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When it comes to most fund-raising efforts, we usually have little direct connection with the people we hope to help.

This certainly doesn’t diminish the value of our personal contributions. But isn’t it great when we can put a human face to a cause we really believe in?

The Best Practices for Oil & Gas Conference (BPOG) – an industry event hosted annually by SAP, The Eventful Group, and ASUG – created its own charitable initiative called Wells for Water. Its goal is to raise funds that benefit the work of The Water Project, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing clean water and sanitation to countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Attendees at last September’s BPOG conference raised thousands of dollars to help establish a sustainable water source for Mumbuni – a village of some 97 households located in an arid region of southern Kenya.

It’s been less than a year since the BPOG event, but already you can see the smiles on the faces of the very people whose lives are being transformed by the power of clean water.

The Villagers of Mumbuni

Mumbuni is a community of nearly 500 men, women, and children. The villagers here raise their livestock and tend crops that include maize, cowpeas, mangoes, and citrus fruit. But they do so without a reliable source of water. In fact, The Water Project estimates that 43% of the nearly 40 million Kenyans lack clean water.

The village has historically relied on the Matoma River, which is located less than one kilometer away during the rainy season. “But the river is seasonal,” explains Tess Crick, director of fund raising and outreach for The Water Project. “The annual rains that typically come in March and April and again October and November are usually lost quickly to run off.”

In the drier seasons, access to clean water is even more limited. Villagers, most often the women and young girls, must queue up for more than two hours each day to buy water.

Time spent waiting for water leaves less time for school and farming. And what water the villagers manage to buy must be rationed. Home hygiene is affected and livestock raised without adequate water doesn’t command a good price at market.

“It is a cycle of poverty driven by a lack of clean water,” says Crick.

Meet the Oasis Makers

But things are changing for Mumbuni.

Working as a community and supported by The Water Project, the villagers have completed an ingenious bit of civil engineering known as a sand dam across the Matoma River. Soon the annual rains will backfill the area behind this wall of concrete and stone with tons of sand. This sand acts as a natural filter and reservoir, capturing millions of liters of fresh water.

A shallow well and pump funded directly by the BPOG donations is now being installed adjacent to the dam. It will provide year-round access to this naturally stored resource.

As the earth recharges, a new ecosystem is created. Before too long, an oasis of green vegetation will spring up around the dam and its life-sustaining waters.

Always Close in Spirit

Mumbuni is a long way from Houston, the site of the upcoming 2015 BPOG conference. But the villagers remain top of mind for the event’s organizers.

“We developed the Wells for Water initiative specifically for this event,” says Tom Martin, a conference producer at The Eventful Group. “We are thrilled with the great progress we’ve seen in Mumbuni, and we’re extremely proud of how this community’s efforts are helping those in the greatest need.”

Martin’s colleagues agree.

“This is perfectly aligned with SAP’s vision of helping the world run better and improving people’s lives,” says Ken Evans, vice president and global head of oil and gas at SAP. “Drilling for water seems like a perfect way for our oil and gas community here to give back to the global community.”

The good work of Wells for Water is far from over. “At this year’s conference, we want to raise US$25,000 for additional future projects,” Martin says. “It’s pretty simple, the more contributions we can raise, the more lives we can positively affect as a community.”

Water Changes Everything

Meanwhile, the villagers of Mumbuni must wait for the annual rains to return before they can fully benefit from the clean water that will transform their lives. But soon the crops and livestock will be well-watered. The food supply will become more reliable. And children can return to school.

As a local man remarked, “When water comes . . . everything changes.”

Hearing those words, it’s hard not to smile.

Join leaders from the oil and gas industry as they exchange ideas at the 2015 Best Practices for Oil & Gas Conference from September 22nd through the 25th in Houston, Texas. Click here for further details and registration information. You can also follow what’s happening at the event on Twitter via @SAPOilGasConf and #BPOG.

Please join me on Twitter at @JohnGWard3.

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