Kentucky Women Supporting Women in West Africa

By Send Relief Staff

Access to clean water isn’t just a health concern as many struggle with chronic dehydration and water-borne illnesses. It’s a safety concern for the women who walk miles along dangerous roads to find water for their families. They’re often attacked and sexually assaulted.

But all the way in Kentucky, somebody cared and decided to do something about it.

Mark and Susan Hatfield, two of Send Relief’s area directors for sub-Saharan Africa worked with the Appalachia Send Relief Ministry Center and teams from Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief to train seven men and two women (the first ever female well repair volunteers with Send Relief) to drill and restore community water wells.

“There are a lot of security risks for women traveling long distances, including accidents and sexual assault, so it was a key for us to let volunteers know just how empowering this project will be,” said Susan. “When there’s not a working well pump, girls miss out on the opportunity to go to school because they have to carry the water longer distances during the day, so this project will be incredibly life-giving to girls and women in the region.”

Mark further elaborated, “Women are typically the ones carrying these 20-liter dairy cans of water, so the fact that we were able to train women in Kentucky who will then share their knowledge with other women in Africa is a unique aspect of this project.”

While Send Relief leaders conducted cross-cultural trainings, Kentucky disaster relief experts trained the volunteers on how to operate the machinery and efficiently drill a well on open land.

Area director Chris Eardensohn commented, “The whole idea behind this volunteer training is to empower local communities. In the world of non-government organizations, it’s vital to keep in mind the ultimate goal of having volunteers be able to pass their skills on to others by teaching them ‘how to fish.’ We want locals to be able to help their own communities rather than relying on outside sources. To do that, we have created relationships from the international side with Kentucky disaster relief teams and domestic ministry centers all to come together on behalf of the women who suffer the repercussions of inaccessible water sources.”

“It was wonderful to have a chance to glean from the experience of those who have been doing water development in Africa for so long,” said Operations Specialist Jamie Elkins. “ We are so excited here at the Send Relief Appalachian Ministry Center to bridge the gap between North American and International missions. We look forward to many more water development trainings here at our facility.”

If you would like to take part in a Send Relief volunteer experience like this, you can browse our domestic and international missions opportunities here.

Published October 7, 2021

Send Relief Staff