Water Fosters ‘Gold Rush’ in West Africa—and Ontario

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“Water used to be like gold to us,” said a Gourmanche woman in West Africa.

A woman pumps water from a well in West Africa.

Now, thanks to the support of Trinity Christian Reformed Church in Goderich, Ontario, and the work of World Renew, she has access to clean water in her village. The Ontario church has also benefited richly.

The Gourmanche people are a minority ethnic group that makes up only about 1 percent of the population in their country. In 1993, World Renew began working with some Christian Gourmanche leaders to train and assist community groups—Christian and Muslim—across the region to improve their lives.

In 2009, as part of this ministry, nine communities identified wells as a top priority.

Lack of a nearby well meant taking time from working in the fields to walk long distances to get water. The leaders asked for assistance to build nine wells.

Meanwhile, Trinity CRC was looking for a special cause to support during Advent. After hearing about the need for wells, they committed themselves to the cause and raised $28,500—enough to build 17 wells.

While this was an answer to prayer for all, it also had complications. The West African communities had only asked for nine wells, and World Renew didn’t want to build wells in communities that hadn’t identified that as a need.

In fact, World Renew required that communities contribute $100 U.S. plus food for laborers before they could receive a well. It took time to find communities willing to make this commitment.

In addition, because the rainy season made transportation to remote communities nearly impossible, the wells could only be dug between January and April. Moreover, some communities hit rock trying to drill a well.

Only five of nine wells were completed in the first year. Over the next two years, World Renew leveraged the funds to complete 13 additional wells and a village borehole.

Several more are planned for the next year. The communities are pleased with the results.

“We used to only be able to get eight jugs of water per day; now we take 150,” said one community member.

Trinity CRC was deeply affected by participation in the project. The ability to raise funds for wells demonstrated to the church community that they had the capacity to plan and implement a major initiative. This was the catalyst to raise nearly $2 million for a new ministry center.

They also raised support to build churches in communities around the world. Today those international churches are mostly complete, and Trinity hopes to hold the grand opening and dedication ceremony on its new ministry center on August 24.

“Francis of Assisi said that it is in giving we receive. That was the case for our congregation,” explained Pastor Stephen Tamming.

About the Author

Kristen deRoo VanderBerg was part of the World Renew Communications team from 1999-2016. She now serves as director of Communications & Marketing for the Christian Reformed Church.

See comments (1)


There are several good things about about this project.

First, it was done with contibutions, not ministry shares.  A local church contributed.  World Renew is funded by contributions (not ministry shares).

Second, World Renew was wise enough to require the local communities to contribute to their wells.  Had they not done so, the wells would be valued less.

Third, helping the poor here was done by "the church," not by the government at the urging (lobbying) of the church.  The CRCNA, especially at the denominational level, does too much of that latter on the domestic (US) side.

Whether these local communities paid enough for their wells will be determine perhaps five years down the road.  If the wells are still in operation, they probably did and they sufficiently value their wells as an asset to their community.  If the wells are broken down and left in disrepair, it is probably the case that these local communitites contributed too little for the wells.  Hopefully, World Renew and Trinity CRC will keep in touch so that this does good work is proven to be "helping without hurting."