In honor of Bono's birthday, the African Well Fund is hosting its 12th annual Build-A-Well fundraiser through May 10 to increase access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation for more than 12,000 people living in Kwazna Sul Province in Angola. Learn about The African Well Fund's partnership with Africare from Africare's Rob Patterson, and be sure to support the campaign here!

Me and the African Well Fund Board at Africare House in Washington, D.C. I'm the tall guy on the right.

Happy Birthday Bono!

My name is Rob Patterson, Deputy Director of International Programs at Africare. The African Well Fund and Africare have partnered to improve clean water access across Africa for more than 11 years now, and I've had the pleasure of directing Africare's implementation of African Well Fund-financed projects since July 2011.

Africare always emphasizes the importance of clean water access and sanitation (WASH), but since we work directly with communities to identify and help solve the challenges they face, our projects address a lot of different issues. This means that not only does the African Well Fund help save lives, the wells, WASH infrastructure and activities they finance also simultaneously empower African women, strengthen African agriculture and more.

Allow me to explain. Some projects are water-focused, like the WASH in Schools project where African Well Fund support helped rehabilitate boreholes and construct rainwater harvesting systems in schools in Malawi and Tanzania. In other projects, African Well Fund wells and latrines are integrated with other initiatives. In our women's empowerment program in Chad, where Africare trains women in business skills and microfinance, African Well Fund wells provide hundreds of women with clean water for their businesses and families, and women's co-operatives also use the wells to procure drinking water for restaurants they operate. In Ghana a few years ago, an Africare health project helped farmers reduce malaria with prevention education and gardening skills for better nutrition. African Well Fund wells helped provide clean water for thousands of these Ghanaian farming families, keeping people healthy, keeping children in school and keeping farmers in their fields, where they earn their living.

Water is life. You can't live without it, and you can't grow without it. THANK YOU to all African Well Fund supporters for helping save lives and helping Africa grow for more than a decade. The generosity of you and the African Well Fund Board have improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Africans across 15 countries, and if any of you African Well Fund supporters out there are as dedicated as your board members, you are in special company.

-Rob Patterson
Africare Deputy Director of International Programs

[A guest post by the great Rob Patterson at Africare. You can see his original post (and visit Africare!) over here.]

AWF Announces Dates for Got Water? Auction

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 The African Well Fund will host the ninth annual Got Water? online auction Nov. 4-11 and is currently looking for items to include in this year's auction. If you or your company have any items you'd like to donate to the auction, such as signed items, memorabilia and artwork, please contact auction coordinator Abbey Fisher at

Items will be auctioned on AWF's eBay page.

AWF raised over $1,600 for clean water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa during last year's auction, which featured signed items from U2's The Edge, Glen Hansard of The Frames and The Swell Season, Patti Smith, Duran Duran's John Taylor and Wilco. Through the eight previous Got Water? auctions, AWF raised over $15,200 to help fund projects in Mali, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia. Funds raised during this year's auction will help AWF continue its important work.

Benin Trip Reflection

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 Several weeks ago, I had the great privilege of visiting African Well Fund projects in Benin, West Africa. It was my second visit to our projects and, like my first trip to Ghana in 2009, the visit was full of profound experiences and unique adventures. Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing photos, videos and specific accounts of our site visits, but, in the meantime, I'd like to share some of my personal reflections on the trip.

The purpose of the trip was to visit AWF-funded projects in Benin. There are many, many, many organizations raising money for water and sanitation projects in Africa. One of the things that I think sets AWF apart is our ability and desire to remove as many layers as possible between our donors and the communities that benefit from the projects they fund. Visiting these projects is our attempt to serve as the eyes and ears of our donors. We want to bring back firsthand accounts of the projects and the communities where they're located to give you a clear understanding of how your donation is used and the impact it has. We wish we could visit more projects and bring back more stories, but as we pay all of our trip expenses out-of-pocket, it's just not possible.

Unlike the projects I saw in Ghana, the projects in Benin were over two years old. In Ghana, we attended the ribbon cutting for two of the projects. The pumps and latrines were pristine--gleaming and new, ready to be used by the communities that worked so hard to implement them. I have to admit, I had trepidations at the thought of visiting projects that were over two years old. Would they be worse for wear? Had they fallen into disrepair? I realized, however, if this was the case, it was part of the story and it would need to be told.

I needn't have worried at all. After our warm welcoming at the Dilly secondary school, we were brought to see the water pump and latrines that your donations made possible. The pump was in perfect working order, providing water for the school community. The latrines were spotless, as pristine as the newly commissioned ones I visited in Ghana four years ago. The same held true at the remaining three schools we visited. The facilities are all highly valued and well cared for by the school communities despite the many challenges they face.
As with my last visit to Africa, I was overwhelmed on two fronts. First, I was overwhelmed by the extraordinary hospitality shown to us by the schools that we visited. The outpouring of warmth and goodwill is tangible. It's easy to throw adjectives around but it is an amazing experience to receive such a welcome. I feel extremely grateful to have had this experience for the second time in my life.

The second front on which I feel overwhelmed was by the tremendous need I witnessed during my journey. It's very hard to describe to someone living in the U.S. who hasn't visited a developing country the depth of that need. Without this knowledge, it's easy to say things like, "We have poverty here," "Charity begins at home" and "We need to help our own first." I know that poverty exists in the U.S., I've seen it and I have devoted time and energy to helping to eradicate it, but I never had a clear understanding of the difference between relative and absolute poverty until my first visit to a developing country. Absolute poverty refers to the total lack of basic human necessities.

As my daughter observed after looked at the photos from my trip, "These are people living like this right now, not some long ago time before the advent of modern conveniences." I know from my travels that there are too many people living in absolute or near absolute poverty in too many places. I'm sure you've heard the poverty statistic, "X number of people in the world live on less than a dollar a day" - to realize exactly what that means is sobering, to say the least.

It's impossible not to reflect on the contrast with conditions here and the moral implications of such contrast. My world is full of technological marvels that make my very easy life, easier still while so many others are faced with daily struggles for basic necessities, having to walk miles each day for water. The imbalance is tremendous and it exists for no good reason. We have the means and capability to alleviate this kind of poverty. 

If you're still with me at this point, you may be asking, "What more can I do?" If you're a donor to AWF, don't stop! We can do so much more with your help. If you've thought about donating, please do! We say this over and over, but whatever you can contribute, no matter how small, makes a difference!

Beyond donating, educate and advocate! Like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter where we try to post relevant stories related to poverty and development issues in Africa. Learn as much as you can about these issues and how we can best support the people who are struggling to make a better life for themselves, their families, their communities and their countries.

Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Benin

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In late May, African Well Fund board members had the opportunity to visit AWF's first project in Benin, an initiative to build water pumps and latrines at schools in the commune of Bohicon. In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing stories, pictures and video from the trip, but first we look back at the project itself.

Located in West Africa, Benin is, like many of its neighbors, dependent on agricultural production. The country also benefits from substantial trade and transportation with surrounding states. This is particularly true in Bohicon, where two main highways allow for transportation from the south of Benin to the north, and connect Benin to Nigeria in the east. 

Despite this heavy traffic, the people of Bohicon have limited access to drinking water. Approximately 5 percent of the population benefits from water infrastructure. The other 95 percent must rely on cisterns, rivers and other unsanitary sources of drinking water, leading to high rates of waterborne disease and death. 

Still, Bohicon has the highest rate of secondary school enrollment in its region, with six children out of 10 attending school full-time. It's four of those schools―CEG IV, CEG Passagon, CEG Sodoho and CEG Dilly―that were the focus of this project.

Like much of the commune as a whole, Bohicon schools have little access to clean water and sanitation. Of the four schools in this project, none had a source of drinking water for students. Any drinking water had to be obtained from tanks used to collect rainwater. Only one school, CEG Dilly, had a sufficient number of latrines for its students. The others lacked both necessary sanitation as well as accompanying hand-washing stations. 

In 2011, AWF with partner Africare aimed to reduce the incidence of waterborne illness at these four schools by funding infrastructure that would help each provide clean water and sanitation to their students. 

For Bohicon IV, CEG Passagon, and CEG Dilly, water pumps were installed. CEG Sodohome had a water tank installed to facilitate the storage and hygienic use of water. Bohicon IV, CEG Sodohome and CEG Passagon also had a block of four latrines built, along with hand washing stations for each. All together over 3,000 students gained access to drinking water and latrines through the project. 

Please join us in the coming weeks as we celebrate each school we visited. It was an honor to be able to see the results of this project firsthand, and we want you―the people who made it possible―to share in it.

A Gift for Mom & Clean Water in One Click

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Board member Devlin Smith shares one way she's found to support African Well Fund while celebrating her mom!

I knew exactly what I wanted to buy my mom for Mother's Day and knew just where to get it-- GoodShop. I visited the site, a searchable listing of thousands of online retailers who will donate a portion of your purchase to the charity of your choice, entered the name of the retailer who offers the gift my mom had been asking for, clicked, placed the order, earned African Well Fund 2 percent of the purchase price, and the gift is now on its way.

Thousands of online retailers are listed with GoodShop, so you can use it to do all of your Mother's Day shopping. The site even has a special page featuring dozens of special offers for Mother's Day, so not only can you earn money for AWF with your purchase, you can also save yourself a few dollars.

GoodShop is a product of GoodSearch, a search engine that donates 1 cent per web search to the charity of your choice. Site users can also earn money for the charity of their choice several others ways through the site, including playing games, taking surveys and eating out. AWF has been listed with GoodSearch since December 2005 and has earned more than $1,500 in that time from its supporters' web searches and online purchases.

If you'd like your web searches or purchases to benefit AWF projects, click here and let the site know you're supporting African Well Fund (Schenectady, NY).

U2 Conference Reflections: A Grateful Community

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African Well Fund board member Abbey Fisher recently attended the 2nd U2 Academic Conference in Cleveland. She shares her experience with us below.


This past weekend, a group of African Well Fund volunteers and board members were fortunate to attend the 2nd U2 Academic Conference in Cleveland.  We hosted an information table, with the hopes of meeting old and new friends, raising funds for the 11th Bono Birthday Well, and promoting our work to a unique audience - those who are fans of U2 and who have studied their impact on society and on all of us.  I had the pleasure of creating our table display, and because I'm newer to AWF, it was a treat to look through information about the previous fundraisers, and see the growth of this great organization.  Ten years on, U2 fans have donated over $223,000 for the birthday wells, and made a difference in the lives of over 56,000 Africans - amazing!

 When I was thinking of what to write about for this post, I asked my fellow AWFers what their impressions were.  We felt that there were two themes expressed throughout the weekend: Community and Gratitude.  We were among people who shared our concerns for the people of Africa, Sarajevo, Burma; anywhere people struggle to survive.  And while we all got a few funny looks from friends when we told them where we were going for the weekend, this community of people really got it.  Our outreach has grown throughout the years, but U2 fans are the group that has overwhelmingly supported AWF since its inception.  These are our people.

 We are incredibly grateful for Scott Calhoun, the conference organizer, who worked so hard to make the event happen, and for going above and beyond in making sure we were featured prominently at two special events.  


Diane Yoder & Rob Trigalet with 'Meet Me in the Sound' director Natalie Baker.

First was a screening of Natalie Baker's beautiful and moving film about the fan experience, Meet Me In The Sound.  When AWF's chair, Rob Trigalet, spoke in the film about the organization's origin, we heard several audience members say, "I didn't know that!" 

We are grateful for the opportunity to illustrate the power of music to inspire - thank you Natalie! 

On Saturday night, Unforgettable Fire, the world's longest-running U2 tribute band, played a great show at the Cleveland Hard Rock Café. The Hard Rock donated a portion of each ticket price to AWF!  Both events helped us raise several hundred dollars and get the 2013 Birthday Well fundraiser off to a great start. 

 We are also thankful to all of the presenters and conference participants - especially those who stopped by the table to say hi - for the stimulating conversation and encouragement.  Nearly everyone we talked to expressed gratitude for U2's impact in our lives, and for AWF's work.  We heard over and over again that we really do have the power to change the world, and that no other band could have brought together such a dedicated and passionate group of fans to make a difference.  Who knew that AWF's humble beginnings as a small group of fans who were inspired by Bono's work, and who were just "trying to do a damn thing" about the seemingly huge problems in our world, could itself be an inspiration for others?


 Abbey Fisher & Bill Carter

My personal favorite session was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, featuring Bill Carter, who brought Sarajevo to the world during the height of the siege in the early 1990s, with live video feeds during U2's ZooTV tour.  Bill spoke about the power of U2 to reach a wide audience, and how their popularity brought attention to the suffering of those living in Sarajevo at the time.  Bill signed his book, "Fools Rush In," and the DVD of his "Miss Sarajevo" film, which we'll be auctioning during the Got Water? auction this fall.  He could not have been more kind, and said he follows our work and would love to help us in any way he can.  Thank you, Bill, for your generosity!

I came home tired but really energized and hopeful about the future.  See you at the next conference!

Turning Pennies Into Clean Water

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I once overheard a conversation between two teenage girls where they talked about how much they hated pennies. One of the girls said she disliked pennies so much that she threw them away. I was aghast, not just at the idea of literally throwing away money, but because, for me, pennies mean clean water.

For more than five years, I've saved every penny I've gotten for the African Well Fund. I never spend pennies. I pick pennies up off the ground. I kept a jar on my desk at work and was always happy to receive baggies-full, mugs-full or even hands-full of pennies from coworkers.

One Christmas, a friend brought me a water jug filled with pennies that she rescued from someone who planned to dump the jar when he moved out of his house. The jug weighed nearly 20 pounds and yielded about $50 for the African Well Fund.

My penny hauls aren't usually that large, but I know that each one has made a difference. For the jars that I turn into cash (about $10 per jarful) and then into donations (more than $200 since I started saving pennies), African Well Fund uses that money to fund projects implemented by Africare that will improve access to clean water and sanitation for thousands of people, projects that will keep people healthy, projects that will help girls stay in school, projects that will make new businesses possible, projects that will change lives.

For World Water Day, the African Well Fund hopes to collect a mile of pennies (84,480 pennies, or $844.80, lined up makes a mile) to fund future projects, and needs your help. You can pledge to save pennies for the African Well Fund here.

I've signed the pledge and my jar is ready. Let's work together to turn more pennies into clean water.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes - Pennies for the People

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Every day, women and children in developing countries must walk miles just to obtain enough water to live from day to day. These hours-long journeys reduce economic productivity, make it difficult for children to go to school, and since water points are not necessarily sanitary, increase the risk of waterbourne illness.

Where I live in the United States, a 'long walk' for water is the two minutes it takes to get from my desk to the water machine which dispenses clean, fresh water at no cost to me.

So this week we're challenging AWF supporters to become more aware of their water usage by hosting 'A Walk in Her Shoes Penny Fundraiser'. It takes 84,480 pennies lined up to make a mile, so why not collect a mile's worth of pennies in honor of those who make this journey every day?

Further, what if we focus on just how much water we use every day by committing to donate a token amount for that usage. A penny for a cup of coffee, a dime for a flush of a toilet, a quarter for the dishwasher or a shower? The average American uses 100-176 gallons of water every day. The average African family? Five.

Are you in?

If so, here's a quick guide to starting your own penny fundraiser at home, at work, or wherever your travels may take you.

1) Check out AWF's 'Mile in Her Shoes' kit, which is packed with water facts, fundraising ideas, lesson plans, and much more. This will give you all the info you need to move ahead with your own fundraiser!

2) Find some containers. You don't need anything special - a glass, pitcher, or vase will do. Print out African Well Fund labels so everyone knows exactly what the collection is for, and tape or otherwise affix them on to your containers.

glasses.JPG3) Put your containers somewhere visible. If you're at work, this might mean a kitchen or break-room. At home, perhaps next to your coffee maker is a good bet.

glasses2.JPGAre you committed to going fully virtual? AWF has started a Crowdrise for 'Walk in Her Shoes'. Start a team, drum up support on your blog, family e-mail newsletter, or Facebook, and go to town!

4) PROFIT! Or, well, not quite. Spread the word - let your co-workers know what you're raising money for and why it's important. Tell your kids why you're scrounging for loose change whenever you go to get a glass of water.

5) Then, profit. Count up those pennies (and maybe nickels and dimes!) and make a donation to African Well Fund. There are a number of options available on our website.

Just make sure to note you're participating in the 'Walk a Mile in Her Shoes' fundraiser.

Ready, set... go!

Last week, we covered AWF's second project in Ghana. These are stories from the communities served!

ghanastories2-1.jpg"Because of the improved toilet facility children no longer come home from school as frequently to access toilet facility as they used to do; they now seem to be camped at the school and only return after classes. Parents are now saved from the troubles of chasing children to go back to school when they come home".

Madam Efua Atta, Sabena


"At first, it was the duty of students to dig a pit and cover with planks to serve as toilet facility; this often did not last for long but now we have a neat lasting facility; there is now privacy and comfort."

Grace Sam, Sabena School, Stage 6


"Because this facility is well covered we no more see flies visiting the toilets and later jumping into our meals. There is no fear of diseases; it is a nice and beautiful facility".

Joshua Sasah, Sabena School, Stage 5


"Now it is easy for us to wash our hands after visiting the toilet; children can now use the facility without the fear of falling into it".

Theresa Appiah, Sabena, Stage 5

Looking Back: The African Well Fund in Ghana - Phase 2

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Following the completion of our first project in Ghana in 2008, African Well Fund was lucky enough to continue work in the same region in 2009. This continuing work aimed at offering assistance to communities not targeted by the first phase of the Water for Cocoa Farmers initiative. These farmers expressed many of the same needs as those addressed by the original project. 


Agave's previous source of water.

Like other Ghanaian farmers, community members had to contend with unreliable water sources, leading to disease and additional economic hardship, with women and children having to spend hours every day looking for water, rather than engaging in other activities such as school or farming.

In addition, the lack of sanitation options available in the Wassa Amenfi West District, particularly in schools was a serious area of concern. Throughout the District, only three out of over 300 schools have toilet facilities on campus. The facilities which are available are unsuitable for children. Many consist of only a hand-dug pit covered by planks, into which children often fall. Lack of privacy caused still more problems, discouraging girls in particular from continuing with their studies.

The end result is a high rate of water-borne disease, as well as decreased economic productivity among farmers.


The pit which community members in Sabena used before the new KVIP latrine was built. Before construction, a young boy fell in.

In partnership with Africare and Mars, Incorporated, the 'Water for Cocoa Farmers Phase II' initiative brought potable water, toilets, and water and sanitation management training to eight communities in the Wassa Amenfi West District. Wells were constructed in Bokakore, Serwayo, Agave, and Ayitey Doriyem. Latrines were constructed at Nkwantanum, at a health clinic which worked for four other communities, and at a school in Sabena. Overall, over 5,000 community members were served through the project.