News

Life of an African Artisan

 

Did anyone get the chance to come to our Shop for a Cause event back in December? I’m sure your friends and family loved the unique African gifts you put under the Christmas tree for them. We do the Shop for a Cause events for a few reasons. Yes, it’s definitely cool to have something unique from another country. But it’s also another opportunity for us to help in small ways to change the lives of African people, particularly women. Women’s rights and empowerment is something we hear and talk a lot about here in the States. We thought it would be a great time to shed some light on what that looks like in Africa.

The cultural history of African Artisans is a rich one that is passed down from generation to generation. Traditionally, women are the main artisans, and the skills and techniques are passed from one generation of women to the next while they perform the duties of maintaining the home. As the demand for handcrafted goods and sustainable craftsmanship is growing worldwide, the opportunity for these women to turn their skills - like basket-weaving, textile work, jewelry making, and so much more - into something income-generating has been steadily increasing. The demand for these products has empowered these women to have jobs that help lift them out of poverty and bring positive change to their families.

 

More and more organizations are popping up who work to help make sure women are paid a fair wage for their work, and help to sell their products abroad. And we love being one of these organizations! So the next time you’re at one of our events and your eye is drawn to a brightly colored scarf, or a unique bowl or basket, we hope you see it with new eyes. Yes, it’s beautiful and well-crafted. But we hope you also see the face of a woman who’s working hard to change her circumstances, both for herself and her family.

 

In the spirit of women coming together to create change, we’re getting ready for our next event coming up on Thursday, February 22nd. Water to Thrive is partnering with thredUP to create a fun, affordable shopping experience that helps a great cause. At this "Sip & Swap" event, you'll have the opportunity to do some secondhand shopping while sipping and snacking. Simply bring at least 3 items of clothing, jewelry, shoes, or other accessories to the event that you're wanting to get rid of, and take any other 3 items of your choice. It’ll be a super fun night you won’t want to miss. Click here for tickets and keep an eye on our Facebook event for more updates!

 

 

A Very Special Year

Oh, how the time flies. It doesn’t feel like very long ago that Water to Thrive was just a big idea, that a small group of people has now turned into a reality. The dream is now in full force because April 2018 marks our TENTH YEAR as a non-profit! This milestone year is a big deal for us, and we’re excited you're going to be along for the ride.    

We always have big goals for the lives we can touch through W2T, and this year is no different. For our 10th anniversary, we’ve set a goal to have 1,000 wells funded by the end of 2018. As we stand now, we’ve received the funding for about 844 wells. That means we’ve got 156 wells to go. It’s definitely a big goal, but if we’ve learned anything in our ten years, it’s that we have amazing people who stand behind us and help us accomplish big things!

To add to the celebrations, Water to Thrive founder Dick Moeller will also be leading a unique 10th anniversary trip this summer to Ethiopia. During the 19-day trip (May 29th - June 17th) you’ll not only get to embrace the rich culture and history of Ethiopia, but you will visit at least one project site and community from each of W2T’s 10 years. This will be a truly amazing experience, and if you have ever considered going but haven't made the jump, this is the year to do it. Dick will be hosting a conference call on Monday, February 19th from 4-5 pm Central time to discuss the highlights of the trip and answer any questions you may have. For more information about the call or the trip, email Dick directly at: dick@watertothrive.org
We are so excited to see what all God has in store for W2T this upcoming year, and we’ll be here to bring you along every step of the way.
 

 

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!

 

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.

A Time to Remember

It’s the weekend we all look forward to... The kick-off to summer, filled with barbeques, pool time, or taking the boat out on the lake. A long weekend to kick back, relax, and start the summer season off right! However, Memorial Day is not just the unofficial beginning of summer (yay!) but a day of remembering the men and women who have died while serving our country.

We’re eager for all the adventure that summer holds, and we’re currently tending to the final preparations for our first trip of the year to Ethiopia next week. During this time, amongst all the goings-on, we make sure to take time and step back to reflect on the sacrifice that this holiday has been set aside to remember. We have been given so much by those who have fought and died for the freedoms we often take for granted. This year, as we’re simultaneously taking part in remembrance for our loved ones, and preparing to head to another country, we can’t help but be humbled by the luxuries we experience daily.

 

We are so fortunate for what we have been given. It’s easy to feel discouraged, sometimes guilty, because we reap the reward without partaking in the sacrifice. Using the gifts we have been given to benefit those who are still in the midst of struggle is part of the way we honor those who sacrificed for the comforts we enjoy. When you donate to Water to Thrive through our website, you always have the opportunity to make your donation in honor of, or in memory of, someone special. As you celebrate the joy and laughter this weekend, don’t forget to stop and send up a thank you. If you feel inclined, make a donation to honor those close to you who died to make a better life for you, whether by serving our country or in other ways. In doing so, you’ll be supporting an organization working to aid those in Africa who are still struggling to find a way to build something better for their loved ones. Happy Memorial Day!

 

 

 

 

3...2...1... Happy 2009?

Remember when Marty McFly time travelled for the first time in Back To The Future? You’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would pass up that opportunity. When the topic of time travel comes up in conversation, some might start thinking about all the things they would have done, or the things they’d try to change. Plus it’d just be a fun way to pass the time. We completely agree… And at Water to Thrive, we time travel a few times every year! Okay, it’s not exactly time travel, but it’s still a little weird and probably the closest you can get.

Internationally, the most widely used calendar is the Gregorian calendar. We use this calendar here in the United States, and in fact it’s so widely used that there are only four countries that don’t use it. You may have guessed by now what one of those countries may be. That’s right, in Ethiopia, it’s currently year 2009. Like we said, it’s a little weird.  

 


 

It may be because Ethiopia was independently settled, but regardless of why, the country uses their own Ethiopian calendar. It’s a solar calendar derived from the ancient Egyptian Calendar, that starts their year either September 11th or 12th. As advertised in the poster above (which was hanging in the lobby of one of our hotels in Ethiopia last fall), the calendar is made up of twelve months of 30 days, and a 13th month of five or six extra days depending on the year. The discrepancy between the calendars is due to disagreements on the correct calculation of the timing of the Annunciation, which marks the announcement to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive the baby Jesus by the angel Gabriel. Because of these differing beliefs, Ethiopia will always be seven to eight years behind us.

 

Because a lot of the wells we build are in Ethiopia, we spend a lot of time there. It often makes us stop and ask ourselves, “What’s the point of time?” Not to make your head hurt too much, but does it really matter that we believe it’s 2017 here, and Ethiopians believe that it’s 2009 there? If the answer is “No,” then does time really matter? Of course it does to some extent, but when you realize that time was created by civilizations as a tool for measuring, it helps put things in perspective. We put so much value and importance on time, and the passage of time, that we forget we’re the ones that give time the power to have significance. Everyday at Water to Thrive we try to focus our energy not on time, but on people, because the people are what’s significant.

 

We love sharing our trip experiences you, but are always happy when people travel with us to experience it for themselves. If you feel like time is moving too fast, then come relive 2009 and experience first hand the 13-months of sunshine Ethiopia has to offer.

 

 

  

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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