June 8 - Axum



Today we arrived at another World Heritage Site. Axum, in northern Ethiopia near the Adwa mountain range, is the holiest of all Ethiopian cities. The ancient kingdom of Axum is characterized by giant obelisks erected as tombs for the kings and their families. The area also claims to house the Ark of the Covenant, and the city is a pilgrimage destination for Christians. There are two St. Mary of Zion Churches (old and new) revered as holy sites. Entrance to the old church is prohibited to women as the legend blames the burning of the original on a woman. The Ark is claimed to be housed in a chapel known as The Chapel of the Tablet and is guarded by a monk who resides there.

The afternoon was spent shopping in the local artisans' shops. Good bargains were found for silver, crosses, church icons, traditional dresses, and geodes. Bargaining is acceptable and the local children are excellent salesmen, many times running alongside our vehicle and magically appearing wherever our van stopped. 

Over the next few days we will be visiting water projects with our partners here, REST. 


June 7 - Lalibela



Today, the Water to Thrive team traveled to Lalibela, Ethiopia. Lalibela is a World Heritage Site that some consider the eighth wonder of the world because of the ancient stone churches carved completely out of a single piece of volcanic rock. The 11 churches were built over 23 years during the 12th century at the command of King Lalibela. The king wanted to give Christians an alternative to traveling to Jerusalem, and he recognized it would put him in favor with the Church.

The churches are still worshipped in today and to visit, you simply follow a guide through narrow tunnels down rock-hewn steps. The monolithic churches were carved from the top down using simple hand tools. After the outside of the church was completed, work began on the inside, working from the bottom to the top.

Our team visited St. George Church, the most famous of the 11 churches. St. George is unique, the only one carved in the shape of a cross. It was the last church carved and considered the most elegant because the craftsmen had gained experience and skill.

The town of Lalibela is located in northwest Ethiopia. Most of the populace is subsistence farmers who raise teff (a grain), sorghum, and maize. Teff, the mainstay crop, is used for making injera, a spongey bread used with the right hand to scoop up individual portions of a meal. Teff is gaining attention worldwide, as it is extremely rich in protein and is gaining recognition as a super food.

To close out the day, the team was treated to a special coffee ceremony. The legend about the discovery of coffee follows a goat herder. The herder observed his goats acting energetically after eating the berries of a plant, which led him to roast the berries and create coffee. The official coffee ceremony includes burning of frankincense and roasting the berries over an open flame. The first pour off the beans is called the abol and is the most concentrated. The second pour is the tona and the last is the bereka. Often snacks such as popcorn or roasted barley are served with the coffee.

Tomorrow we will be in Axum preparing to visit our projects around the area. 


June 6 - Arriving in Addis


After a journey of more than 13 hours from Washington Dulles, our group arrived this morning around 7:15, in good spirits.


Over dinner this evening, stories were shared about the friends that were made on the trip over. As our intern Thomas said, “Amazing the contacts you can make on a 13-hour flight, just waiting to get into the toilette…..and even spread the word about Water to Thrive.”

Our group went directly to the hotel to refresh and catch a quick nap. After lunch, the group spent the afternoon with Yohannes, our guide, seeing some of the sites in Addis Ababa, including the national Museum of Natural History. We finished the afternoon with a briefing from Ato Getachew, Director of the Ministry of Finance and Development for the Ethiopian government, which is responsible for overseeing the five-year development plan established by the Ethiopian Government in 2010.  Over the last five years, the GDP has averaged a brisk 10+% increase each year. This has helped the country accelerate its economic growth as well as make considerable progress in achieving a number of the Millennium Development Goals established by the UN. It was a very interesting presentation that gave us a great perspective on the changes occurring in Ethiopia. The group is in the final stages of preparing the next five-year development plan, to be released shortly.

Just a side note on Ethiopia... its citizens recently concluded their national elections, which occur every five years. The election covers both national and local elected positions across the country. About 43 million people are eligible to vote and more than 36 million cast a ballot in the election. Wow! What a turnout. Interesting how when in the US we are happy with a 25 percent turnout!  

Tomorrow we are leaving early to fly to Lalibella to visit the rock hewn churches. 


June 3 & 4 - Matamba and Nhungu


On Wednesday morning early, we headed south to visit a new project area started by our implementing partner, St. Paul Partners (SPP) for the villages of Matamba and Nhungu. It is about a 5½-hour drive, with the last two hours up a very steep mountain road.

The road we traveled. 

The picture above was taken from the road at the top of the mountain looking back down toward the valley floor. This spot is 800 meters (2,625 feet) above the valley floor. The mountain road is about 18 miles long from the main road and it took us about two hours to reach Matamba. The two villages, with over 6,000 people, are located on the plateau of mountain at the very top. 

SPP is just underway with the 10 new projects, six in Matamba and four in Nhungu. It will take about 90-120 days to complete the 10 wells, because the logistics of getting equipment, tools, sand, mud, gravel casings, pumps, and cement to these remote locations is very challenging. These projects are being funded by the South Carolina Synod of the ELCA, through a special grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries, to assist the people of the SW Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT). This will provide a sustainable water supply for all the families in the two villages.


 Meeting with committee and community members in Matamba.

SPP had conducted the initial community and WASH training in November and December of 2014. It was a joy to see the progress that the water committees and village leadership had achieved. The picture above shows the SPP and W2T team meeting with the water committee members and village leadership in Matamba, with a similar meeting In Nhungu. Both communities had already created all their governance structure, and each community had already saved more than $1200 in the bank for the maintenance fund. These are awesome achievements that show real commitment on the part of the communities to the sustainability of the projects.

Water project work 

There are two separate crews working on the these projects, and the two pictures above show the status of the first two projects. The first site (top) is still in the drilling phase, with a mud rotary drilling machine. It had reached the aquifer and was about to finish the drilling process. At the second site (bottom), the drilling has been completed, and the pump testing is underway.

The team discusses of core samples from the well drilling. 

Gashaw Semeneh, W2T’s Program Manager in Addis Ababa, has been accompanying the team on the trip. He is in the middle of the left side of the photo above, in the plaid shirt, having a discussion about the core samples taken during the drilling process. WIth him are Haneal, from SPPP (foreground) and the community's drilling foreman (on the right). Gashaw is a degreed geologist and a certified hydrologist, so his advice and counsel have been extremely valuable for all the teams on the trip.

These new projects are off to a great start and the communities are very grateful for this blessing of clean water. They have been having to collect water from a nearby unprotected river or having to buy water from local vendors at very high prices. They believe the new access to clean, sustainable water will bring many positive benefits to the villages.


A Tanzanian yellow baboon
On the way down the mountain road, we met a new friend ... a large male yellow baboon, one of the two baboon species native to Tanzania. He was happily eating on some sugar cane that someone had tossed to him.


Expect the unexpected.

As we have said before, every day brings a surprise or two. Today, a flat tire on the way back to Iringa, adding to our five-hour trip!

Tomorrow is a travel day, a seven-hour drive from Iringa to Dar es Salaam, then a flight to Addis. On Saturday morning, we will meet the seven other travelers joining us for two weeks in Ethiopia. Watch for our next post this weekend. 


June 2 – Kiponzero and Intengulinyi, continued


Indeed, yesterday was busy and long, but fruitful. One of the reasons that we are visiting so many projects is to deploy a pilot project for new signage in Iringa.  Our work is often a bit of trial and error to find the best solution, and finding different sign solutions at the well sites that are permanent and don’t fade have been a challenge for all our implementing partners.


We are putting new signs on all 18 projects near Iringa to pilot-test stainless steel like the one shown above.  Stainless steel, of course, does not rust, and the lettering on these signs are chemically etched into it, so it will not fade. In addition, the sign is attached to the well head with a special metal to metal bonding adhesive from 3M that should be as strong as welding.


One of our board members, Lynne Dobson, commented yesterday on Facebook about the buckets being used to carry water. In this area, a bucket is the carrier of choice over jerry cans. The women and young girls generally carry the water on their heads, not their backs, and the bucket is easier to balance than a jerry can.




As we approached one of the projects, the woman above had just completed filling her bucket, which holds probably about 60 pounds of water. She could not have weighed more than 110 pounds herself, but in one swift motion, she picked up the bucket and had it securely on her head, and was headed down the road to her home!




Like most of the areas of our work, this area is populated by small farms, with corn as the crop of choice. You can see the corn field in the background of the picture above. This picture was taken right next to one of the projects and in the foreground you can see the trench that takes the runoff from the project to the two mounds of sweet potato plants for irrigation, using all the water for the benefit of the community.



At Gendawuye, we met Swantu Benadecta, pictured above with one of her grandchildren. She is 65, and has lived in this area all her life. Her family consists of nine children, 24 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She said her family had been collecting from the unprotected river source about an hour's walk away, and that she had been lucky not to have lost any children to waterborne diseases. Sadly, though, she said their neighbor family had lost two children. She was very thankful that the community now had clean water to ensure better health.







June 2 - Kiponzero and Intengulinyi


We had a very busy day today in the field, visiting 12 water projects in the two villages of Kiponzero and Intengulinyi, which are located about two hours' drive from Iringa. We did not return to the hotel until about 8:15 pm, too late to both have dinner and complete the blog before much needed zzzz’s ... so we chose to have dinner! Tune in tomorrow for photos and stories from our dozen-stop day.

A parting thought for the day. We always find unexpected moments of joy on our trips and today definitely had one. We were all in the car, a bit tired, headed back to the hotel about dusk, when we witnessed a beautiful sunset to the west that turned the sky ruby red for more than five minutes. Then, not more than 20 minutes later, we saw a spectacular moonrise in the east ... a full moon, brilliant and large on the horizon. A truly blessed way to end the day!



June 1 - The Iringa Projects


We began our day at 7 a.m., with an early morning flight departing from Dar es Salaam to Iringa. Auric Air has started this route in the last year, which is really great news. It save us one full day’s drive on some not so great roads. This way, we arrive in Iringa by 8:30 and can spend the remainder of the day being productive visiting communities and projects.



Susanne and Dick, just after landing in Iringa.


Our plane was a 12-passenger Cessna ... very cozy. We sat right behind the pilot, so we could see all the action. When the pilot crawled into his seat, Susanne leaned over and said, “He looks like he is 12 years old. Should we ask for his license?” He did a great job of getting us to our destination, but we didn’t think he had started shaving yet!

Our implementing partner in Tanzania is St. Paul Partners. We have been doing projects with them for some time now and have 18 completed water projects in this area. The projects, which were completed in 2013-14, are organized by village and sub-villages. For example, our first stop is Lundamatwe Village, and it is comprised of 3 sub-villages, each of which has a completed W2T well.


 Adila is a dispensary nurse in Lundamatwe.

In Lundamatwe, our first project to visit is the health post/dispensary. The well is really convenient, located just 50 yards from the back door. When we arrived, we met Adila, the nurse at the health post, who was gathering water to use in dispensary. She said she gathers the water several time a day to use in preparing bed linens and washing and treating patients. In the mornings and evenings, this water project is also shared with the community.

After visiting our projects in Lundamatwe, we head to Wangama Village, a short 30-minute drive. This village has six sub-villages, four of which are assigned W2T water projects.


 A fine lunch shared with us in Wangama.

The water committee in Wangama has 12 members (six women and six men), two from each sub-village. The committee is very active and doing a fine job. They have a nice bank balance in the maintenance fund and they collect a monthly fee from each adult using the projects. They were very gracious and excited to have us visit, showing their hospitality by preparing lunch of beef, chicken, rice, pinto beans, and pickled vegetables.


Villager Nabuha and her family.

At our last project of the day, we meet Nabuha, pictured above, gathering water for her family. She is 19 years old, with a four-year-old daughter. She lives a short five-minute walk from the pump. Before the project was completed, she walked more than an hour to fetch water from an untreated river that flows nearby.

When we arrived back in Iringa town, we finished the day with a dinner and discussion with three officials from the local Rotary Club. W2T is in the midst of a 34-project implementation in conjunction with the Eden Prairie MN Rotary Club. Through the work of that Rotary Club, we were able to secure a 3-to-1 match for the money we contributed. We will be making contact with the local Rotary Clubs in each town we visit to have a dialogue about possible collaboration with W2T to help sponsor projects in their local area.



Water to Thrive journeys to Ethiopia - Summer 2015

Sunday May 31

Our summer mission trips to Tanzania and Ethiopia are under way. Susanne Wilson, our new executive director, and our founder Dick Moeller left Austin last Friday, bound first for Tanzania. 

En route, Susanne and Dick had dinner with the management team at International Lifeline Fund in Washington D.C., our implementing partner for our Ugandan projects. Then, after about 20 hours of flying and two absolutely packed flights, we arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The travel gods greeted us with a reminder of our hometown of Austin ... as soon as we sat down in the taxicab to go to our hotel, it began raining...and really hard too!

But we are here, and ready for the rest of this journey. Join us for the next two weeks as we travel through Tanzania and Ethiopia, visiting potential project sites. touring the ones in progress, and celebrating those that have been completed.


Water to Thrive Selects New Executive Director

 AUSTIN, Texas -- Water to Thrive, a faith-based non-profit dedicated to relieving the water crisis in rural Africa, is pleased to announce the selection of Susanne Wilson as its new executive director. Wilson, chosen by Water to Thrive’s board and current president after a lengthy selection process, will be the first executive director in the organization’s six-year history.
“After six years of volunteer leadership, the Board of Water to Thrive believes that it is time to have a full-time, dedicated Executive Director leading the organization,” said Dick Moeller, president and founder of Water to Thrive. “This appointment will dramatically increase our ability to serve more people, giving us greater capacity to reach those with a heart to support our mission and providing continuity of leadership to ensure Water to Thrive’s long-term success.”
Wilson comes to Water to Thrive from an eight-year appointment as Executive Director of Henderson Community College Foundation in Henderson, Kentucky, and as board chair of Companion Community Development Alternatives and a member of Rotary International, has been deeply engaged in work to alleviate the global water crisis.
“Susanne is a great match for Water to Thrive,” Moeller said. “She is an experienced, successful non-profit Executive Director, and her work to address the water crises in Africa and Central America demonstrates her passion for serving people in developing countries. We are excited about the future of Water to Thrive under Susanne’s leadership.”
Wilson’s years of experience in non-profit and education leadership include executive planning, administration, communications and marketing, development, financial oversight, and higher education. She received her MBA from Auburn University and is further certified in fundraising management by the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Philanthropy. In her work with Rotary International, she served as chair of an international water project and on the board of Rotary Club of Evansville.
“Joining Water to Thrive gives me a tremendous opportunity to align my passion for making an impact with my background in philanthropy,” Wilson said. “I have witnessed what having access to clean, safe water means for people in developing nations – it provides hope and unlocks human potential. I look forward to taking the mission and service of Water to Thrive to new heights.”

Live Auctions: Where the competition heats up!

Mark your calendars for Chef’s Table Austin on May 6th, 2015.

You’ve heard it in movies, TV shows, maybe even experienced it yourself but the live chatter and loud caller at auctions is a unique experience that cannot be compared to any other sort of gathering! You can experience this plus some great food at Chef’s Table Austin hosted by Water to Thrive on May 6th at the Long Center from 6:30pm-9:30pm.

What are you bidding on? Having a once in a lifetime dining experience with Austin’s greatest chef’s. Including executive chefs from Uchi, Foreign and Domestic, Congress, Fabi+Rosi, Fork & Vine, Barlata, Nova, Salt Time, and Greenhouse. There are other prizes besides dining with one of these fantastic chefs, come out to see what these other items are!

What is the theme? Blue Party. Grab your blue dress, shoes, purses, tux, anything blue to have a great night out with your family, friends or co-workers!

For more information visit



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