NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — The nonprofit Serve a Village knows that small projects can make a huge difference to the health of water and food-scarce communities. Founded in 2006 by South African resident Kathryn Hunt, the organization now supports health, environment and education development projects in African countries and abroad. Since two billion people lack access to a reliable or clean water source worldwide, Serve a Village prioritizes digging wells to give families water security. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to interview Hunt’s second cousin, Terry Jackson, who helped address water scarcity and education in Kenya during her Serve a Village mission.
Poverty in Kenya has been declining in recent years. In 2022, 17% of Kenya’s population lived in extreme poverty, a 4% drop from 2016. The Kenyan government introduced the Equalization Fund in 2010, which diverted more governmental revenue to roads, water, electricity and hospitals for disadvantaged people. Despite good progress in Kenya, the problem of extreme poverty and water scarcity is not yet solved. To help families needing access to essential resources and clean water in Kenya, Jackson volunteered in Kenya and fundraised back in the U.S.
Jackson’s Mission To Provide Clean Water in Kenya
In January 2023, Jackson flew from the U.S. to a town in west Kenya called Vihiga. Most people in the rural villages of Vihiga County rely on agriculture and livestock to earn a living. Sixty-five percent of the population in this region lives in poverty, which is higher than Kenya’s national rate.
Jackson’s expedition continued upon Serve a Village’s children’s library project, now providing books to seven local schools. “My role, along with my second cousin, was to see the library, bring more books, and find out what else could be done in the future by volunteers to help the people of Vihiga,” Jackson begins.
The library was just the start. “We visited several primary schools and cooked porridge over open fires to provide some nourishment to the younger undernourished children,” Jackson shares. Serve a Village wants to tackle the malnutrition afflicting many children, so one of their next goals is to start a breakfast program in the schools.
“We also went to a local orphanage, a small hospital and a technical school to see what we could do as volunteers in the next expedition,” Jackson says. Serve a Village’s expeditions offer volunteers various ways to help, like tutoring children, training people in computer skills, painting walls and volunteering in hospitals.
Water wells are another point of need for Vihiga residents. “People, mainly the women, will walk for miles every day to a water source, fill a 5-gallon container and carry it home to take care of their family, livestock and gardens,” Jackson says. “They will do this several times a day, every day.”
Serve a Village built a few donor-funded wells, which now provide hundreds of people with clean water in Kenya. Jackson saw the difference these fund-raised water wells made in families’ lives firsthand.
The Impact of Jackson’s Expedition to Kenya
While in Kenya, Jackson was immensely impacted by both the conditions she saw people living in and how simple fixes could change so many lives for the better.
“After meeting an Engineer who was living and volunteering his services in Kisumu, I found out that for $500–600, a well or borehole could be dug that would give a neighborhood a source of clean water within minutes of their homes,” Jackson says. “When I got back to the U.S., I started raising money to build wells and help repair one of the schools that was so broken down it should have been condemned.”
That’s right—building one well to provide fresh water to 20 Kenyan families only costs $550. While raising money for their 28th well project near Maragoli, Serve a Village said it was taking families 40 minutes to walk and fill up one can of water from a stream. The organization also said a new well meant the families could have bath water instead of bathing in the stream. Previous well projects made a huge difference for families who no longer had to travel long distances to bathe and wash blankets.
Jackson stresses the importance of raising money to help fund projects that provide people with clean water in Kenya and beyond. She recommends volunteering or going on an expedition like hers. “It’s fulfilling and makes a difference in so many lives,” she says.
Access to clean and affordable water is recognized worldwide as a human right. Jackson’s experience is a reminder that lifting people out of extreme poverty starts with relatively inexpensive and small projects. With water wells, Kenyan families can cook and keep animals alive, no longer having to focus as much on survival. Extreme poverty can be drastically reduced by providing clean water in Kenya.
– Lia Freeman