March 17, 2013
Our Executive Director, Kara Gerson, attended the WASH Sustainability Forum at the World Bank in Washington, DC on March 11-12, hosted by The World Bank Group, UNICEF, Global Water Challenge, WASH Advocates, Aguaconsult, and the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. We asked her to report back on the event:
Hi Voss Foundation supporters!
I recently returned from two thought-provoking days at the 2013 WASH Sustainability Forum. This year’s forum examined the role of collaboration, particularly with governments, in ensuring lasting WASH services. The conference brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, from NGOs to donors to local governments, to discuss strengthening collaboration with governments and other development partners around the world. I began to reflect on how Voss Foundation fit into that paradigm.
Since we built our solar-powered multi-access-point water systems in Kenya, the government has been able to expand medical and educational facilities. In 2010, the District Water thanked Voss Foundation and our partners, Milgis Trust, for our help in expanding access to clean water in Samburuland, first at a meeting with our President Knut Brundtland, and with a special follow-up letter saying “We welcome the work you have done. The projects are beautifully made, the people and the government of Kenya are grateful for your support that makes a big Difference.“
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the governor of Katanga province made it possible for Voss Foundation and our partners, Georges Malaika Foundation, to secure the land and materials necessary for our clean water wells. In 2011, he hosted us in the state capital of Lubumbashi, to thank Voss Foundation for our work. On that trip to the DRC, we met with many national and state government officials who explained to us how Voss Foundation’s work allows them to achieve their own goals for health, hygiene, and sanitation.
Liberian government officials have expressed similar gratitude for Voss Foundation’s clean water wells in partnership with FACE Africa. Ministers, mayors, and governors in Monrovia and Cestos City, Rivercess, told us how they didn’t necessarily have the funds to implement the WASH hardware, but that our doing so would lay the foundation to help them provide so much more to their constituents. When I met Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize winner and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene, in September 2012, she echoed those sentiments in thanking me for Voss Foundation’s work in her country. She told me how our work would complement the government’s efforts to repair the war-torn country and enable their own efforts to be that much more effective.
In our newest project country, Swaziland, our partners Gone Rural boMake and Rosecraft have been careful to coordinate our efforts with the Swazi Ministry of Health (MoH) and Rural Water Supply Board (RWSB). This ensures the most complete provision of services possible, through an efficient allocation of all available resources.
Finally, it occurred to me that we already are working with many governments – both national and local – to create sustainable clean water projects. Although we may not partner with nor fund the governments directly, through the advice of our savvy local partners we are often working in concert with government strategies and existing efforts. In fact, I realized, this is both a cause and effect of why we, at Voss Foundation, are so proud of our work: because we only partner with the kinds of locally-based organizations with such critical ties to their communities – including, importantly, the relevant and necessary officials and ministries who will both help us implement the projects in the most efficient and effective way, and who will help create the proper supportive environment for the clean water systems to be maintained.
At Voss Foundation, we view our work as merely providing the capital to invest in giving our beneficiary communities a tool to improve their own lives. I feel much more confident in our decision to work with partners who have the roots and connections to establish critical buy-in and ownership across the social and political spectrum, to ensure long-lasting, community-owned clean water solutions.
The 2013 WASH Sustainability Forum reinforced my belief that our considered approach is a good one, that it is possible to be responsible donor/NGO who works with experienced local partners to collaborate with all the diverse stakeholders – including governments – to ensure the ongoing ripple effect of our WASH projects.
What do you think?