November 20, 2014
Implementation of a solar water system is underway for the community of Lekeri, Voss Foundation’s ninth project in collaboration with Milgis Trust in the Samburu region of Kenya. The project will outfit a well recently dug by the community with a solar-powered pump. The system will pump water to two water access points: one standpipe next to the borehole, and one standpipe in the community. The project will also include community-based training in proper maintenance and management.
The community and their livestock currently use water from the Sereit lugga, a seasonal river, to meet their daily needs.
According to Helen Douglas-Dufresne, Milgis Trust’s Founder, “Lekeri is located on the Sererit lugga… Lekeri and the community [already] dug a new well. There is a small nursery school, and quite a few people living there… travellers will also use this water [source because] it’s situated on a junction of several footpaths, going east, south, north and west! When it gets really dry water is pretty hard to come by here. The people of Lukumukum, [another community about 4km away], will also collect water from here.”
The Lekeri water system is funded by Lene Maria for Rent Vann in memory of Maria Annette Ofstad Derås, a friend of Lene Maria’s, who passed away at the age of 21 from Battens disease. When Maria Annette passed away, her family asked friends to donate to Lene Maria for Clean Water.
Mariann Ofstad, Maria Annette’s mother, shared the following touching letter about her daughter, her relationship with Lene Maria, and the clean water project. “Healthy and vital, Maria Annette came to the world in the summer of 1992. She grew up in Namsos, and her future was looking bright. She went to school and learned to read and write. She developed as expected, even if you eventually noticed that there was something wrong with her eyes. Her sight gradually got worse; vague to begin with. Sadly, glasses did not help…
To make a long story short, Maria Annette was diagnosed with the disease Spielmeyer Vogt syndrome (Batten disease) at the age of 10. This is a congenital, progressive metabolic disorder that primarily affects the nervous system. From being a healthy girl who could both talk, run and ride etc. she gradually lost the ability to speak and see over a ten-year period, as well as the cognitive abilities and the ability to walk. Eventually, she needed care. In the recent years, she had a “button” on the belly where she got all the food and medicines through. These years became a gradual long downturn, but one learns to find points of light that gets you through the everyday anyway …
Maria Annette and Lene Maria started in the same class at school in 1st grade. They had seen each other a few times before because Lene Maria’s mom, Tove, worked in the kindergarten Maria Annette went to. At school, they became good friends. Maria Annette thrived in Lene Maria’s company. It was always fun to be allowed to visit her after school or take part in an overnight visit. She definitely liked to visit her. Maria Annette’s favorite toy was Barbie dolls, and the girls spent many hours with this when Lene Maria was visiting her.
During elementary school it became more and more evident that Maria Annette wasn’t healthy, but Lene Maria continued to care for her. I was told by others that Lene Maria was especially good to include Maria Annette in the class environment. When Maria Annette’s sight eventually got worse, she was taken care of so that she could still be playing with others. A supportive hand from Lene Maria was good to have when her balance began to deteriorate and when her eyes couldn’t show her the world anymore.
They continued in the same class at secondary school, although Maria Annette had her own teaching program. It was no longer possible to follow the same lessons as the others. Lene Maria often visited her classroom, either to chat or to play a game. She often took a trip to the swimming pool when Maria Annette had swimming lessons. I was told by the teachers who worked with her that when the day was tough and the mood was bad, a hug and comforting words from Lene Maria could make the school day good again. Lene Maria had a genuine ability to comfort Maria Annette when she was sad.
When Lene Maria died on Utøya, Maria Annette had lost her language and we didn’t know how much she could understand of what had happened … a tear went down her cheek as she was told Lene Maria was dead. Then, both of them were only 19 years.
When Maria Annette died, 21 years old, we expected that there was many who would show their concern and compassion by sending flowers. When young people die, it can often be a lot to handle. Well, we thought we would give family, friends and acquaintances an option to also give something to charity. We had never forgotten Lene Maria’s care for Maria Anette during the schooldays. For us the choice was simple: “Lene Maria for clean water.” We had all seen what the project had achieved, and it would greatly delight us if we could help more people could have access to clean water. And we know that if Maria Annette had been able to decide for herself, we’re sure that she would’ve made the same choice as we did.
That the Bergum family wanted to build a well to honor Maria Annette’s memory, had never been in our thoughts. But we think it’s really great that this will be done. We know that Maria Annette would have liked this. In her healthy years, she had a sponsored child in Africa, so she understood that many children in the world live in impoverished and poor conditions, something she thought was very unfair. She was very happy to help a child with schooling.
We never found any sense in that this disease affected our daughter, but we find comfort in the fact that many people will have access to clean water. The thoughtfulness many had shown for us when we lost our beloved daughter, will help a lot in retrospect. To know that one can be allowed to contribute helping others in itself is both a great pleasure and a great comfort!
Sincerely, Mariann Ofstad
Lene Maria for Rent Vann, Norwegian for “Lene Maria for Clean Water,” is a global grassroots initiative to honor the memory of Lene Maria Bergum, who was killed in the shooting attack on Utøya, Norway in July 2011. Her family chose to build a water project in Sub-Saharan Africa with Voss Foundation in Lene Maria’s name. They felt this was the way she would want to be remembered. Lekeri is the fifth Lene Maria for Rent Vann project with Voss Foundation. The campaign has funded 4 sanitation facilities and 17 water access points in 9 communities in Kenya and Liberia.
We at Voss Foundation continue to be humbled by how the Bergum and Ofstad Derås family has chosen to heal in the aftermath of tragedy and disease. Both have transformed terrible events into inspirational projects that benefit many. We are honored to be a part of their efforts.
To read the complete project description and see the budget, click the report cover image.