By Alkasim Abdulkadir.
Before they became idealists, they were realists attending the University of Leeds and motivated by one singular need –to provide water to a settlement in Yola. Fatima Ahmad Ribadu had told her friends that N15, 000 could sink a well and together they came up with the sum. Today they are a group of young professionals with regular 9-5 jobs determined and passionate about providing just a drink for the teeming population in Nigeria without access to portable drinking water.
After several informal meetings and their subsequent relocation back home they registered their organisation in 2006. The Water Support Charity with touching phrase “Just a drink for life” recorded a modest turn out during its inauguration in 2009. The management team and membership base blossomed; for when you have an idea people of like minds come up and support you said Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad the Vice President of the organisation.
In terms of impact the organisation will not forget quickly the appreciation on the faces of the people of Nmaguni, in Lemu local government area of Niger State. Where the only source of water for the community was several kilometres away but with the help of WSC organisation a bore hole was drilled for them. This act ensured that the community celebrated the flag off in an auspicious grand event that would have made one thought that a dam with pipe borne water had just been provided for them. In the words of one of the officials it was unthinkable for how long more they would have waited for an intervention from the government.
For Fatima Bukar Ali, their project at Gishiri community is one that is etched in her memory as it is simply unexplainable the contrast that exists between Gishiri and the inner city of hub of Abuja; this has prompted them to keep in touch with the physically challenged population and beneficiaries of their water project in Karmajiji.
They have also reached out to other organisations like the Danjuma Foundation, Water Aid to help them in propagating their gospel of providing access to portable drinking water to no avail yet; except for the implementation of a water scheme initiated by Media Trust to which they were able to deploy their charitable organisation.
The organisation also faces the Herculean task of working in settlements with difficult terrains where only solar powered boreholes can work, their project in Binkol Yola didn’t work because of the geo-physical nature of the soil –and the capital intensive nature made them to suspend the project. They are not deterred by some of challenges they encounter in their outreach projects; today they have drilled15 boreholes and dug 15 wells across Nigeria –providing succour to several thousands of people. On how they source for the community to support, they said they usually asked for recommendations from members, this ensures that they end up going to communities they are convinced needs a critical intervention.
On the policy level their advice to government is for the full implementation and subsequent oversight of several dam projects scattered across Nigeria. They are of the opinion that this and the laying of new pipes and the refurbishment of existing water systems will help in ameliorating the hardship that the rural poor face from accessing water.
Why football I asked. They have focused on football as a medium to raise funds, Fatima Mamman said they didn’t have to struggle to look for a platform to bring young people together to raise awareness on water issues –football already provided that universal language. The Soccer Challenge Five Water for Schools fundraising initiative also coincided with the World Cup as such it was left for them to leverage on it. They have also taking their outreach a step farther by including water hygiene messaging to communities and also the value of water lectures to students.
Between September and October this year they have scheduled another football fiesta to raise money for their forthcoming projects, this year 16 teams will jostle for the coveted prize money and trophy at the Mediterranean Centre, Asokoro Abuja.
Aside football the team each day continue to brainstorm of reliable strategies on how to reduce the 60 percent tag of Nigerians without access to portable drinking water; as such still levy themselves to ensure that everything keeps running, they also employ full time staff and continue to enjoy the support of their friends and family. Touching people’s life by providing water is beyond a hobby, it is an untiring passion that has come be stay as integral part of their lives said the Vice President Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad. It is the dream of this enthusiastic group of young Nigerians that one day there will be a tap with water at every street corner of Nigeria…one day.