Wishing Well - clean water for Africa Student group making wishes come true

From the red plains of Oklahoma to rolling hills of Rwanda, Oklahoma Christian University students and alumni carry a mission and a message to bring clean water to the people of Africa.

In fall 2006, then-freshman Ryan Groves brought the concept of Wishing Well, founded by his brother on the campus of Pepperdine University, to Oklahoma Christian.

At OC, Groves found other students committed to the cause of bringing clean water to the villages of Africa. Soon, a movement began.

Groves says the impact of Wishing Well on the Oklahoma Christian campus and involvement has been immeasurable.

“Three years ago, Africa was only heard about as a mission field for the extreme,” Groves said. “Since Wishing Well started, we’ve seen the plight of the poor and suffering worldwide brought to the center stage of student attention. Those who get involved find themselves not only with a greater understanding of our global community, but appreciate even more the community around them.”

The mission of Wishing Well is not only to bring clean water to Africa, but also - in the words of Joshua Burgin (08) - “to change apathetic hearts and truly build a community.”

For this reason, rather than relying on traditional volunteer participation and fundraising, Wishing Well invites people to donate their gifts of creativity - whether in art, music, crafts or photography - to raise awareness and funds.

Since its inception at OC, Wishing Well has hosted several events on campus, including gallery shows, documentary screenings and concerts. This past summer, six of Wishing Well’s core members went to Rwanda to see firsthand and document the difference accessible, clean water can make in the lives of Africans.

“We were able to capture not only the dire circumstances of those without clean water sources, but also stories of hope,” Burgin said.

The group witnessed the immediate impact a simple water pump could bring to individuals and entire villages, and captured the powerful images through photography and video.

The images, taken by professional photographer Esther Havens, already have been displayed in galleries in New York, taking the message of Wishing Well to audiences far beyond the original, small gatherings on the OC campus.

Also, video taken by OC senior Chase Layman will be used to create a documentary that will reach a wider audience than ever imagined, thanks in part to help from connections they made in Rwanda.

In a strange twist of fate, the group met both Ben Affleck and his business manager, who were impressed by the mission of Wishing Well and are currently in talks with the group to help promote the documentary.

Making contacts like these and with humanitarian agencies in Africa, and capturing the powerful stories of those affected by the water crisis, made the less-than-glamorous trip more than worthwhile for Wishing Well’s members.

With renewed passion and an understanding for the change that can and needs to be made in Africa, the momentum of this movement is only growing.

Wishing Well gives much credit to the support and confidence placed in them by the OC administration, specifically President Mike O’Neal and Dean of Student Life Neil Arter.

“They internalized the issues and opened doors for our ideas,” Burgin said.

Groves adds that Dr. Nathan Mellor and Dr. Brian Bush from OC’s Office of University Outreach “believed in our potential to do something great even when no one else took notice.”

“What God has done at Oklahoma Christian through Wishing Well is ignite a spark to give hope to the nations,” Groves said. “We ask for prayers and that you will help tell the story of the 1.2 billion people without water to your own community, and see what amazing things God will do when people step out in faith.”

To learn more about Wishing Well’s upcoming events and find out how you can be involved, visit their website at http://www.wishingwellafrica.com.

By Ann White (04)