Sunday, March 22, is World Water Day—a day that recognizes the importance of freshwater and its sustainable management. In celebration of this most precious resource, we’d like to share a bit about the important work being done by Water For People, an international nonprofit organization Murraysmith has long been proud to support.
In 2019 we sent one of our engineers, Nichole Kruse, on Water For People’s Impact Tour—a chance to see firsthand the organization’s progress in helping to end the global water crisis. Nichole is one of many Murraysmith employees who take part in the firm’s charitable match program, donating a portion of their pay to Water For People. She was selected for a firm-sponsored tour to see how donations are used to strengthen the health of communities around the globe.
Last September, Nichole found herself an ocean away from overcast Seattle and under an intense sun in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. The landscape of rolling green ridges that greeted her lived up to the country’s other moniker—“the land of a thousand hills.”
In Rwanda, Water For People (WFP) works in three targeted districts—Kicukiro, Rulindo, and Gicumbi—to bring water, sanitation, and hygiene services to every family, clinic, and school. They accomplish this by partnering with local leaders and residents in these targeted districts, mostly rural areas of low-income countries, to implement community-specific solutions that work for generations to come.
“The people who benefit from these projects are treated as owners from day one,” Nichole explained, “there is a lot of investment in the people they partner with.”
Operating from a model they call “Everyone Forever,” WFP spends years in these districts ensuring that every person has sustainable access to safe water and sanitation. Key to this model are the tools and training WFP provides communities to allow them to independently manage their water and maintain their infrastructure without foreign aid.
According the United Nations and World Health Organization’s Joint Monitoring Program, 2.1 billion people around the world don’t have access to safe water. What water is available is challenging to source—a burden that falls heavily on women and girls who lose an estimated 200 hours every day around the globe to the task.
On her tour of the districts, Nichole met Rwandan girls who, in having a reliable water source installed close their homes, are now able to attend school more frequently and consistently. She saw how improved lavatories are also helping to break down barriers for girls, allowing them to stay in school during their periods.
A visit to a local school showed that safe water for drinking and hand washing is now freely available to all students, where before individuals were responsible for bringing their own water supply each day. Children are also taught beneficial hygiene practices, helping to further reduce the spread of illnesses.
With a goal of having a water source within 200 meters of every home, WFP provides some residents the opportunity to take a direct role in their community’s water management as water sellers. Nichole met a water seller in Rulindo who takes great pride in her role as a provider to her community. Rulindo was the first district globally where WFP implemented their Everyone Forever model—they are on track to provide every person with sustainable access to safe water and sanitation by 2025.
As a water and wastewater infrastructure engineer, Nichole understands the importance of water resources better than most people, but that didn’t lessen the impact of seeing how newfound access to safe water is changing Rwandans’ lives in profound ways. In connecting firsthand with communities like Rulindo, she found that Water For People provides much more than just safe water and sanitation, but really is “about giving people opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have”—to be educated, become entrepreneurs, to lead their communities, and find their individual path toward thriving in safe and secure environments.
It is about giving people opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.