivery, government controls and many issues at play.

Our hosts, REST is concerned for us and of course we did not want to run out of fuel when we are many miles from any village.

Everywhere on this trip as we spend most of our time in the rural country side I see the farmers working very hard.  It is harvest season for the small grains,   wheat, barley and teff(a small grain) used in the Ethiopians basic bread – injera.  It is used between their thumb and two fingers as a fork to pick up their food.  Here this farmer is using cattle to walk in a circle knocking the seeds off.  The fork is to constantly lift to keep lose and determine when to stop the cattle walking and remove the straw and clean the seed.  All of this is their combine.  Wheat and barley are done the same way.  The fork used by the farmed is an olive branch with a fork in it to form a two tine fork. 

At our first well stop today we were near a monastery and the Priest in white and a monk in yellow soon joined us. Both spoke of their thankfulness for the community and for themselves as they are able to walk down the hill to now have wonderful water.  They both advised that the polluted water in the stream below was filled with parasites and animal waste. 

Part of the stream.  This well was funded by Ethiopian Missionaries in memory of Bob Avers. 

As we were leaving this site Mike and I looked at this thorn fence and commented on the crown of thorns and how it had to inflict pain.

Appreciation for disease free fresh water is shown in many ways and this young boy not only enjoyed it at the source – his smile when he looked up said it all. 

With the well in the background this lady is carrying this 45 – 50 pound jerry can up a steep bank like it is no effort.  I walked up the bank and it had no steps, rocks and loose soil.  This well is funded by Concordia University students, faculty and friends.  Concordia has done – as I recall eight wells.  A real blessing. 

We walked over some pretty rough terrain to arrive at this well – this was on our way out.  We walked over a mile each way after we left the 4WD. 

This well replaces a well that was not functional as it went to the hard pan.  This well is constructed in such a way that once they arrived at the hard pan – many units of dynamite was used to go through the hard pan and another 15 or more feet into the aquifer to make it a sustainable source of clean pure water.  This well serves 40 plus households or about 200 beneficiaries. 

Tomorrow AM we are scheduled for several more well visits and then to the airport for an afternoon flight and here it will be Thursday, December 18 with arrival in Austin scheduled of about 3PM on Friday, December 19. 

We had a thank you dinner and review tonight with our hosts from Relief Society of Tigray (REST).  They have been wonderful.  On the left is Whibeslassie Tesfasliassie, well division head, center (the best driver I have ever had on my trips to Africa) Tamrat Seyoum and right Gebremariam Seyoum Sr Program Monitoring.   

More to follow tomorrow.  Not sure when it will be sent.  Also I am hopeful of some summary of this extensive trip to Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.  Some may be done on the airplane as sleep is hard to come by on the plane.

-Ed Scharlau




W2T Travel Diary

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

By the end of each day as I sit down to write this blog I need to look at my pictures to remind myself of all that has transpired before my eyes.  The sights, the sounds, the beauty of God’s creation and the people I am with and those who are nameless however their gratitude is clear. 

Speaking of God’s creation and beauty - my first picture of the day.  Asked the name of cactus – cactus. 

Oh yes, Grand mom Wahd is pleased that her grandson Amanuel and his friend Filiman are able to have this disease free water.  Wahd shared that now she has time to prepare better meals for her family and have time with her grandson. This well was funded by a campaign by Lizzie of our Water to Thrive staff. 

We walked on a number of fields like this today.  Yes, the ground is loosened, seed is spread by hand and harvesting with a small scythe.   Another example of the elements in subsistence farming in northern Ethiopia. 

Another reality of water source – before and after for this community.  Note the cattle drinking from this stream that is barely flowing.  What was the source for the people of this area and they would dig a hole in the river bed and scoop out the seepage.  Now they have this hand dug well and are most grateful. Previous source was filled with amoebas and all sorts of water borne nasty’s.   Been in use for only a couple of weeks.

Many of the wells we saw today have only been open from a few days to a couple of weeks. The funding for this well is from a South Austin, TX church Abiding Love, and Pastor Lynnae was born in Ethiopia as her parents were medical missionaries. As I shared that story a special sense of connection was felt and you do not need to know the language for that feeling. 

As we are preparing to leave, I spotted these young boys carrying their school books and I asked our host if by chance any of them had the English book and in the speed of a bullet it appeared.  The children learn English and some practice a few words with us as we are walking or at a time like this.

Our final stop of the day was very special.  First we are met by these two young me that have an amplify system hooked up to an Ethiopian instrument. 

Then I observe this man carrying a case of soft drinks over some steep rocky terrain and we have already walked at least ½ mile.  And we arrived at a spot via a 4WD vehicle and so he had to walk further. 


We are met by grateful ladies tossing popcorn and singing. 


A special shady spot has been constructed and food and beverages are ready. 


The water committee is typical – three women and three men.  What is different about this one is the fact that the chair and the treasurer are both women. 


We asked if there any school children present and at first none.  Then Emru Tekabo, age 13 and in Grade 7 appeared.  He had been in the morning session of school.  We wanted to ask him some questions however he disappeared.  And later appeared with….

While he was gone Mike asked his Mom some questions and she said he really likes math and wants to be an engineer.  With this drum in hand – who knows – he may appear in the live music scene of Austin, TX. 

The special significance of this well is it is funded by Canyon Vista Middle School of Austin, TX.  As I shared the story of how a Middle School in Austin raised funds for a well you could see the delight as it was translated in the faces of grateful Ethiopians. Young children in America - an ocean apart helping young children here in Ethiopia.  Again a sense of great appreciation.  Thanks to all involved in this Canyon Vista fund raising action.  For me to be part of it on both ends is very special and heartwarming.


Michael is presented this colorful handmade basket.  Its large replica is used to keep bread clean and for transport.  This smaller version for things like jewelry.  Now he is trying to figure out how to transport home. We have a full day tomorrow and then about ½ half day a several plane rides home.  Our day was full and very special for so many reasons, some of which I have tried to describe. 

-Ed Scharlau





W2T Travel Diary

Monday, December 15, 2014

The day was long (11 hours plus at wells), the roads were rough (really rough), the walks were long and the hills were steep.  All this was poured on the dirt as the joy was expressed, the smiles were full and the gratitude expressed was very humbling.   Words fall so short.

Some last minute planning before we took off – standing Gashaw Semeneh Hailemariam, Water to Thrive, contract geologist, seated – Whib Tefaselassie and Gebremariam Seyoum with Relief Society of Tigray (REST) our implementing partner here in Tigray and Michael O’Keefe, Program Manager, Water to Thrive.

On our way to our first well – a walk of about 2 miles after driving as far as we could in our 4 wheel drive Toyota, I noticed this subsistence farmer heading to the field.  He is carrying the yoke for his oxen over his right shoulder and the pointed hook used to till the soil over his left shoulder. 


Leaving the well with a full jerry can on her back and a donkey carrying two large plastic containers.  Note the home up on the hillside.  The goal is to have a disease free water well within a miles distance of homes. 


At our next well stop we spotted these young ladies and asked them to pose for us and our hosts helped us to have them giggling a bit and big smiles.  Uplifting to be sure. 

Every well is special however a Water to Thrive board member funded this well and it was matched by an employer.  Here we have school children fetching water to and or from school.  School is in two shifts here – AM and PM as it allows space to be used twice.  Previous source 1 & ½ hour walk to a small river full of water borne diseases.