Ten students from Oklahoma Christian University have the chance to change a country, and possibly the world. This week the 10 students, whose nonprofit group is called Rwandans4Water, flew to Rwanda to drill water wells in 15 communities. Oklahomans from four different organizations have helped the students prepare for this ground-breaking mission.
“The top water development charities in the world are watching this project because it is a new approach to clean water development,” said Ryan Groves, who has been a consultant to R4W. He is an Oklahoma Christian student and executive director of Wishing Well, a group that has funded 65 wells across the globe since 2006. “It has the potential to dramatically increase access to clean water in Africa and other developing countries.”
One unique aspect of the project is the involvement by the students, who are Rwandan Presidential Scholars studying at Oklahoma Christian. They were selected among the top students in the country to study in a field such as engineering, then to go back and develop the country. Though these students are only juniors, the government believes in the drilling project so much that it covered transportation costs for the summer.
“This Rwandan project encourages ownership by citizens and the government where the drilling will occur,” Groves said. “It’s not the old approach involving an expatriate going over, setting things up and then leaving.”
Another unique aspect of the Rwandan project is the dramatically lower costs realized through improvements in drilling techniques. Oklahoma City-based Water4Foundation developed these techniques.
“Previous methods cost $15,000 for just one well,” Groves said. “These new hand-drilling techniques cut the costs to $700 each. This is the future of drilling wells in developing countries.”
The students have been training with Water4Foundation for the last few months, while also organizing a drilling schedule with Rwandan officials in the 15 cities and holding fundraisers in Oklahoma City.
“We teamed with Wishing Well and hosted a benefit concert at Bridgeway Church in April,” said R4W coordinator Aloys Zunguzungu. “All proceeds went to fund this project.”
The students credit their faiths and the help they have received from Oklahomans for the project’s initial success.
“We recognize God’s hand behind this initiative and he will be with us until its completion,” said Zunguzungu. “We also want to express our deep appreciation to our amazing partners and Oklahoma Christian students that made this idea a reality.”
According to Oklahoma Christian president Mike O’Neal, this is a great example of students having a global impact.
“This project has the potential to do some incredible short-term and long-term good for the people of Rwanda and other parts of Africa that are lacking clean, accessible water,” said O’Neal. “What is most promising is the long-term potential. These students have created a business plan that will fund the development of future wells in other locations. Each new well will change the lives of hundreds of people by allowing the children to attend school and by allowing adults to engage in productive work instead of having to spend hours transporting water for survival and household needs.”
While the students are in Rwanda now, they are continuing to raise funds for future wells.
“Donations of any kind are appreciated,” Zunguzungu said. “We have a page on our website that makes it very easy to donate.”
For more information about R4W, visit www.rwandans4water.org. Access to cleaner water reduces health diseases. It also reduces the time that children spend gathering water, which allows them to spend more time studying. The Rwandan students believe that improved health and education will result in increased economic productivity, which will help the country continue to develop as a nation.