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Water for life

Last fall, the Gay Lea Foundation approved a $15,000 grant for the Africa Community Technical Service Society, a Richmond, B.C.-based charity known more commonly as Acts for Water.

Over 30 years, Acts For Water has constructed 23 water Gravity Flow Systems in 19 rural communities in Uganda, delivering safe drinking water to over 208,000 people.

For more than 30 years, Acts For Water has worked to address poverty and improve quality of life in Southwestern Uganda by providing communities there with access to clean, fresh drinking water. Their unique approach involves finding a water spring source in the hills above the communities in need, monitoring that source for five years to ensure it’s sustainable – even in a drought – then building a network of pipelines, reservoirs, and accessible tap stands to deliver clean water to multiple villages.

These water Gravity Flow Systems (GFS), as they are known, are ideal for the mountainous terrain of Southwestern Uganda and require no manual labour (such as pumping water) for community members. Gravity does the work. For the past three years, Acts has focused their efforts in Kicuzi, a remote, rural area in the Ibanda District of Southwestern Uganda, where thousands of people live without access to clean water; instead, they collect water from contaminated, open sources such as ponds, puddles, and shallow streams – many of which regularly dry up. For community members, this risks parasites and dangerous waterborne illnesses. For young girls, who are traditionally responsible for domestic water collection, it means walking kilometres every day with heavy cans down dangerous roads instead of going to school.

To address the water problems in Kicuzi, Acts launched a plan to construct a 12-kilometre GFS to deliver water to six rural villages in the area: Muture; Rwemambo; Ryakagumba; Buraziru; Kitehe and Kabende. The water would be drawn from a sustainable mountain aquifer and directed through a system of reservoir tanks, filtration, and pipes to deliver clean water to several tap stands situated throughout the villages. While the GFS was being constructed, the charity would also work to build private, secure latrines for handwashing and safe sanitation management at local schools, provide intensive community training to help make sure the water stays clean, and use a Community-Led Total Sanitation Approach to raise the Water And Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) standards of practice in the communities.

In January 2021, with support from the Gay Lea Foundation and others, Acts launched The Kyenyonyi Water And Sanitation Hygiene Project – a component of the larger multi-phase project in Kicuzi that would bring water to 3,297 people in Kyenyonyi.

This July, Acts was able to report the successful completion of the Kyenyonyi project, including the establishment of one tap stand funded entirely by the Gay Lea Foundation. The stand provides approximately 500 people with 6,000 litres of clean, fresh water every day.

“Partnering with the Gay Lea Foundation was such an unexpected joy from 2020,” says Jeffrey Golby CEO, Acts for Water. “As Uganda battles a second wave of COVID, this tap, the hygiene training, the soap and more will be the first, and best defence against that virus and so many others.”

In fact, the implications of the gift reach far beyond COVID. For young girls, it means the doors to education open; for women, it means they can start earning an income rather than spend hours a day dealing with water poverty; for families, it means the option to save their money rather than spend it on medication to treat typhoid or other water-related illnesses.

As of July 2021, Acts For Water has provided more than 16,000 people in the Kicuzi region with access to the life-giving gift of clean water, latrines at their schools and some of the best hygiene and sanitation training in the world. More than 35 taps been turned on, in total, and 94% of households now have a tap stand within 500 meters of their door. And Acts For Water isn’t done yet.

“We’ve been on a three-year project in the Kicuzi region that will eventually bring clean, fresh water to more than 17,000 people,” says Jeff Golby. “Support from donors like the Gay Lea Foundation has allowed us to expand our project and impact the health, education, income generation, food security, and economic growth opportunities for generations of people living in this remote rural region of Uganda. We thank you for the part you have played.”

Visit the Gay Lea Foundation’s Impact Page on the Acts For Water website to see more photos of the project, an interactive map and videos of beneficiaries talking about the impact of clean water on their lives!

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