Flood Relief in Freetown, Sierra Leone

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.



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.

Jane Brinton

Co-Founder | Executive Director

The Waterbearers


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)


Special Thanks:

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.




As part of a humanitarian effort for the upcoming UN sanctioned World Water Day (March 22), The Waterbearers and partner Waves For Water, will provide water filters and sustainability training to those looking for a simple economic solution to keep their drinking water safe (in Hawaii). Filters being donated are part of The Waterbearers fundraising efforts. Each $50 donation can provide clean water to 100 people a day, and can last a decade. Waves For Water currently distributes the clean water systems using the Sawyer Point One Filter, including sustainability training in 40 countries.

There is something very basic and fundamental about people from all over the world who decide to cut ties with the mainland, or their mother country, and relocate to rural areas like the Big Island of Hawaii.

They chose to start over and live a sustainable and simple life to provide for their families. Many live off the grid. This is not a selfless act, but one of love for the Planet and Mother Earth.

While some will view this as going “backwards” – many of these people are forward thinkers, who make their own decisions in a utopian society.

A utopia (/juːˈtoʊpiə/) is a community or society possessing highly desirable or perfect qualities. The word was coined in Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island society in the Atlantic Ocean.


According to one resident Andrea Lee Peace, “much of South Hawaii presently does not have access to county water lines. Even where municipal water lines are accessible … it can be difficult and expensive to run a water line to hook up to a meter at a distribution point. Most people must rely on a catchment system to collect water. There are very few wells in the region, and only dug at great expense through the solid lava. Permanent streams are not found in this area. That leaves catching rain and/or hauling water via trucks or containers the only option.”

Note: The state considers the use of catchment water to be a personal responsibility, and it does NOT consider containment water to be potable (drinkable).

Add to that the arrival of the Rat Lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantenosis), a parasite carried from SE Asia to Hawaii by rats as a host, and transferred to slugs and snails, and it is a recipe for disaster. Humans pick up the parasite by ingesting slugs, slug slime, contaminated fruits and vegetables, uncooked food and Water. Cases of eosinophilia meningitis have risen sharply in Hawaii over the past 5 years, and studies show that 75% of slugs collected on the Big Island are infected with the parasite.

The Waterbearers

The Waterbearers is a movement who inspire women who have clean water, to get it to those who do not. Waterbearer members are currently running a 30-day fundraising campaign to Help One Million People Get Access To Clean Water by World Water Day www.thewaterbearers.org with 100% of proceeds going to Waves For Water a 501(c)(3).

With the incredible need for clean water around the world, we decided to bring it back home this World Water Day, delivering clean water solutions to anyone in need in the United States.


In One Minute, Your World Can Change;


On April 16, 2016 residents in the coastal communities of Ecuador had no warning when “The Big One” violently shook their world for 60 seconds during the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake – the deadliest to hit the nation since March 1987 – claimed 670 lives, and left almost 30,000 people in shelters or living in make-shift tent cities on the side of the road and in nearby parks.

Three days after the quake, The Waterbearers — an organization that is inspiring women who have access to clean water, to get it to those who don’t – responded to the crisis by implementing an immediate water delivery and volunteer training program, in tandem with the world-class Ecuadorian chocolatier, Pacari.


“Ecuador is my adopted country,” says British-born Waterbearers Co-Founder Jane Brinton. “And, when the Earthquake hit, I recognized the urgency in my own backyard. I had been helping to create The Waterbearers organization for several months and we had 50 water filters already donated on hand. I realized I had an immediate way to help my Ecuadorian neighbors, and to start the circle of giving – to be a Waterbearer, and to reach out to those in need with the tangible and life-giving gift of water.” This effort provided the first clean water filter systems to communities near the epicenter and helped 5,000 people gain access to clean water.


When disasters, such as earthquakes occur, they are followed by what experts call “A 2-week window of empathy,” – a time when people anxious to help, donate to disaster relief agencies around the world. While these outpourings are incredibly important, they are just the beginning. And, for many communities, left in the wake of such disasters, a welcome gesture, but not a sustaining solution.

Tragedies like earthquakes are not single incidents. They trigger an ongoing, myriad of emotional, psychological, and physical reactions that can impact individuals, families and communities for years to come. And, during these times, the needs often grow way beyond what people initially believe will be necessary.

In Ecuador alone, more than 2,173 aftershocks have occurred since the initial quake and the continued seismic activity has caused more damage and injuries, creating additional trauma to the people in the impacted areas.

In an effort to answer those ongoing demands, The Waterbearers have been spearheading efforts to provide continuing aid, and with help from donors and their partner, Waves For Water, almost 3,000 water filters have been couriered to communities within Ecuador – with the capacity of providing clean water to 300,000 people.

And, the work goes on.

The Waterbearers have also provided much needed water filters to indigenous tribes including the Yasuni Kichwa and the Shuar in the Amazon, and to the Cañari in the Andes, returning many times to assess the progress, and to re-train when necessary.

For more information on how to donate or to journey with The Waterbearers on a distribution trip, please contact The Waterbearers at: info@thewaterbearers.org



The Waterbearers is a movement started by two women, Spryte Loriano and Jane Brinton, who both share a passion for seeing everyone on the planet having access to clean water. It was birthed in October 2015, when one evening during a conversation, they both said “The Waterbearers” simultaneously, as if they had instantly been made stewards of women and water. Coincidently, the very next night, Spryte was nearing the end of a good read The Serpent of Light: The Rise of the Feminine: 2012 and Beyond and discovered that the Waitaha people of New Zealand, a Matriarchal culture dating back over 4000 years, were known as the original “Water Bearers.” The phrase jumped out at her as an omen, and there began a journey that would weave together the old, the new, and the magic of intentional service into this movement – #For the love of water! 

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