The Waterbearers Global Sisterhood Movement: Caring for one another and humanity.
I didn’t know anything about disaster relief, until a 7.8 massive earthquake hit the coast of Ecuador on April 16, 2016, that killed 676 and left almost 30,000 homeless. No country was struck as hard as Ecuador with earthquakes last year.
Just four weeks before the earthquake, TheWaterbearers.org had finished its first fundraising campaign to Get One Million People Access To Clean Water, and on March 22, we spent World Water Day delivering the first 50 filters along the Napo River in the Amazon Rainforest. Another 50 had been earmarked for future delivery to the Cañari people in Ecuador’s Andes Highlands.
Spryte Loriano was in the US at the time of the earthquake, but I was in Ecuador with 50 of the life-saving filters. Waterbearer Christina Ring from Quito had just introduced us to Carla Barbotó and Santiago Peralta, owners of world-class Pacari Chocolate. Two days after the quake, I joined them in Quito and trained a group of volunteers on how to use the filters. Those first 50 arrived during a critical time and had the capacity to bring 5000 people clean water. Many more filters were couriered in the coming days and weeks thanks to Waterbearer Director Erin Toppenberg and W4W’s Ethan Lovell with monies raised by TheWaterbearers.org and our partner WavesForWater.org.
Now, fourteen months later, I find myself in a similar disaster situation, only this time, 4600 miles away in Sierra Leone. Audrey Kissik is a Waterbearer who volunteered to courier filters from the US to Liberia, W. Africa, where we have an ongoing project delivering clean water to schools and local communities. One of those schools, the More Than Me Academy for Girls, founded by Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”, Katie Meyler, had just started back to school, and Audrey was on standby waiting to hear when she could deliver the water filters and do training for the school.
On August 14, a deadly mudslide devastated Freetown the capital of Sierra Leone. Audrey contacted me from Liberia with the idea of sending the filters to their neighboring country. Seeing the similarities from the Ecuador earthquake, and unable to reach anyone at that early hour, I said yes, get 100 filters to Freetown. Audrey’s husband is an advisor to the Liberian Police Force who arranged for the filters to be transported by a military and police convoy heading north, a 12-hour drive from Monrovia.
In the meantime, another Waterbearer Shannon McElyea introduced us to RoseAnn Rotandaro from TheVillageLink.org and Terri Khonseri from FamiliesWithoutBorders.org. Both organizations based in California focus on educational programs in Sierra Leone, and they had college students on the ground willing to distribute the filters to those in need. A WhatsApp Group “Freetown Relief Effort” was formed and quickly grew, as more people and organizations wanted to help in the relief efforts. We were able to communicate in real time across three continents sharing information as to the latest updates on where the victims were being sheltered, and what supplies were needed.DONATE NOW TO FREETOWN RELIEF
Bringing clean water to the people of Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Thanks to the power and ease of WhatsApp, the group of international relief agencies teamed up to provide aid for the people of Freetown, Sierra Leone who have been affected by the mudslide disaster and flooding. Through WhatsApp, the team raised funds and coordinated logistics with people on the ground communicating in real time over 7000 miles from the United States and Ecuador to Sierra Leone.
Another threat on the horizon
While Freetown buried its dead and mourned their losses, another threat was lurking, Cholera. Dead bodies were contaminating the water supplies of a country that had just three years ago lost 4000 to the Ebola outbreak.
More Aid through our WhatsApp Group
SchoolsForSalone.org and Programme For Children stepped up to provide accommodations and a vehicle to get the buckets and filters distributed. They also supplied mattresses, bags of rice, non-food items and school supplies for the victims from three of the closest camps from the Sugar Loaf Mountain mudslide.
But, the real credit goes to two young men who took on the responsibility of getting clean water to those in need. Joseph Ellie from FamiliesWithoutBorders.org and Ses Jay TheVillageLink.org and Young People in Action For Development identified the camps where displaced families were seeking shelter and aid. It’s estimated that 3000 people lost their homes due to the heavy rains and flooding.
Thanks to this WhatsApp Group “Freetown Relief Effort”, friends have been made and bonds have been tied to continue working together in Sierra Leone. I think I speak for all Waterbearers in saying that we are very proud and humbled to be part of this collaboration.
Co-Founder | Executive Director
The WhatsApp Group:
The Village Link – RoseAnn Rotandaro, Colleen Rossignol (US), Evelyn Lewis (SL)
Families Without Borders – Terri Khonsari (US), Joseph Ellie (SL)
The Waterbearers – Jane Brinton (EC), Erin Toppenberg (US), Audrey Kissik (LR)
Young People In Action For Development and The Village Link – Ses Jay (SL)
Schools For Salone – Cindy Nofziger (US)
Programme For Children – Joseph Lamin (SL)
Shannon McElyea, Audrey Kissik, Varney Sherif (Assistant Commissioner Liberian Police Force) and Madam Shellac of SLANGO (SL) and the college students in Freetown led by Joseph Ellie and Ses Jay who did the leg work.