Clean Water Wells for West Papua
West Papua is the second-least populous province in Indonesia. It is located in the western half of the island of New Guinea, bordering the independent nation of Papua New Guinea. According to the United Nations, more than 100.000 indigenous Papuans have been displaced over the last four years, and more than 83% of people live with less than $10 per day. What is most concerning is that this region lies just 200km north of Australia.
One of the region’s major issues is access to essential services, like water. This problem has many side effects, including dehydration, inadequate sanitation, high infant mortality rates, and deaths from easily preventable diseases. And in many areas, like West Papua, school dropouts, particularly girls responsible for finding and providing it, an activity that comprises women and children walking for many hours to source water.
In 2005 Shelley Houghton, a Pitt Town Uniting Church member, was placed as a volunteer English Teacher in West Papua with UnitingWorld. While living there, a small group of indigenous people reached out to her, hoping to take action to have easier access to clean water. Without hesitation, she started contacting friends and family in Australia, including her sister Rebecca Andrews.
According to WPDC Chairperson Rebecca Andrews, the mould masters are made in Australia by volunteers in South Maroota, whilst a small team of amazingly dedicated supporters have been working hard fundraising. She also told Insights that the generosity of the people from Hawkesbury, the Hills, Uniting Church/Hawkesbury Zone, various community groups, and outstanding individuals had strengthened their group.
After many discussions, analyses, ideas and trials, the West Papuan Development Company (WPDC) wells program began in 2005. After Shelley returned home after that placement, the WPDC started working in partnership with the West Papuan team in 2010. The aim was to work with their local partner LEMAK (Water of Life Organisation), to ensure access to clean drinking water by building wells that can provide a village of 4-5 families with clean water for many decades.
Rev. Geoff Stevenson is currently Chairperson-Mission Strategist for Parramatta-Nepean Presbytery and a great supporter of this initiative. In 2015 this Presbytery appointed him as the Team Leader of the Hawkesbury Mission Zone – which brought six congregations together across the Hawkesbury region: Windsor, Richmond, Ebenezer, Pitt Town, Riverstone and Kurrajong Heights.
Rev. Stevenson told Insights that “Rebecca’s passion, and that of Shelley when she was able to come down for a visit, was infectious and inspiring. I, along with many others across the zone, was moved by the challenges the villagers face in daily life and their request for clean water.”
“The project was a deep blessing to us, as much (I hope) as it is to the West Papuan people. It also taught us that sometimes a few people could make a big difference, especially when we give ourselves in love, and God can use us.”Rev. Geoff Stevenson
Nowadays, the Papuan Team has six highly skilled staff building wells using specialised fibreglass moulds, while WPDC has been working towards increasing the number of fibreglass moulds of the Papuan Partner.
Wells are a cheap, low-technology solution to rural water supply in local villages. Each well costs around $2500. They are sturdy and robust and will last for many generations. Until now, WPDC has built 46 wells, but this is only the beginning. They aim to provide funds to make one well every eight weeks, and their immediate goal is for the initiative to have sufficient regular income to build a well every month.
On Sunday, October 16, the Hawkesbury Uniting Church will host one of the most remarkable fundraising events of the year, the ‘Twilight of Jazz’, an afternoon of music on the banks of the beautiful Hawkesbury River at the historical Ebenezer Church, featuring the renowned Harmonix Big Band. Half of the funds raised on the night will go towards building wells in West Papua, and the other half is going towards Frontier Services for drought relief.
Tickets are $20, and school students have free admission.
To find more about the initiative, get involved or donate, go to https://www.wpdc.org.au/
For further information, phone Rebecca Andrews on 0439 309 303.