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Poverty Alleviation Projects

2007 Projects

May 17, 2007

Dear Friends:

Welcome to your May 2007 report for The $10 Club.

Sierra Leone remains firmly entrenched at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index—ranked 176 out of 177 nations listed. Life expectancy at birth is estimated at 41 years; two-thirds of the adult population is illiterate; and the average per capita income is about $1.50 per day.

Water accessibility is a serious problem. Imagine not being able to wash your hands, have a drink of water, clean your clothes, or flush your toilet.

According to a 2006 report by Oxfam in collaboration with WaterAid, in 2003, only 22 percent “of the population of some five million people had access to a sustainable supply of safe drinking water from a protected source. Nevertheless, this shortfall of 78 percent means that the country has a long way to go to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by the year 2015. It is even further away from the government’s own targets: to reach 65 percent coverage by the same date, and 95 percent coverage by 2025.”

The country is still reeling from the devastating civil war of the 1990s. The Oxfam report adds that traditional water wells have been abandoned and people will not use them because they fear the water is contaminated by dead bodies or poison. Creative strategies for water collection are essential. At the All As One orphanage on the hills of Freetown, the shelter workers scramble to access water from the main water system to care for the 50 children in they sustain.

When the city does supply water, the All As One workers are ready with hoses and small tanks to capture the water and keep it in reserve for a few days. They currently have five medium-sized tanks, but it only lasts three or four days if more water doesn’t arrive to replenish them.

When the city is not able to supply water, the staff seeks out water tankers and tries to convince the truck drivers to bring water to the children’s center—which is challenging given the current demand and competition for limited water resources.

The water tanker drivers charge one amount for accessing the water no matter how much is actually retrieved. Since All As One only has the smaller water storage tanks, they can’t take as much water as is available and as they need. With some larger water storage containers (ones that hold 5,000 liters of water), they could make the most of the water supply from the tankers.

This month, 371 of us joined together to donate $3,710 to All As One to buy two 5,000 liter water tanks to hold large stores of water. Each tank costs approximately 3 million Leones ($1,000). With the plumber’s labor costs and additional materials for mounting and piping, the total comes to $2,675 for the tanks. As this is an orphanage (which you may recall we supported in November 2003 with a generator, educational tools, and cribs), there are other needs that we are also able to meet. We’ll be providing flooring for the toddler room and baby room, a new table for eating meals, extra large pots for cooking and storage of children’s food, and new stoves for cooking in the outdoor kitchen. Thank you!

Deanna Wallace of All As One has told me that they someday hope to raise enough money to buy land and build a new compound with a more stable water supply. But for now, the tanks are the only answer. Because of water shortages, the government often “locks the pump”, allowing only a few hours of water flow—the pump may start at 9am and then get locked at 11am, not to be reopened until the next day (or even days later). This situation can extend for weeks or even months and the facility can’t reserve enough water to carry them through the lean times.

The impact is concrete. Deanna says, “When we don’t have water we also have to spend more money because we have to hire taxis to take the launderers (and the piles of laundry) to a river, stream or other place to wash the clothing. We then have to feed our workers off site (more expensive too). We also have to use [more expensive] disposable diapers instead of cloth diapers because we can’t wash the cloth diapers often enough to help with the smell and sanitary conditions of the center.”

These folks make due with so very little—and the only spark of light in these poor children’s future is the chance that All As One gives them. They are fed and clothed and sheltered and given an opportunity to live. Shouldn’t they at least also have clean, safe water?

The UN Development Programme’s 2006 annual report is Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis. In the Foreword, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis notes, “more than 1 billion people are denied the right to clean water… Every year some 1.8 million children die as a result of diarrhoea and other diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. At the start of the 21st century unclean water is the world’s second biggest killer of children.”

As a compassionate human being, I look at the children cared for by Deanna and the All As One team and it breaks my heart to think of their plight. As a parent, I can’t imagine watching my daughter die because she can’t get access to clean, safe water. 1.8 million children dying a miserable, avoidable death. 1.8 million children’s parents or caretakers suffering the heartbreaking indignity of watching kids breathe their last breaths. Unnecessary and indefensible.

Do we really live in a world where children die because of water—one of the most essential elements of life? Sadly we do. But we also live in a world where dire conditions can be changed and children at risk can be saved. And thanks to you, there are scores of children in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries on the planet, who have a chance to survive—to wash, wear clean clothes, and drink clean water. I can think of no nobler action I’ve taken this month than adding my $10 to the pot for this purpose.

Saving the world, ten dollars at a time,


PS. Please send in your June donation right away if you haven’t already!

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