I met a tall man at a party last night named Tyler. He was with his partner, and I heard them say that they lived in JP. Jamaica Plain, Mass. She’s a short pretty woman named Leah who is a nurse. I asked him what he did for a living and he told me he ran an NGO that dug water wells in Uganda. I hadn’t seen that coming.
Tyler Seever told me that it costs about $4000 to dig a well in Uganda. and that the changes that a village goes through after a well is dug are dramatic. He recalls his visits to the remote Ugandan province where his Project Humanity operates. It takes 40 hours to get there, after many flights and driving up roads that are barely passable.
He said what he came away with that strikes him the most is how difficult life is for villagers who live in Uganda. Besides the women having to carry water on their heads 40 minutes or an hour each day, it’s just making a living that’s full of difficulties. He remembers seeing a woman beating sorgham with a rod, in the morning, and returning in the afternoon and she was still working it, hard labor under an impossibly hot sun. The temperature can reach 117.
Seever said that many other NGOs dig wells in Africa but that in many cases after a few years they no longer function. That’s because the machinery was not maintained, and there are costs involved that are not taken into account. Because of this, Project Humanity asks each villager to contribute $1 a month that’s pooled into a fund to maintain the well. Asking for this and $100 up front from the village gives the locals a real stake in the well, and an understanding that it’s theirs to maintain and keep operating.
But it’s not as easy as Tyler first thought to get grants and get people to donate. He admits he lacks the promotional skills, and website savvy to bring large numbers of donors into the fray. “What about getting in touch with Matt Damon and his water.org foundation. They are doing work in South and Central America and not primarily Africa, he said.
I read up on the Project Humanity’s website and learned that the charity was founded as one of the last wishes of his dying wife, Edita, who had liver cancer and wanted to leave a legacy…to help those much less fortunate who also suffer but don’t have access to the modern medical system that despite months of effort, could not save her life. Each well we dig, Tyler wrote, Edita will be there with us smiling.