By Rebeca Mendoza, Rotary International Regional Grants Officer
Today, World Water Day, is dedicated to learning more about water related issues, sharing our individual stories and projects, and taking action to make a difference. Nearly 1.5 billion people work in water related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on the safe delivery of water. The theme for World Water Day 2016— water and jobs — focuses on how access to sufficient quantities and adequate quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and transform societies and economies.*
Rotarians are working hard to improve lives through clean water. As a Regional Grants Officer for District 9211, which consists of Uganda and Tanzania, I receive a high volume of applications for Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) grants. While WASH initiatives in this region vary by location, many of them consist of providing wells and rainwater harvesting, improving sanitation, and many are WASH in schools projects. In honor of World Water Day, I hope the following responses to two common questions about WASH grants help your club and district strengthen your water and sanitation projects:
What are the most important components of water and sanitation projects?
The strongest WASH grant applications include a thorough community assessment that consists of an evaluation of the communities, their assets, and their priorities. This assessment may be done through discussions or surveys, but the most important thing is that an open dialogue is carried out with not just the sponsors, but with the local community members.
For all of these projects, we suggest starting with a detailed implementation schedule that lists infrastructure activities (e.g., constructing latrines) and their duration, training activities, and monitoring and evaluation activities. Rotarians will often provide descriptions of the environment in grant applications, as well as water statistics. While this is great information, it is not sufficient because it does not specify how the proposed technologies and interventions were selected and why the selected technologies/interventions are best for the particular community.
What makes a project sustainable?
One of the most important components of a WASH project is the training and outreach to complement the systems being implemented. The kind of training will vary by project type, but some sort of training is always required to make the project sustainable.
In my opinion, this is where Rotarian involvement matters most. The training provides an opportunity not only to share important information about best WASH practices, but also helps establish lasting connections with the communities in which these projects are taking place. Some of the best projects I see have substantial training and outreach by Rotarians and the outcomes show that this makes a huge difference in the project’s long-term success.
Women and children in Sacala Las Lomas, Guatemala carry water to and from the community well to their homes.
People draw water from a Rotary funded well in Kouré, Niger.
Women carry their daily water supply from a well near the village of Vihule Kond, Maharashtra, India.
Maria, 8 yrs., fills her cup with clean drinking water at El Tunini school in Guatemala.
Residents cheer as water pours from a repaired water well in the village of Ampenkro, Ghana.
Traditional charity and aid alone will not solve the problems caused by poverty but building relationships and empowering communities will transform communities. Rotarians have a contagious enthusiasm for doing good in the world. The projects I see that have significant Rotarian involvement spread this positive outlook and enthusiasm throughout communities. I know you can’t measure these things, but I’d like to argue that these experiences, filled with passion and dedication, lead to long-term sustainability. Community members feel empowered by being able to take part in solving their own challenges; empower community members eagerly go on to help others.
Water is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health; water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development. If you are planning a WASH project, consider the impact you can make beyond the provision of water supply.
Join the #WorldWaterDay celebration by using #WaterIs to share messages about #Rotary Water and Sanitation initiatives on Twitter and Facebook.
*[United Nation’s World Water Day website]