WaterAid is a charity organisation exclusively dedicated to providing safe and drinkable domestic water, sanitation and hygiene education to the world’s poorest people.
Thus far, the non-government organisation has assisted some 8.5 million people in accessing clean water through its affordable sustainability projects and technology, which ultimately provides communities with autonomy over its water requirements.
MidCoast Water became a foundation member of WaterAid in 2005, when the charity first became active in Australia. Dan Brauer is the Planning Manager at MidCoast Water and has had a strong connection with WaterAid, witnessing some of their work in India in 2007.
On May 6, Dan is joining fellow triathlete, Adam McMahon, to compete in the Australian Ironman triathlon, being held in Port Macquarie, as part of his personal quest to raise funds for WaterAid and transform the lives of those less fortunate than us. Karen Farrell spoke to Dan about his quest.
Dan, MidCoast Water is a foundation member of WaterAid Australia. The international organisation works with local partners to initially understand issues in developing communities and subsequently manage practical projects which meet ‘basic human rights’, such as having access to drinkable domestic water. Please tell us about WaterAid Australia’s overarching vision?
WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation. These are the basic services which support the health of a community and in turn, allow people to become educated, gain employment and improve their overall wellbeing.
WaterAid’s approach includes using practical examples from their projects to demonstrate good practice through global advocacy. WaterAid aims to change policies and practices in the developing countries around the world that impact upon people’s access to these basic needs.
In Australia, WaterAid seeks to work with the Australian Government to advocate and influence its international aid and development assistance program, that aims to improve the lives of people in extreme poverty in the East Asia and Pacific region.
WaterAid works with a variety of partners, to ensure their work has as much impact as possible. These partners include local organisations and governments within host countries and other international non-government organisation (NGOs). WaterAid gets the best results from their projects when delivered by local people who understand the problems and can see and own the solutions.
What sort of technologies does WaterAid Australia introduce into communities to assist them with planning, constructing and ultimately managing and maintaining their own projects?
WaterAid introduces very simple technologies which can be easily obtained, constructed and maintained by host communities. This is really important in ensuring the long-lasting benefits of their projects.
In all projects WaterAid delivers, the education and capacity building of community members underpins the success of the project from the outset.
Planning is done with the community to first of all identify where their sources of water are and where people would go to the toilet. In a small village in India, I witnessed this process take place, where women started to draw a plan of the village with chalk on the court yard. On this day, the whole community looked on in anticipation, as they started to understand this was the first simple step in changing their lives.
Once suitable locations for new water sources or latrines are identified, construction of these items is usually performed by community members using locally available materials. This has the added benefit of providing employment and increasing trade skills within the village.
You have seen firsthand the benefits of WaterAid in struggling communities in India. Could you please tell us about your experience?
An engineer with MidCoast Water, I was involved with a WaterAid community project in Gwalior, India, in 2007. At first we went to a village where there was no clean drinking water and no sanitation.
I will never forget the images of the mothers with sick and dying children and the daily conditions these people endured. The children were unable to go to school, because they were so ill, and their mothers were unable to earn money to support their family.
When the people heard that we were going to establish a water and sanitation project in the village, there was a tremendous celebration. They were so grateful and so welcoming.
The exciting thing was to see the difference that it made to this community. It was the women that took the lead – they were the ones with chalk in hand drawing designs for where the toilets and water systems should go. And they were the ones who learned to build and maintain the systems as well.
By educating people on good sanitation and hygiene practices, WaterAid Australia is ultimately striving for improved health and livelihoods. Tell about these practices …
Through hygiene education, WaterAid encourages people to replace their unsafe hygiene practices with simple, safe alternatives.
Most people in the communities WaterAid works in are only too happy to use clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing once it is readily available.
WaterAid’s approach to hygiene promotion recognises that people do not change their behaviour simply because they are told about health benefits. People are just as strongly motivated by improvements in privacy, convenience, environmental cleanliness, self-esteem and social status resulting from changes in sanitation and personal and household hygiene.
While in India, I saw how the education of good hygiene practices within whole communities had a strong link to the basic lessons learnt in primary schools. Simple messages such as keeping water pots covered when they are not in use, and using a sanitary latrine instead of going to the toilet in the bush were taken home by the school kids, who then taught their families.
What is involved in terms of working with local governments in developing communities?
Local governments in many of the countries in which we work have been given the responsibility, but not the skills or resources, to develop water and sanitation in their regions. WaterAid therefore aims to work closely with local governments to develop their capacity to carry out their work effectively.
Along with fellow triathlete, Adam McMahon, you’ve set yourself a $10,000 fundraising target to raise money for WaterAid at the impending Australian Ironman Triathlon on May 6. The triathlon includes a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride plus a 42 km run … how are you preparing for the event?
Adam and I are putting in up to 25 hours a week to prepare for the event – running, cycling, swimming, completing sessions at the gym and even yoga classes, to improve our flexibility and focus.
What are some of the ways in which WaterAid would utilise the $10,000?
We are dedicating our fundraising target of $10,000 to provide water and sanitation systems for schools in New Guinea. The project would benefit some 500 children and their families.
Thank you Dan. FOCUS wishes Dan and Adam the best of luck with their endeavours.
Ironman Australia is on in Port Macquarie on the 6 May 2012.
Donations to Adam and Dans’ Ironman Campaign for WaterAid can be made to:
This story was published in issue 63 of Manning Great Lakes Focus