Rotary is an international service club founded in 1905 as a place for businessmen to exchange ideas and form friendships. Since that time, it has become a humanitarian club of 1.2 million members focused on solving problems and making an impact around the world. Rotary programs aim to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene, help mothers and children, support education and grow local economies.

All of these areas easily stand alone, but each is directly linked to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Clean water is clearly tied to better health, and a reduction of disease and death. Clean water saves mothers from back breaking work and the time it takes to carry water. Childhood morbidity is reduced. A local village well gives children time to attend school. Schools that receive wells attract students. Clean water supports economic development. Families have more time to work on income generating activities including raising vegetables, chickens and other animals for sale in the markets. Clean water promotes peace. Girls no longer must face dangerous walks to distant water sources. Abductions, rapes and even homicides are reduced.

It is through several links that brought together Water to Thrive and Rotary. After several Water to Thrive presentations at the Austin Northwest Rotary Club breakfast meetings, Rotarian, Homer Goering and his wife, Mary, funded a well. They traveled to Ethiopia in 2015 to visit the village where their well was located. The impact of this trip was profound to Homer and Mary. Mary called the trip, “one of the highlights of my marriage.” Homer and Mary have since shared our mission, and the impact of clean water, to their fitness club, church, friends, family, fellow artists and pretty much anyone who would listen. Thanks to their efforts, over 20 wells have been funded. But the story does not end there.

Enter another Austin Northwest Rotarian, Kent Miller. Kent was moved by our mission and decided he would like to apply for a Rotary Global Grant to help Water to Thrive. Kent spent some time in Ethiopia as a minister and was familiar with the culture and issues facing so many of the rural people there. After over a year of researching, attending meetings and learning about the Rotary Global Grant process, Kent presented to clubs in Texas and reached out to clubs all over the United States with his proposal. He secured the participation of 14 Rotary clubs and matching funds from the district and Rotary International. The result was a grant that funded 12 spring protection wells in the Chelia district of Ethiopia, which benefits 6,442 people. Kent traveled to visit the Rotary projects and met with the host country Rotary club, Central Mella club in Addis Ababa. He celebrated clean water with beneficiaries. He was invited into their homes, drank numerous cups of coffee, danced, sang and was so overcome with joy, that he was inspired to write another grant.

Pictured above are Rotarians celebrating the completed water projects with beneficiaries!
Above are beneficiaries at the completed water projects.

The collaboration of Rotary and Water to Thrive is natural. Rotary is focused on sustainable change. The Water to Thrive model involves more than just a well. Each village receives training on maintenance, management and oversight of the water source. Community members are aided in setting up a user fee account where funds are deposited and can later be used to pay for any maintenance issues. Villagers receive comprehensive sanitation and hygiene training, including education on disease transference, latrine building and food preparation.

Pictured above are community members attending water, sanitation and hygiene training.

Kent’s second Global Grant has been accepted and will fund 24 more wells in Ethiopia. Due to the COVID virus, the start of the projects is delayed, but should launch sometime in mid to late summer of this year. In the mean time, during this pandemic, the in-country Rotary club in Addis Ababa is bringing education, prevention, and equipment to vulnerable people. Rotary Ethiopia in collaboration with The Federal Ministry of Health, Ministry of Peace and World Health Organization has donated portable hand washing systems, liquid soaps, sanitizers, gloves, face-masks, and posters that provide information about COVID-19 to Mekedonia, a home for 2,000 elderly and mentally disabled citizens.

Ethiopia just recently closed down transportation and health officials are promoting social distancing and working from home. The health care capability for prevention, equipment, tests, and hospital beds is very restricted in Ethiopia. They cannot afford a sizable outbreak, as most people lack even clean water to prevent infection.

We are so thankful for the incredible efforts of Homer, Mary and Kent, and all of our Ambassadors and for our amazing partnership with Rotary International. We are proud partners of Rotary and continue to be inspired by the way Rotary Ethiopia is helping our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia battle COVID-19.

If you are interested in learning more about this grant or how you, as a Rotarian can participate, please contact Susanne Wilson at