Through Women’s Enterprises International, Sequim Rotarians Mary Jane Apple and Andrea Gilles are helping to purchase water cisterns in Kenya.

Through Women’s Enterprises International, Sequim Rotarians Mary Jane Apple and Andrea Gilles are helping to purchase water cisterns in Kenya.

Sequim Rotarians help Kenyans get water cisterns

SEQUIM — Rotarians Mary Jane Apple and Andrea Gilles recently returned from a two-week trip to the Makueni region, southeast of Nairobi, Kenya, to assist in the installation of water cisterns.

Tonight, Apple and Gilles will have a wine and food tasting fundraiser at 6 p.m. at Apple’s home, 234 Osprey Lane.

The women pay their own expenses, so 100 percent of all funds raised goes toward the purchase of a cistern. Donations payable to WEIcan be sent to Andrea Gilles, Professional Real Estate, 329 S. Sequim Ave., Sequim, WA 98382.

For more information, call either Apple at 360-460-5297 or Gilles at 360-808-3306.

Demirus, a widow, and Dorothy, a mother of 10 and a small farmer, were two of the 15 women receiving cisterns on this trip.

Apple and Gilles already have commitments for two cisterns from Sequim Sunrise Rotary and one cistern from King’s Way Foursquare Church for their 2017 trip.

Further fundraising events are being planned.

A several-hour journey from Nairobi, the Makueni region is rural and arid, except during the monsoon season. Without means to collect and safely store the rain, needed water is lost. Every morning before sunrise, women and children walk for 6 miles to the nearest river to fetch water.

When the river runs dry, it takes the women at least another hour or two to dig into the dry riverbed in search of drinking water. Subject to debris and animal waste, this water is not sanitary.

Once they fill in their 5-gallon jerry cans, they strap them on their backs and return home. Most women spend at least six hours a day fetching water. Theirs is a life of basic survival.

The U.S. team helped Kenyan women construct 15 concrete water tank bases at their homesteads and gifted some of them with water storage tanks. Each tank measures about 7.5 feet high with a storage capacity of 2,200 gallons.

The 2016 trip was organized by Women’s Enterprises International (WEI), a not-for-profit organization based in Seattle (www.womensenterprises.org).

Apple heard of WEI while attending a conference in Seattle. WEI is partnering with 36 women groups, including Dorothy’s group, through solidarity groups, group-based micro-savings and project-based incentives.

Two women founded WEI in 1999: an American executive and a Kenyan experienced in community development. Since its inception, WEI has organized 17 work team trips to Kenya, bought more than 200 water storage tanks for poor rural households and directly impacted more than 8,000 lives.

WEI’s mission is “[reaching] across cultures to transform lives and communities by partnering with women’s groups, empowering and equipping women to break the cycle of poverty and live into their God-given potential.”

WEI assists women in forming groups to work together and save toward a common goal. In the Makueni region, the goal is to obtain a 2,640-gallon water cistern.

According to the organization, the cost of the cistern, a base, a collection system that attaches to the roof and delivery is $1,400. Manufactured in Kenya, the cisterns are anti-microbial and, if used sparingly by a family, will store enough water for a year. Two cisterns enable a family to also raise animals and use for agriculture.

Once the cost of the cistern and its delivery is reached, the group chooses a member to receive it. WEI then matches the funds to buy an additional tank for the group and again the women determine which family receives the second tank.

In 2016, Apple and Gilles raised enough donations from Sequim businesses, organizations and residents to purchase 10 cisterns.

Gilles was particularly struck by the women’s strength, faith and hope for the future and how water storage tanks were transforming lives in rural Kenya.

“Despite most families not having clean piped water and running faucets, these women work together for a common goal and are able to give their children education and hope that life can be better. I saw these women give to orphans and a deaf school as a common goal in helping those even less fortunate than themselves,” she said.

“It has been inspiring to see Mary Jane, Andrea and all of their Rotary members join together in such creative and fun ways to raise funds and partner with the women’s groups in Kenya. They truly are champions on behalf of the hard and transformational work our partner women’s group strive for,” said WEI Executive Director Jordan Cañas Ramsay.

Without means to collect and safely store rainwater, it is lost. Every morning before sunrise, women and children walk for 6 miles to the nearest river to fetch water.

Without means to collect and safely store rainwater, it is lost. Every morning before sunrise, women and children walk for 6 miles to the nearest river to fetch water.

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