How I met Winfred
I participated in the 2009 European Summit for Global Transformation, which was held in Rotterdam. This is a wonderful event, which focuses on social entrepreneur’s passion and capabilities to actually bring the change they dream of. Among the many projects presented, there was a school being built in Rwanda by Innocent Bajeneza with help from Jen Lemen. Innocent doesn’t speak English and his story was translated by Nina Uwera with help from Winfred Asiimwe, both of Rwandese origin but now living in Europe. As much as Nina is easy going and outspoken, Winfred seemed rather shy and difficult to access. During the conference, that is. I was lucky enough to drive both of them back to Brussels after the event, and that’s how we started talking and slowly got to know each other.
I’ve learned that Winfred can be fragile and strong, determined and shy, … all at the same time! Her life has certainly been difficult and harsh, I know she suffered violence and lived in hostile environments, but she stayed beautiful and pure and she’s driven by a strong passion to help her former refugee village in Uganda.
Winfred was born in Africa, and although she lived in Europe for the past 30 years, she has kept strong connections with her homeland. She remembers that as a child, she would have to walk hours for water. She told me there was only water available close to her village during the rainy season, but it was of very poor quality so it had to be boiled. Having to walk many miles for water, poor sanitation, and not always being able to boil the water nearly caused her death, as she suffered cholera as a child.
She told me: “since I survived cholera, I have this dream to help avoid the disease in my community by providing them with clean safe water” — unfortunately, so many years have passed and she has never been able to fulfill that dream. We both feel that now the time has come. And we also wish to provide her village with a school, as we strongly believe education is what can help the people out of poverty.
The village of Nyabushozi
The village of Nyabushozi is located in Uganda, across the border from Rwanda, in the Mbarara region. It is a region where there are no lakes, no rivers, no water sources. Lacking access to water from natural sources, the population is entirely dependent on rain, which has been very meager over the last few years. Moreover, water is not only required for the people, but also for the domestic animals. And “if the cattle have no water, they will not produce milk” says Winfred, so finding water is the most important thing in the lives of the people living there. She explains: “currently, rain water is collected in small ponds (man-made dams), but it is of very poor quality, shared between the animals and the population, and therefore the source of many diseases”
Providing Clean, Safe Drinking water
A well seems the logical solution for the water problem in Nyabushozi. We know however that just drilling the well is not sufficient. And we know that a water well is a lot more than only a hole drilled in the ground! So we have drafted a high level project plan, whereby we have to tackle many issues, from financing the project to defining ownership and ensuring maintenance. From the original idea to celebrating success there is a long road, including a preliminary visit, financing, connecting with local authorities, finding a contractor, engaging the community, etc.
Whilst water may seem quite a challenge already, both Winfred and I are convinced that we have to go the next step also: provide the children with basic education. Especially as these children and their parents will be freed from the burden of getting to water, the children will have more time for education. That’s why we wish to provide the village of Nyabushozi with a school. Providing basic education locally will have a tremendous leverage effect; it will equip the future people of Nyabushozi with the means to fight their poverty.