Mission and Vision

Amman Imman's is dedicated to empowering and preserving Africa's most vulnerable indigenous peoples and engaging school children worldwide as socially conscious leaders.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Update and Plans for 2011

women making tent hide roofs
making rope
Dear Friends of the Azawak,

Greetings this holiday season!  I hope that your holidays have been filled with peace, precious moments spent with loved ones, and joy.  I also hope that your new year is marked with accomplished dreams, good health, and harmony.  I want to take this moment to thank you for your tremendous support.  Thanks to your help, Amman Imman succeeded to bring life and hope to an additional 35,000 people and animals this year.  We hope that next year will prove even more impactful to the communities of the Azawak.

Amman Imman launched 2010 with the construction of the Kijigari borehole, and has since remained busy conducting follow-up support and training.  We also continued to work with Tangarwashane and Chinwagari, our past borehole sites, to strengthen their borehole management committees and ascertain the borehole’s sustainability for years to come. 

As we prepare for 2011, we have many plans to increase and reinforce our impact in the Azawak.  Amman Imman will pursue building Oases of Life in new communities, borehole by borehole.  We are also strategizing so that Amman Imman’s work may provide economic and ecological stability, resiliency and vibrancy to our past and new communities through additional essential projects. 

Denis and I will return to Niger at the beginning of the new year to launch different forms of revenue generating and life-building activities.  For instance, we will work directly with the women of Kijigari, Chinwagari, and Tangarwashane to increase their economic autonomy through a micro-credit project, a sewing and farming cooperative, a livestock program, and revenue-generating activities.  We will also persist directly reinforcing the capacity of our borehole management committees, so that the members continue to protect and properly use their most precious life-giving resource. 

In addition, we will strive to increase the communities’ resiliency to potential food shortages.  As many of you know, Niger was struck by famine this past year.  Many of our friends were left with only mud or dirt to fill their empty bellies.  Child mortality soared and hunger led to dramatic sickness among populations across Niger.   Our boreholes have the potential to dramatically and directly help the communities respond quickly next year, if food shortages once again plague the country.  To help alleviate the effects of a food crisis, we are going to initiate activities such as a micro-irrigation project, a food forest, and sustenance gardening.

Again, thank you for supporting our life-giving work in the Azawak.   Please consider supporting our projects for 2011, as we progress to increase the impact of our endeavors.  Please also consider donating on a regular basis. 

Blessings for the New Year! 

Yours in hope and peace for the Azawak.


Donate to Amman Imman

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Water is Life: An Anthropological Approach

Zoe is interning for Amman Imman this fall.
 Zoe Genova has been interning at Amman Imman’s Bethesda office since September.  Currently a junior  majoring in Anthroplogy  at George Washington University in Washington, DC, Zoe  is conducting an independent research project on the practical implications of anthropology.   Zoe interviewed Ariane Kirtley, who majored in Medical Anthropology as an undergradudate at Yale University, to explore how anthropology is used in a nonprofit organization as a tool for international development.    Zoe will integrate Ariane’s responses into her paper:

Zoe: How did your undergraduate degree in anthropology influence your future choices as a Fulbright scholar during your research in Africa?

Ariane: Actually, I went into anthropology because I grew up in Africa and was interested in studying how people of different cultures relate to health, medicine, etc.   I then went on to study public health with the explicit desire to use my background in anthropology to help design more appropriate health initiatives in the developing world.  My work with CARE international while I was an intern demonstrated how important it is to develop a culturally appropriate health care initiative in order to be successful.  I wanted to elaborate on my work that I began with CARE, and this is why I applied for a Fulbright scholarship.  So everything, from my interest in health and anthropology, to my love for Africa and specifically Niger, led to my Fulbright research.

Zoe:  Do you feel that your anthropological background gave you an advantage in learning the ways of the people of the Azawak in order to help them? If yes, how so?

Ariane: Certainly, it taught me to listen to what they expressed as their needs, versus trying to determine these as an outsider looking in.  If I began a water project, it’s because they asked for it, not because I decided that this is what they needed.  It also helped me understand their approach to health (which was my primary interest), and helped me approach them with my own understanding of health and sickness.  

For instance, I met a lady that was so sick, I was certain that if she didn’t quickly receive intense treatment, she was going to pass away.    She hadn’t   eaten for days, and couldn’t swallow any liquid.  She had intense fevers and severe diarrhea.   But her family refused my offer to drive her to a health center.  Instead, they said she was afflicted by genies, and that the only cure I could give her was to dance and sing for her to ward the genies away.  As distressing as the situation was, I put on my anthropology cap, and danced and sang for her.  I also gave her a pretty intense treatment of oral rehydration therapy (just a sip every five minutes for several days).  I was also able to get her fever down.  She accepted my help because I demonstrated that I honored her beliefs.  Low and behold, a few days later, she was eating and drinking fairly normally, and then eventually was back to full health.  Who knows what was really afflicting her, but with mutual care and understanding, we were able to save her! 

Today, we are saving many lives thanks to the fact that we listened to what they needed and wanted the most.   I decided to bring them water even though I was discouraged and basically told it was impossible.  Had I not been an anthropologist, I might have said, “Well, it’s too difficult to bring you water, so let me do something else instead”.  That would have been a lot easier for me.  Or I could have just ignored their requests for help altogether.  But as an anthropologist, I was particularly eager to listen to them and learn from them!

Zoe: In creating your own non-profit organization in the international development sector, what have been your greatest challenges? (In terms of starting up, allocating resources, getting the word out, fundraising, etc.)

Ariane:  It’s all a challenge.  There isn’t a single part of what we do that isn’t a challenge.  From raising money, to running the organization administratively, to constructing the infrastructure, to making sure that the populations manage the infrastructure and maintain our work sustainably.   But perhaps the most challenging is the last component.  And it all comes down to the sociology or anthropology.  The people of the Azawak asked for water.   And yet the only way I could bring it to them was in a way that they had never seen before, and had no prior understanding of how to manage and take care of.  So, the boreholes aren’t really an anthropologically appropriate answer.  They don’t have anything to do with the culture of the people we are helping.  So it is up to us to work with the populations so that they can learn how to use the infrastructure and adapt.  And if we work with them… and it may take years, they will learn, change and adapt.  But this will only happen over the long run, and we will constantly work with them to find solutions on how to better manage their infrastructure and make it last for generations to come.

Zoe: How did you go about researching the best methods for borehole drilling and making them environmentally sustainable?

Ariane: I contacted experts in the field of hydrogeology around the world, and mostly people that had done this type of work in the developing world.  We also contacted solar experts, as well as water management experts.   I did a lot of online research as well.  And we continue to do research and explore new and better possibilities. 

Zoe: Which aspects of the creation of Amman Imman do you feel you have succeeded the most or which aspects have been the most rewarding?

Ariane: It’s all rewarding (well, except for the administrative part!).  The two most rewarding things are 1) working with students in the USA, and seeing how inspired and motivated they are.  It’s amazing connecting with such passionate and compassionate young individuals, and 2) drilling and seeing the water come out for the first time, and witnessing people rejoice over water they never dreamed of having… and knowing that lives will be saved thanks to this water. 

Zoe: Meeting and understanding the wants, needs, and abilities of residents of the village/town/country of interest and gaining their cooperation is essential for successful international development. How did you find trustworthy, committed community members who were willing to join the committees for the boreholes? How do you decide how many people are needed and what their exact jobs will be?

Ariane: I don’t decide these aspects.  First, we work with the Department of Hydraulics that has already established rules and regulations about how such matters are handled.  Based on these rules, the villagers/communities themselves vote on the people that will be assigned to the management committee.  They also determine the number of people that they want and feel they need on the committee.  We advise them, but don’t determine anything.  The villagers also vote on the roles that each committee member will have.  So, you see, everything is mostly in their hands.  We simply guide them and help them, and work with them to improve and find alternate/better solutions when necessary.  And the Department of Hydraulics sets the rules.

Zoe: Women play a very important role in the success of sustaining and maintaining the boreholes and village water distribution. Why do you think this is and is it difficult to encourage equal power distribution amongst the men and women of the committee?

Ariane: Women are known to manage material things and money better than men.  This makes sense.  Women are in charge of households and children.  They are in charge of the well-being of everyone.  Men, on the other hand, are known to waste money and material things more readily.  They tend to spend money on their own needs/wants, rather than make sure that the resources are funneled back to the family.  Well, at least this is what research shows, and it has definitely demonstrated to be the case in the Azawak. 

Yes, it’s difficult to have equal distribution of power.  The Azawak is predominantly Muslim, and now patriarchal (although this didn’t used to be the case).  You’ll find that younger men are the most difficult to work with, and to encourage working with women.  Since they’ve lost their animals and other resources in a dramatic way over the past 10 years, young men have had to migrate to bordering and highly Islamic countries, such as Libya, Algeria, and Nigeria.  They’ve brought back with them increased fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, such as cloistering women, and keeping women powerless.  This is in direct conflict with the traditional Tuareg matriarchal society.  And so, older men tend to be more attuned to the traditional relationship between men and women, and hence more respectful and understanding of the need for women’s participation.  Also, women of different castes have more or less power.  For instance, women of the traditional Tuareg slave caste tend to be given more power by their men, than women of the noble cast (at least today).    Anyway, we’ve worked very hard so that the women maintain an important role within the management committee.  In one village, women are much more powerful than in the other village.  But they already were before we built the borehole, so this isn’t surprising.  We’ll keep working on this aspect, in a culturally appropriate and respectful manner.

Zoe: Unfortunately, many countries in Africa are politically unstable and corrupt. How do the politics of Niger affect the work that Amman Imman is able to do? Must you get governmental permissions before beginning work?

Ariane: Yes, we have to get permission, and we also have to work with government ministries.  The last government was difficult to work with.  The new government has been very helpful, and has facilitated our work in many ways.  They don’t want to do the work themselves, but they will help us when they can.

Zoe:  Did you learn the traditional languages of the Tuaregs and the Woodabe Fulani or did you speak to them in French? Do language barriers pose problems in development?

Ariane: I only speak a little Tamachek, and no Fulani.  Denis speaks more Tamachek than I do.  We have a translator, although there is one person in Tangarwashane that speaks some English (thanks to his travels to Nigeria), and there are a few people in Kijigari that speak French.  Also, often the Fulani speak some broken English thanks to their many travels to Nigeria, so sometimes I can communicate a little with them directly.

Certainly, not speaking the language is a barrier.  There are many nuances that are lost.  Also, we have to rely that our translator is translating correctly.  At one point our translator was not translating what we were asking him to translate, and this posed a lot of trouble.  Also, you are more respected if you speak the language, and it helps develop a holistic relationship with a community.  But we get over this quite well, and we’re doing our best to learn the language as much as we can.

Zoe: Learning from past experiences and obstacles, will you change fundraising methods at home or implementation methods abroad in the future?

Ariane: Of course, we are constantly changing our approach, or improving upon our success.  This is what makes an organization evolve.  We are constantly looking to improve how we operate, and given our curiosity and desire to improve, we are only limited by our human and financial resources. 

Zoe: Thank you for this interview!

Ariane: You are most welcome!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Anya Fonina: Running for Water to Help the Children of the Azawak

 Washington D.C. (October 31, 2010) --  Anya Fonina has a dream. She wants to make sure that the children of the Azawak Valley of West Africa never again thirst for water.  The Azawak is a region in the Republic of Niger devastated by persistent drought that has destroyed the herds of half a million nomads and forced their children to walk up to thirty miles in search of water.

To fulfill her dream, Anya is putting on her running shoes and will participate in the Marine Corps Marathon on October 31 in Washington, D.C.  She is dedicating her 26.2 mile run to the children of the Azawak, in memory of her father Dmitri, who passed away early this year.

Anya has reached out to friends and acquaintances, asking them to symbolically join her run, by contributing money to help finance the equipment needed to run the latest borehole-well built by Amman Imman, an organization that has brought water to the Azawak over the past four years, using advanced machinery to drill deep beneath the earth’s surface.

Anya's goal is to raise at least $20,000 for the families there, contributing significantly to a sustainable livelihood for them. Once there is water, many other opportunities arise -- in the form of schools, health centers, tree planting, etc.

Anya and her dad
"Everyone can do something to make the world a better place," says Anya, "and I'm inspired by the work of my dear friend Ariane Kirtley, who founded Amman Imman. I like to run long distances,  and along the way I'll be thinking of the children who must walk even further under much worse conditions, just to have water to drink. I am so happy with the response I've received from my friends, who have already contributed more than $15,000 to support my effort."

Not that long ago, the Azawak Valley was lush and fertile, with 5-6 months of rainfall. Nomads used to trek from one pasture to another with large herds of cattle and goats. Over the past decade, the Azawak has become a wasteland that receives only short bouts of erratic rainfall for a month or two each year. The people there have nowhere to go, and water gives them hope for a better tomorrow.

Amman Imman, one of the only organizations working in the area to address the water crisis, recently drilled its second borehole in Kijigari Village. Anya’s run will help pay for the remaining costs of the infrastructure, including the pumps, water fountains and animal troughs.  This borehole-well provides clean and abundant water to more than 30,000 people and animals.

Read more about Amman Imman, its efforts in Kijigari Village and how you can support Anya’s run.

Learn about Amman Imman's A Run for Water campaign, and how you can get involved, info@ammanimman.org.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fountain of Knowledge

Colleen Johnson, Service Learning Program intern at Amman Imman's Bethesda office, blogs about water for Blog Action Day:

Children wash at one of the Tangarwashane fountains in the Azawak of Niger, February 2009.  Photo by Ariane Kirtley.
Two months ago, Amman Imman: Water is Life was unknown to me.  I had recently graduated from University of Virginia and was working as a waitress in my college town for the summer.  Travel plans fell through last minute, leaving me with no plan for the immediate future.  As a recent graduate with no relevant working experience, I decided that an internship would be the perfect opportunity and a logical next step.  A hurried, no holds barred internship search followed; Amman Imman crossed my path and piqued my interest immediately. 

Amman Imman: Water is Life is dedicated to providing water and hope for those who have none.  The Azawak region is one of the driest inhabited places on Earth, and climate change has drastically shortened the rainy season, making the situation ever more dire.  As with any large-scale community project, building borehole wells comes with its share of opposition, especially from those on the polar ends of such issues as landscape preservation.  However, when this concern is placed alongside the fact that 500,000 people are entirely without water for about ten months per year, it becomes a non-issue. 

While the water crisis in most low-income countries constitutes lack of sanitation, hygiene and microbe / germ knowledge; inhabitants of the Azawak lack the very resource about which they must be educated.  Thirst is but one of the numerous and often-fatal consequences of clean water absence; children regularly miss school because of worms, diarrhea, caring for relatives and constantly traveling in search of water.  As such, there is no opportunity for education, nutrition, health, poverty alleviation, disease prevention, anything. 

Many Big Players (Spenders) such as World Health Organization and United Nations are aware of this global crisis and consider its eradication to be one of their top priorities.  However, money and goals are simply tools; without action they may as well not exist.  Of course, these organizations are facilitating the majority of the work being done; but as the problem still exists in its current and extreme magnitude, more needs to be done.  The only way to progress is to gain momentum traveling through public consciousness.  There are endless problems with the human condition that need addressing and dedication; however, ensuring that lives continue at all and that basic needs are met must come before any other improvements.  Change in action cannot happen until a change of mind has first occurred. 

The people of the Azawak have a saying, Amman Imman, Arr Issudar, meaning "Water is Life, Milk is Hope."  Before hope, there must be life.  Water.  Three borehole wells have been built since Amman Imman's inception, and consequently 75,000 people and animals have access to clean water.  However, the 425,000 who are not as fortunate are asking for our help; in turn, we are asking for yours.  Help however you can: volunteer, donate, spread the word; but most of all, think about it.  Foster genuine concern, and change is inevitable.

Water is not an International Issue. It's Global.

Christina Vernon, Operations Support and Development Intern at Amman Imman's Bethesda, Maryland office, contributes this blog post about water for Blog Action Day:

A major water source in Katmandu, Nepal. photo by C. Vernon

Currently I am an MPH candidate in Global Health focusing on Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation. I chose this field based on my main priority of working and living in a low-resource country and serving with community development initiatives whether relating to food and water security issues, social justice, or gender equity.

I first became passionate about water accessibility issues in low-income areas while I was an instructor for Indiana University’s Outdoor Adventure Program. Although I loved going to Red River Gorge, Kentucky to climb, I couldn’t help but notice that we were climbing in one of the most impoverished regions of the Appalachian.  People living there had no running water and were forced to collect water using buckets from a community pump. I was shocked to discover that this issue was not only international, but also just a few hours away from the university I attended.

A Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Lesson in a Bangladeshi Village. photo by C. Vernon
This past spring semester I was afforded the opportunity to study in Bangladesh. While taking classes, I also assessed gaps in the BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Program and designed a project implementation proposal on feminine hygiene issues in secondary schools. The director of BRAC WASH agreed to start implementing the project in one district of Bangladesh, which was exciting for my colleagues and I knowing that BRAC is the largest international development NGO in the world.

Interning with Amman Imman: Water is Life
Children digging in a marsh, Azawak, Niger.  photo by A. Kirtley
After experiencing health and its relation to water in Bangladesh, I really wanted to learn more about water security issues in other regions of the world, particularly Africa. When I heard about Amman Imman, it really excited me because I wanted to be part of an organization that was dealing with water security issues in Africa and working with vulnerable populations.  I hoped to work with a small, grassroots organization so that I could work with a small group of people all combating social injustices.

Amman Imman addresses water security issues in the Azawak region of Niger and Mali, where water accessibility is almost non-existent. Due to climate change, nomadic communities living in the region have been forced to settle, collecting water sometimes from places as far as 30 miles away. Most people, usually young girls, collect water in marshes where rain accumulates. In this region, 1 out of 2 children die before reaching their fifth birthday due to water borne diseases. The rainy season has decreased to about 1-2 months in the past few years, contributing to the scarcity of options for water accessibility. Amman Imman drills boreholes at depths between 600 and 3000 feet in order to reach the aquifer that is in the region, bringing water and a new hope to the surrounding communities. 

Interning with Amman Imman, has opened my eyes to the extreme water crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa and the contextual variables of culture, economics, and social determinants. Amman Imman has helped me gain valuable skills such as advocacy, research, and passion, which are imperative in combating social injustice.

Work where no one else will, Amman Imman: Water is Life

Water and Health:
·      1.8 million people die every year of diarrheal disease
·      4.1% of the total DALY global burden of diseases is attributable to diarrheal disease
·      88% of that burden is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WHO, 2010)
·      Improving WASH in schools increases cognitive learning, attendance, and enables girls to stay in school
·      WASH programs in schools creates an anchor for communities to be mobilized

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Amman Imman launches "A Run For Water" Campaign!

Join our Run for Water Campaign!
Contact us at info@ammanimman.org 

Laurel organized A Run for Water in 2008 3Laurel organized A Run for Water in 2008

Sponsor Anya and Tammy as
They Run for Water!
Anya will run in the Marine Corps Marathon on October 31 3Anya Runs to Save Lives in Memory of her Father
 Tammy Runs to Spread the Word About Wells of Love and the Azawak

 Read about Mary’s Incredible 12 hour Run! 

Mary ran 60 miles in 12 hours, raising over $3,000 2

Mary ran 60.85 miles in 12 hours for the Azawak, raising over $3,000 

Recruit Others to join our Run for Water Campaign!
Recruit your friends and family to run, walk, bike, etc. for Amman Imman! 
Contact us at info@ammanimman.org


Dear Friends of the Azawak,

As students Walk for Water across the world, several of our dedicated supporters “run for water”.  Our running movement began in 2006, when Laurel Lundstrom ran the Philadelphia marathon after she became “inspired to raise awareness about the plight of little girls in the Azawak who travel up to 35 miles roundtrip for water”.   In 2008, Laurel organized a “Run for Water” event in DC where runners came together and ran a 35 mile relay, representing the distance some children walk in the Azawak to find water.

This past June, Mary Ohren ran 60.85 miles in 12 hours, and raised over $3,000 to help “bring the gift of life to the wonderful people of the Azawak”.   Today, Anya Fonina and Tammy Brennan are training to run in October.  They’ve already begun reaching out to sponsors, raising money and spreading the word about the Azawak!  Anya has already raised $13,000 in one month toward her $20,000 goal!  Go  Anya's site to sponsor her. Tammy's site will be up and running soon.

Join our “Run for Water” Campaign!
As a response to this growing running trend, Amman Imman is officially launching “A Run for Water” campaign.   Please join our campaign and run in honor of the children of the Azawak.  If you aren’t a runner, consider swimming, hiking, biking, roller-blading, walking or undertaking another fun activity for which you can be sponsored and raise awareness for the Azawak!  We’ll be happy to help you, and create a web page from which you can spread the word, raise awareness, and obtain sponsorships.  Just contact us at info@ammanimman.org.

Here’s more information on some of our Amman Imman athlete heroes!

Match Anya’s Personal $500 Contribution while She Runs in Memory of her Father!
Anya Fonina, one of my dearest friends and long-time Amman Imman supporter, is training and preparing to run the Marine Corps Marathon on October 31st, in memory of her beloved father who passed away this winter.  She has chosen to use her run as a venue to help and bring attention to the Azawak.  Beyond running and reaching out to sponsors, Anya has donated $500, and now challenges her supporters to match her grant whenever they can (less or more is also highly appreciated!).  Anya has already raised over $13,000 toward her $20,000 goal for the Azawak!!!   Click here to learn more about Anya and watch her fundraising thermometer soar!  

Tammy Runs to Raise Awareness and Inspire Parents to Support Wells of Love
Tammy Brennan, one of our devoted Montessori parent supporters, aims to raise at least $5,000 by running the Army 10 miler race in Washington DC on October 24th.  Her three children, Miko, Lukas, and Alexandra, each of whom walked for water this past spring, have been her main source of inspiration: “As one of their role models, it is very important to me to teach them the importance of social responsibility and serving a greater purpose than one’s self”.  Tammy hopes to “raise awareness about the water security issues facing our brothers and sisters in the Azawak, and motivate other parents to get their children’s schools involved with Amman Imman’s Wells of Love program”.   Click here to visit Tammy's page. You can help her reach her $5000 goal!

Mary Ohren Ran 60 miles in 12 hours for the Azawak!
This past June, Mary Ohren, ran 60.85 miles in 12 hours during the Lake Merritt race in Oakland, CA.  She finished the top female runner, and fourth overall.  But Mary did not run to win, she ran as a symbolic gesture and a way to raise funds and awareness for the families she met in the Azawak.  Thanks to her run, Mary raised over $3000 for the Azawak.

Mary and I first met and became friends as Fulbright scholars in Niger in 2005: Mary as a hydro-geologist conducting work in southern Niger, and I as a public health researcher.  Mary and I traveled to the Azawak together in 2007.  Here are her compelling reflections: “What I witnessed on this trip, even though I had spent a year observing the water scarcity in the southern part of the country, was incredible. How is it that such a beautiful, caring, culture-rich people such as this should have to spend the majority of their days harvesting water? The few water points were overflowing not with water but with people and animals, men washing and sometimes drinking from the same dirty trough as the donkeys, who were straining and falling in their attempts to lift only a few 10’s of gallons of water at a time from a great depth. I saw girls waiting to fill their buckets, miles from their homes. Fetching water instead of having the opportunity to attend school. These children were not running and playing as children should. They just gazed absently, exhausted and thirsty. The journeys that people make to get water in this region can be 15 miles each way. It takes all day to bring a bit back for the family… I will be running (shuffling toward the end) for 12 hours straight, to honor Ariane and to raise money that will bring water, the gift of life, to the wonderful people of the Azawak.”  Read more about Mary’s tremendous feat by clicking here.

Thank you Mary, Anya, Tammy, Laurel, and everyone else that has dedicated their precious energy in solidarity with the Azawak!!  Your actions and footsteps have made and will continue to make an incredible difference!  I hope that you will be joined by many many more!!

Sincerely yours, for the children of the Azawak!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How Providing Water to Those in Need Builds Socioeconomic Bridges

Water—so simple, yet the issues surrounding the lack of the most basic human necessity are so complex. As someone who grew up in the Western, developed world, I find it difficult to understand the very real consequences of the global shortage of potable water. Although I do understand it on a theoretical level, the tangible, human implications are still lost on me, simply because the ineffable suffering resulting from lack of water is something I can only pretend to comprehend.  That being said, I feel that it behooves those of us who have never experienced true, fatal thirst to stop and reflect for a moment on some of these water issues and their importance.

In a very recent Boston Globe opinion article, the author, Janet Wu, offers a striking meditation on Boston's recent "water crisis." For approximately two and a half days, about 2 million residents of the city were forced to boil water because a water pipe had unexpectedly broken.  In the article, Wu discusses the lessons learned from an experience that was, at its worst, only an inconvenience. She describes the out-and-out hysteria that was felt throughout the city. And she rightly concludes that we, especially in America, are spoiled.  She writes, "How lucky we are that even our back-up water supply is clean enough that boiling makes it safe to drink. Think about the rest of the world and think twice about complaining."

Now of course, it is not my intention to spew hackneyed anti-American rhetoric. This is not the case at all. I endeavor only to understand why we in the First World are so far removed from the Third World's problems. And the reason, as can be seen from Boston's "water crisis," is as simple as the chemical composition of water itself. When we are surrounded consistently by all the basic human needs to sustain a healthy life, we automatically assume that our reality must be a reality for everyone else. We cannot fathom suffering because we are not exposed to it. The final problem is thus a matter of exposure.

And so, when I learn about organizations like Amman Imman, I see the solution to the seemingly irreconcilable disconnect between the developed and developing world. When those of us who have proactively inserted ourselves into a life we can only otherwise imagine in a rather distant way, it is only then that we begin to understand the world's dire problems realistically. Organizations—composed of individual people-- that accomplish tangible goals for those in need are, for one, materially relieving human suffering. But more than that, Amman Imman and similar global initiatives that target specific problems in specific areas are bridging the gap between two completely different worlds. And that is certainly something to celebrate.

This guest post is contributed by Mariana Ashley, who writes on the topics of online colleges.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: mariana.ashley031@gmail.com

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Students have Saved Lives: One Step, Dribble, Hoola-hoop and Jump Rope at a Time

Amman-a-thon Youtube pic resized

Take Action to Save Lives by Joining our Heroes of Compassion!
Become a Hero of Compassion! Rally your school to join the Amman Imman Crusade!
 write to debbie@ammanimman.org for more information

Match the money raised by a Wells of Love School. Challenge a school to raise funds and match your pledged donation.

Support Anya as she runs to save lives in memory of her father!
October 31, 2010: Anya runs for water in the Marine Corps Marathon
AWFW Hershey resized
A student at Hershey Montessori walks for water, 2010.
AWFW Salmonberry resized

A Walk for Water, Salmonberry School, Orcas Island, 2007.

AWFW Lake Frank 2010 resized

A Walk for Water, Lake Frank, Maryland, 2010.

AWFW Boyd School 2010

Boyd School students, A Walk for Water, 2010.

Ammanathon practice resized

Students practice for their Amman-a-thon.

hand in hand resized 2

Crafts for sale, made by students, for their Well of Love.
Dear Friends of the Azawak,

In my last installment, I thanked our powerful Heroes of Compassion for their dedicated efforts toward building the Kijigari Well of Love.  Today, I want to tell you how they accomplished this amazing humanitarian feat.  I will describe our most successful annual fundraising events, which include our Walks for Water and Amman-a-thons, as well as other activities taken on by individual schools.  And near the end, I will also share with you some inspiring stories from some of our youngest Heroes of Compassion.

A Walk for Water
This May, I had the honor and privilege of joining two A Walk for Water events for the first time since they began in 2007.  The first I attended was organized by the Boyd school in Northern Virginia, where 100 students from all seven campuses came together in solidarity for the Azawak (in the meantime, 500 younger students were busy raising money through their Amman-a-thon event).  I also took part in the 4th annual Lake Frank Walk, which united six schools and several local organizations all sharing one goal: to honor and help the children of the Azawak. 

As I walked alongside students and parents, I realized how significant this simple symbolic gesture of hope was to the students as they empathized with their friends in Africa.  While some students complained of the heat and humidity, others reminded them that the children in the Azawak walk over 30 miles a day in 120 degree heat.  One small student proclaimed, “With every step we take here, we are one step closer to building our well of love.”  And one parent poetically compared her steps with flowers in Spring: “With every step we take, life is sprouting from our feet.”  It was riveting to witness the compassion and empowerment emanating from the students as they walked to help people that no one had even heard about five years ago.  They knew that they were saving lives and bringing hope to friends they had not met, but for whom they felt deep love and understanding… people that had otherwise been forgotten by the world.

For those of you unfamiliar with A Walk for Water, it is a community-building sponsorship event, which has been held in such diverse locations as the city streets of Wellington, New Zealand, a school ball field in New Jersey, Orcas Island in Washington State, on a rural Ohio farm school, on a wooded path around a lake in Maryland, and in a park in Virginia.  This walk is usually just a few miles, but it symbolizes the 30-miles that children in the Azawak travel every day in search for water.  Students participating in the walk ask for sponsorships from friends, family, neighbors, and even local companies to raise money for building Wells of Love.  Since 2007, we have raised over $50,000 from our annual Walks that take place across the world.

Amman-a-thons are skill-building events that combine athleticism and philanthropy.  Students are sponsored for each hoola hoop, basket ball dribble, jumping jack, jump rope, etc. that they do.  Amman-a-thon events began at the Oneness-Family School in Maryland, where an average of 30 first- through third-graders, ages six to nine, have continued to participate each year.  Schools across the nation have adopted these Amman-a-thons including the Boyd School, Five Oaks Academy and Cornerspring Montessori. These events are particularly well adapted for our youngest Heroes of Compassion, as they can raise awareness and funds right on the school grounds while having a bundle of fun. 

This May, I witnessed the six to nine year old students at the Oneness-Family School jump rope, hoola hoop, and dribble for their friends in the Azawak.  They took their Amman-a-thon very seriously, and even dedicated many practice days to prepare.  In past years, they had already astonished their sponsors by doing many more hoops and jumps than expected and they wanted to beat their past records this year. Amman-a-thons have raised over $17,000 since they began in 2008.

Other fun and creative awareness and fund raising events
Students at Yale University held a benefit concert and created a male beauty pageant, paralleling the traditional Guerwul festivals of the Fulani people of the Azawak.  Other schools participated in A Month without Water, during which families contributed a month’s amount of their water bill.  Yet another school held a student-written one-act play festival fundraiser.  Some Heroes of Compassion began a student-run soap making company, of which a portion of the profits went to Amman Imman.  Several schools have created gala and auction fundraising events.  Girl Scout troops have held bake sales.  A few schools have raised money, and obtained matching grants from local Rotary Clubs.  Still other Wells of Love schools have participated in our annual Hand in Hand campaign, where they have made crafts to sell to raise money.

Compassion Inspires Children of all Ages
As iterated by the Director of Salmonberry School, “Teachers and parents often underestimate children… when actually they are capable of such deep understanding and such wisdom and compassion.” Upon learning about the plight of the children in the Azawak, one six year old echoed these thoughts, explaining to his parents that he needed to design a system of roads to better transport the diesel and materials for digging the boreholes. Another seven year old drew plans for a robot that could dig our boreholes without the need for expensive equipment! A five year old begged his dad for a very big box. When his dad finally inquired, “Why do you need this box?” he replied that he was going to pack up bottles of water to send to Niger and that they would need the box to return the empty bottles so that he could refill them and send more! Yet another five year old boy smiled for the first time in school after hearing the story of the Azawak, knowing he could make a difference.  He went home and sold rosemary to his neighbors, raising over $100 in just one day for his newfound friends.

These combined efforts of each and every of our inspired and devoted Heroes of Compassion have resulted in a beautiful Well of Love in the village of Kijigari.  Every single child’s persistence and determination helped place each mud brick, faucet, and tube on our borehole infrastructure.  Thank you, Heroes of Compassion, for being powerful and saving lives!  Thank you for joining hand in hand with children and students across the world, and for continuously being my greatest source of inspiration!

Yours for the Children of the Azawak,

Friday, August 20, 2010

Super Heroes of Compassion raise over $100,000 to build Kijigari’s Montessori Well of Love

even the youngest
Kijigari Montessori Well of Love, 2010

Take Action to Save Lives by Joining our Heroes of Compassion!
Become a Hero of Compassion! Rally your school to join the Amman Imman Crusade!

   write to debbie@ammanimman.org for more information

Match the money raised by a Wells of Love School. Challenge a school to raise funds and match your pledged donation.
    click here to see a list of schools you can support
Support Anya as she runs to save lives in memory of her father!

October 31, 2010: Anya runs for water in the Marine Corps Marathon

    click here to go to Anya's website

photo montage
Five Oaks Academy, 2010

“Water is here, water is there;
If you can’t reach it, I will reach it for you.
If you can’t seek it, I will seek it for you.
At last the water you’ve been trying to get is here for you.”
Seventh grade Hero of Compassion, Ayisha

Dear Friends of the Azawak,

This installment, as well as the next I’ll be sending is dedicated to the amazing students across the world that have raised over $100,000 since 2006 to bring water to their thirsty friends in the Azawak.  These students, moved to join our Wells of Love program through love, compassion, and a deep understanding for humanity, are saving lives among the world’s most vulnerable.  David, a dedicated eighth-grade Hero of Compassion iterates, “You may work a mile, and you can have life, or walk a mile and give life.”  This simple yet intrinsically powerful phrase encompasses the philosophy that motivates our Heroes of Compassion.

With our Wells of Love program that heralds our army of Heroes to action, Amman Imman does more than simply raise money for the Azawak.  As Debbie, Wells of Love Director says, “The potential here is greater than raising money. We are raising kids. We are raising kids to understand that their effort impacts the world, that what they do, even if they can do only a little, goes a long way… But it doesn't end there...we are also giving a chance for children in the Azawak to reach their potential, and their dreams.”

What is a Hero of Compassion?
Eighth grader, Sebastian, defines himself and fellow students "Kind of like a super hero, super heroes use their super human strength to save the lives of ordinary people. Heroes of Compassion give their best to help people, and by helping they discover their own super power."   

Today, our Heroes of Compassion, by successfully building their Montessori Well of Love in the village of Kijigari, have proven that children of all ages can make the seemingly impossible real when they unite their compassion and ideals with action. 

Who are our Heroes of Compassion?
With over 60 schools partnering with Amman Imman over the last four years, Amman Imman’s Wells of Love program has developed an army of Heroes of Compassion across the world.  Upon hearing about the thirsty yet beautiful children of the Azawak, students across North America, the Caribbean, Europe and Oceania have raised awareness and funds for their friends in Africa. With thousands and thousands of students uniting hand in hand to bring water, hope and life to the Azawak, I wouldn’t even know how to begin recognizing and thanking each and every one of them individually as they should be.  Please visit our schools’ blog here to read about all our Wells of Love schools  and read the inspiring stories of the students, parents, teachers, and administrators that have provided an invaluable contribution and made a significant impact in the Azawak. 

A Few Examples of Wells of Love Schools
In many schools, Amman Imman has been an integral part of the school culture since 2006.  The most obvious example is the Oneness-Family School.  As spear header of the Wells of Love movement, it was the first Montessori school to make a long-lasting commitment as Amman Imman’s partner.   Still today, Oneness holds year-round Amman Imman activities; from the craft making Hand in Hand project in the Fall to Amman-a-thons and A Walk for Water in the spring.  Oneness Heroes of Compassion have raised over $20,000 since they joined the Amman Imman crusade.  Far from being alone, Oneness has been joined by the Boyd, Barrie, Hershey, and Aidan Montessori Schools that have also chosen to make Amman Imman an essential component of their school curriculum over the past couple of years.   The united efforts of these Wells of Love schools have raised over $40,000.

Small schools like the Montessori School of Maryknoll, have also been a key component of the Wells of Love movement.  Involved since 2007, these young students have consistently raised a couple of hundred dollars through their bake and plant sales.  Schools like Palm Harbor Montessori, also involved since 2007 have raised $3,700 in just a month by collecting change in water bottles.   This year again they have committed to collecting change for Amman Imman over the entire school year.   

Click here to see the list of all the schools who have helped!

Some of the Most Committed Began through the Passion of One Individual
Some of our most committed schools have partnered with Amman Imman thanks to the passionate initiation of one student.  For example, Cornerspring Montessori first enlisted as a Wells of Love school thanks to eight-year old Odin who shared the story of the Azawak after viewing our “Water Scarcity in the Azawak” video on the internet.  Dedicated Hero of Compassion, Sophie, rallied the Madeira School to join this year’s Walk for Water at Lake Frank.  East Catholic High School raised close to $15,000 after high school student, Gabby, presented the plight of the people of the Azawak to her classmates.

And then of course, there have been schools that have raised thousands of dollars thanks to the initiation of one committed parent or teacher.   Teacher Bonnie from Five Oaks Academy rallied her entire school to conduct fundraisers year round, and with an Amman-a-thon as a finale, raised over $4,000 in just one year from her small school.  Rodney has been leading the Boyd School’s seven campuses to conduct yearly Walks for Water.  Sara, Bob and Cathy at the Barrie School have supported a myriad of student fundraising activities from bake sales to Walk for Waters to sports competitions, raising over $10,000 since 2007. Parent Elicia brought the Montessori School of Louisville together to contribute $5,000 of the school’s auction to Amman Imman. Dedicated teachers like Nicole and Christine have taken Amman Imman to their new schools, Sunset Hills Montessori and Scattergood Friends School.  They have already started cultivating an entire new crop of Heroes of Compassion.     These are only a few examples of many whom singlehandedly roused the compassion and help of entire school communities.

Stay tuned for my next installment where I will tell you more how our Heroes of Compassion have raised over $100,000 in just a couple of years. 

Yours for the children of the Azawak,

For a list of schools that you can support, click here.

Web Analytics