Enjoy this deep dive into some of the reasons why we have chosen to work with Water for Good. Also, don't forget to be incredibly proud when you read this, because by being a Yuhme change maker you truly do make a difference in the lives of people in the Central African Republic.
Who better to ask these questions than David DeArmey- the Director of International Partnerships at Water for Good. Thank you David for sharing your knowledge!
1. What is the benefit of a smaller organization such as Water for Good?
While there is no "best" size for an organization, and that many large ones are doing fantastic work around the world, there are advantages to being a small non-profit. First of all, organizations are nothing more than people together working towards the same objective. So, in a small organization, the learning process can be faster, information is more quickly communicated. Secondly, it allows for everyone to get involved and gain experience in many different aspects of the organization, for that reason, flexibility is important. These aspects are very true at Water for Good, and are probably true for many small organizations. What I have discovered is a strong sense of ownership of the cause by each of the staff members at Water for Good. We are a closely-knit group where we all feel like we are contributing to the cause in significant ways.
2. What does your exit strategy actually mean in theory?
Water for Good's exit strategy is actually a long-term commitment. All non-governmental organizations working internationally should seek to build, hand-over, and let go when it is the right time. Water for Good's will exit when the time is right, when we are confident the systems that are put in place are fully acquired and owned by the right stakeholders in the Central African Republic. The country has been severely affected and held back in its development due to cyclical war and political instability, and many basic services do not exist in CAR. We recognize that supporting our Central African teams' work may mean being involved for many years, but we are ok with that. We feel like it is better to commit for longer vs pulling out when support is still needed.
3. Tell us a little bit about what makes your maintenance program such a vital part to the people of CAR?
Most people in CAR do not have reliable access to clean water. People often live in remote areas that are difficult to access. Those who do have access to clean water through hand pumps, depend on them to keep working all the time. Hand pumps are the most reliable way to tap into safe, potable groundwater. The country has no cell phone networks in rural areas and no company or business exists that can readily come and repair pumps when they break down. So,the systematic, regular preventative checks our teams perform across a third of the country guarantees those pumps keep working all the time. As more hand pumps get installed, we make sure they are brought into our maintenance program. There is nothing worse than to fetch dirty water for years, get access to clean water, and then have to go back to dirty water just because a small part in the pump wore down and the pump no longer works. In a country like CAR, where instability is the norm, people appreciate having one basic service that remains stable: access to water.
4. Recently we have learnt that you work a lot on what is called “a systems strengthening” approach- can you briefly explain that concept?
Systems strengthening means taking into consideration everything that needs to work for a water point to work normally. It is not just about the mechanical side of things. It is also the way people create management systems so that water gets fairly distributed and used safely, hygienically, by the users, that money collected for maintenance. It also means for good communication between the users, the service providers, and local authorities and that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing. It means making sure that pumps get checked on regularly, and that spare parts be made available. All this takes a lot of processes to function together. It takes the whole system to work harmoniously. If we just focus on one aspect of water access, we risk failing to help build up the weak points in the system.
5. Lastly, you are stationed in Europe, can you tell as a little bit of the work you do in Europe specifically?
My work in Europe is first and foremost just being a presence here. There are many ways governments, companies, non-governmental organizations in Europe are tied to the Central African Republic. I am here to locate and work with the relevant entities and people who have the right competencies and capabilities for what the Central African Republic needs. Since systems strengthening encompasses many issues of governance, policy, funding, capacity building, I am here to represent the Central African Republic cause and need for better access to water.
I am also located "halfway" between our small headquarters in the United States, and our drilling and maintenance work in the Central African Republic. Aside from being on the same time zone as my Central African colleagues, being here has enabled me to travel to the field more easily than most who would have to take 48 hours to fly to the middle of Africa.
David DeArmey interviewed by Alexandra Nash