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Local charity inspired to help Ugandan students

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 12:21 PDT, Wed September 8, 2021

The Acts for Water team had been working to bring clean water to a region in Uganda for three years. But when they discovered Kisabo, a nearby community of around 1,200 people, they wanted to extend the system to help out. 

“It wasn’t actually on the original plans, we weren’t planning on reaching it because we didn’t know about this area that was outside our (water system) scheme,” explains Jeff Golby, chief executive officer of the Steveston-based charity. “It’s called a ‘last mile community,’ so they’re really remote.”

But in the community is the 600-person Nyamabaare Primary School, where students have to walk three hours per day to access swamp water that often leaves them sick. By extending the pipeline system, members of the community will be able to access clean water and toilet facilities close to home. 

Golby says this is the largest school sanitation project Acts for Water has ever undertaken. And with Uganda in the thick of its second wave in the COVID-19 pandemic, and less than three per cent of the population vaccinated, having access to clean water and soap is crucial. 

That school is the focus of an upcoming Walk4Water event, scheduled for Sept. 12 at Garry Point Park. In what is described as a family-friendly exercise in empathy, participants will walk three kilometres for water, just as Ugandan students do.

My hope is that with every step (people) take while carrying that jerry can, semi-full or just a little bit full of clean water, they’ll share feelings, and can in some small way empathize with the daily struggle for water,” says Golby.

During the pandemic, Acts for Water was only able to run one other in-person event, in September 2020. The upcoming walk has a maximum capacity of 50 people, although that could change if provincial health restrictions are updated.

“Our first walk ever had five people, it was raining, in Surrey—it was embarrassing,” says Golby. “Our last one had 100 people, in September, during COVID. It’s a growing community, people come back because it’s the closest thing that somebody can do to connect in some small way to something that somebody goes through overseas.”

Community partner Richmond Sunrise Rotary is a frequent collaborator that Golby calls an “advocate and supporter” of Walk4Water events. After the event, the group will provide the remaining funds necessary to finish the project.

The project in Uganda will break ground in September, and Golby estimates the process will be completed by November. Then, the Acts for Water team of hygiene and sanitation engineers will stay in Kisabo for about a year to provide additional education.

To learn more or donate, go to Starting Sept. 15, the fall campaign will allow people to provide clean safe water to a family for Christmas or the end of the year.

“It costs two dollars to provide clean water for one year to one of those students, or $125 for clean water and latrines and all the training for life,” says Golby.

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