Stories From Sierra Leone

As Water4’s Communications & Marketing Manager, I spend hours thinking about how to best communicate what we do at Water4 and the incredible impact this work has. It’s become an occupational obsession.

One thing I’ve found is that, without fail, people invest more in a cause when it’s personal. When you know someone experiencing it, when it becomes “close to home”, your empathy expands, your devotion deepens, and quite simply, you care more.

Being new to Water4’s team and the water sector, I can relate. I wanted a deeper connection, to understand the water crisis better, and for it to mean more, to be personal. This opportunity came in March 2022 when I traveled with other members of Water4’s team to visit Waterloo, Sierra Leone, and our NUMA franchise, Water4Ever.

Two months later, I’m still reflecting on the week I spent there, sorting photos, and editing footage of the dozens of people who shared their stories with me. I know most of you will never have the opportunity to visit Waterloo or any of the other locations where our enterprises are at work combatting the water crisis. So today I want to share two of these stories with you, to celebrate the deep impact that’s happening, and maybe even make this cause a little more personal.

First, let me introduce you to Mohammad. Mohammad has worked at Water4Ever for five years. He started his career sweeping floors and cleaning wrenches. He didn’t know how to use a tape measure. He didn’t understand fractions. So every night he went home and practiced. He measured things around his home, pretended to weld using a pen and paper, he used a phone app to learn enough Mandarin Chinese to translate and understand how to operate a CNC Plasma Machine that no one else in the company knows how to use. He took his cell phone and a few tools and learned daily. 
Now Mohammad leads a staff of five, he has redesigned and innovated the NUMA kiosk design in a dozen crucial ways and is an extremely talented welder. He stripped down his budget with his wife, he got rid of the extra cup of tea every day, the bread, and limited his sugar so that within six months they had enough money to build an addition to their home. What did they do with that addition? They rented it out to six different people. In five years, Mohammad went from sweeping and cleaning to managing and making decisions on behalf of Water4Ever and bringing in additional income from renters. Through the generosity of our donors and the work of Water4, Mohammad is able to have a richer, more fulfilling life, fully-invested in ending the water crisis in his own community through Water4Ever.

Now meet David and Matilda! David and Matilda are raising their family using their profits from selling NUMA water. David became a kiosk vendor in 2019, but at the time, he didn’t know how to run the business. As a NUMA vendor, you buy your water at a reduced vendor rate then sell this water at the consumer price of less than 1 cent per liter. But David wanted to fill his tank daily and wasn’t saving enough of his profits to do so. So instead, he took out loans to fill his tank and assumed eventually he’d start making a profit. Unfortunately, David ended up getting caught in a cycle of debt, always feeling behind and not turning enough profit to catch up. Through Water4Ever, he was able to take a Financial Stewardship course and became friends with the instructor, Michael Fullah. This biblically-based management course taught David how to manage his money, and he began to reinvest his profits rather than spend them and take out loans. 

As of March 2022, David and Matilda boast the second highest sales in Waterloo! They hold one another accountable with the new knowledge of how to run their business, and can work together only minutes from their home, raise their two children, and provide for their family through this NUMA kiosk.

During my week in Sierra Leone I heard countless stories like this, saw development happening as a direct result of clean water, witnessed an organization spend time together studying the Bible so that they could be ready and willing to share it throughout their work in the community, and saw people beginning to believe that we aren’t there to pity them but to empower them. Water4 is about so much more than putting wells in the ground. And I hope that by meeting Mohammad, David, and Matilda you can see how supporting Water4 makes a profound and personal impact on the lives of millions of people.

Chris Shaw
Communications & Marketing Manager

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