One of the greatest challenges facing the world today – one that kills nearly 5,000 children every day – is the lack of access to clean water. But today on U.N.-designated World Water Day, we'll look at one Oklahoma-based group that is providing a fresh solution that is saving lives and giving hope to hundreds of thousands of people in impoverished communities around the world.
Water4, established in 2008 by Richard and Terri Greenly, has for years been equipping, training, and empowering locals in Central America, Africa and parts of Asia to drill water wells on their own and in surrounding communities. The initiative is aimed at eradicating the global water crisis, which kills a child every 21 seconds, largely due to Diarrheal disease, which is more deadly than Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Malaria combined.
Water4's upcoming documentary about the group's work, called "This is Normal," directed by Derek Watson, gives a first-hand account of the families in Africa living with the very real realities of the clean water crisis every day. The film also chronicles Water4 President Richard Greenly's motivation in starting up the group, and how the project has spread around the world.
In an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday, Greenly and his wife, Terri, who is also the co-owner and treasurer of Pumps of Oklahoma, Inc, explained that their group has traveled to over 30 countries, equipping and training people to not only learn how to dig wells but also to restore them when they break down.
Water4 has worked in parts of Central America, and in areas of India, but the majority of its efforts take place in Africa, in countries such as Sierra Leone, Togo, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Angola, Malawi, Zambia and others.
"Anywhere where there's a lack of clean water, it produces the same results. Little children catch a bug, then they get diarrhea, and they get dehydrated and they die," Richard Greenly told CP.
A geologist with over 30 years of experience in water/wastewater and industrial pumping and treatment, Greenly revealed that the problem in Africa is not that there is no water to be found – in fact, the only completely dry areas are in the Sahara desert, the southern tip of South Africa and the Kenya Rift Valley. He says what Africa suffers from is economic water scarcity. Many communities have fresh ground water 50 to 60 feet beneath them, but they do not have the means to get it out.
"This is what makes this thing such a tragedy. If they were just given the tools, and with a little bit of help, they can drill their own wells. Almost 80 to 70 percent of Africa has this water underneath their feet," Greenly stated.
The Water4 founder said that during times of civil war, water can be used as a weapon, but because the n trains locals to repair broken wells, people have more security and do not have to fear a warlord turning off one valve and controlling the water for an entire area.
Greenly also addressed U.N. divisions such as UNESCO that are providing useful statistics and raising awareness about the different diseases and hardships people around the world face due to lack of clean water. But he says despite their good efforts to raise awareness, the U.N. has not been able to offer a practical solution.
"These are very well-meaning people. These folks at the U.N. have nothing but the best intentions, but they've never really come up with a methodology where they can get the solution down to the village level," Greenly said.
U.N. groups have installed many water wells around Africa, but the problem is they soon break down. There are currently more than 200,000 broken wells, which amounts to more than 2 billion dollars in costs.
"We train locals at the village level how to drill and maintain these water wells, and they get to do it as a business, so it's not charity. They are highly motivated to drill the wells, and when the well breaks, they get paid to come out and repair the broken well point," Greenly explained.
Water4 has worked in various communities with different religious backgrounds, and even though the work they do stems from their Christian faith, they reach out to all who need help.
"It's very important to us that we drill wells in these communities to allow the missionaries to be able to share Christ, but it's not a prerequisite for where we go. We've been in strong Muslim communities; we've been in strong Hindu communities; we've been in communities where there are witch doctors and Aminism. Twice we've been to North Korea, which is completely devoid of religion on purpose," Greenly revealed.
"We drill wells out of our respect and love for Jesus, and because of that we hope people will understand who Jesus is, but we don't do it as a requisite."
The best way for people to get involved is through financial contributions, which can directly save lives and provide clean water for entire communities. Water4 says that even just six dollars can provide clean water supply for one person for life.
Terri Greenly noted that Water4 has tried to make tackling the global water crisis something that anyone can get involved in. "A lot of people talk about how to fix it, but because we've broken it down in those small bits for what you can do, and we've basically made it affordable to solve the problem, people feel like they can really play a part and make a difference," Greenly said.
"Before, the problem seemed so overwhelming and impossible, and people kind of ignored it because they felt like they couldn't have a part in it or make a difference, and we just want people to join in and be able to do that."
The Water4.org website provides further information about how people can get involved and about the group's many projects around the globe.