Our History and Learnings
WELLBORING’S TRANSFORMATIVE JOURNEY
Nigel Linacre was working in Kenya when he decided to help a school. He and his colleague Jefferson Cann invited their clients out to Kenya to make a difference. Engineers Colin Brown and Graeme Vousden felt they could organise a borehole at Summit Schools, north of Thika. Together they decided to form a water charity. Nigel asked his wife Sue and son Tom what they should call it. “WellBoring Dad”, Tom replied. They put money in and asked their friends to do the same and Graeme organised the drilling of the first well in 2011. The journey began. Focusing on primary schools, whose Boards of Management can look after wells day to day, and reaching children, turned out to make great strategic sense. Getting communities to contribute labour and materials added to their sense of engagement and responsibility. This approach, called co-development, rather than simply international development, has enabled great progress to be made. We know that much more can be done, and are committed to getting safe water to a total of a million people in the coming years. Come on board and help transform more lives.
EXPERIENCE SOME MILESTONES
The first well was almost done when the drill bit fell off and lodged itself in the hole. The second attempt was more successful. A further deep well was organised by Richard Kongo – who would later become a WellBoring Trustee – at Kibiko School near Ngong. Drilling conditions were more complicated in the vast Kibera slum, so we settled for a rainwater collection system, which provides valuable water in the rainy seasons but not in the rest of the year. Limited.
We’d started but we didn’t know where to go next. The first well had presented itself to us and Richard Kongo was known to the founders of the first school. We had begun to understand the scale of the problem: millions of Kenyans lacked access to safe water; hundreds of millions globally, thousands dying each day. Without funds we were reluctant to approach needy schools, but without the schools in mind, it was hard to raise funds. Stuck. But not giving up.
Another charity called Alive and Well offered to use some of WellBoring’s limited funds to establish wells in south-eastern Sierra Leone in 2013. Two more wells were funded in eastern Uganda and one in Zambia. Worthwhile as they were, these were ad hoc projects, and WellBoring was working via third parties. Even with improved communications, it was hard to monitor the work and be sure of quality standards. WellBoring lacked a solid platform for growth.
Benjamin Koyoo approached WellBoring in 2015. He ran a small community organisation called Ground Water Abstraction Kenya Outreach, or “GWAKO”. He’d been drilling in the USA but returned home when his wife died in a motor accident. He decided to devote his life to providing water. GWAKO had completed dozens of wells, but the funding was uneven, and so they also did commercial work. Nigel visited Ben in Kisumu in west Kenya, and found a meeting of minds.
Nigel saw how Ben built relationship with school and community leaders, engaging them in the whole process, and got them to support the work of the installation team. The presence of water at 40-60 metres around Kisumu County meant wells could be less expensive, and powered by hand, rather than needing electric power which may not last. They formed a partnership. WellBoring would remain registered in the UK and GWAKO would become WellBoring GroundWater, registered in Kenya. Two organisations but one organism.
WellBoring GroundWater had an in-depth understanding of local schools and communities, of hygiene training and ground conditions. Seeing the scale of the problem, WellBoring launched a campaign to get safe “Water for 100 Schools”. Many of Nigel’s coaching clients realised they could fund a well, and generously did so. Rotary International came on board thanks to the work of Rick Squires and colleagues, providing funding for a dozen more life-changing school wells.
A survey showed that once a WellBoring well was installed, school enrolment went up, school attendance improved – non-attendance halved – and water was shared with communities. By putting the wells in primary schools for 3-14-year-olds, we were reaching children who were likely to fall victim to water-borne diseases. And the school board was taking responsibility for looking after the well and providing community access. A clear strategy had evolved.
WellBoring formed a partnership with Colgate Palmolive in 2019. Colgate had become aware of the water problem through its work on oral hygiene in schools, and wanted to do work with a partner. Colgate chose WellBoring. In-store promotions informed the public and provide opportunities to support the work. Working closely together, Colgate and WellBoring are changing so many lives for the better. The power of partnership.
While WellBoring continued to organise fund-raising events, especially concerts, Peter Johnson formed the WellBoring Foundation in the USA so Americans could easily participate, and Philippe Grohe and friends formed WellBoring Germany, helping more people to get water to more schools. WellBoring got safe water to it’s hundredth school – this was just a milestone – and WellBoring quickly set a much more ambitious goal: “Water for 1,000 Schools”.
Each well cost some £7,000, including engaging communities, surveying, drilling, casing, water testing, installing the pump, finishing the pad and training. It benefitted an average of over 500 pupils, confirmed via the school rolls, and a similar number of community members making a total of 1,000 beneficiaries, so the cost of getting safe water to a person came to just £7, a great return on people’s donations.
WellBoring was already maintaining its wells via regular servicing visits by the GroundWater team, but noticed that many other wells had been abandoned. Some of these had been installed but then neglected. Without regular servicing the pumps had failed. As well as installing new borewells, WellBoring started to bring broken wells back to life, providing the community would engage in the process, and undertake to look after their restored well day-to-day.
Dr Karamo Sonko of Heeno International approached WellBoring and proposed the establishment of a partnership to get safe water to many more people in West Africa, starting in the Gambia. Dr Sonko also approached the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, who agreed to fund the provision of water. Lamin Sanneh of WellBoring West Africa oversaw work on the ground and Benjamin Koyoo’s expertise was applied as he visited for intense periods.
With Nigel Linacre as Chair, WellBoring’s Trustees were Richard Kongo, Peter Johnson, and now Dr Karamo Sonko. A UK committee included for some time Chris Dann, Cordelia Linacre, Peter Francome, Peter Johnson, Phil Cozens, and more recently Nick White as Treasurer, as well as Nigel Linacre. Luke and Matt Hurst worked on communication, and more recently leaders of WellBoring Germany Matthias Boch and Philippe Grohe set to work on the WellBoring brand, more clearly articulating progress, purposes and processes.
The year 2022 was monumental for WellBoring in its mission to bring safe water to communities. We introduced our first educational videos, aimed at enhancing community knowledge and aiding NGOs in the crucial aspect of well maintenance.
As we reflected on our journey, a proud milestone was reached: our 300th well. Symbolizing our commitment, this achievement brought clean, sustainable water to some 300,000 individuals, transforming educational and economic landscapes across regions.
A key moment was Fondation Eagle of Switzerland coming on board and providing funding for more school borewells, a partnership that is continuing. Having brought safe water to hundreds of school-centred communities, WellBoring felt able to engage with Kenyan counties – as well as with the Government of Gambia – and start to explore how working together we might accomplish much more, conversations which continue.
Another was the blossoming partnership with Hansgrohe. They generously funded the rehabilitation of 10 wells during 2021/22, and in a remarkable initiative, Hansgrohe invited their employees to “make every drop count”. With each green fingerprint from their dedicated employees, support was provided for more water wells, marking the beginning of a transformative, planet-improving partnership.
As WellBoring continued to thrive in its mission, 2023 started with heartwarming news. Nigel Linacre, our Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of Trustees, was bestowed the prestigious British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year’s Honours list. This recognition celebrated his work in bringing water to Kenya and other parts of Africa.
As the year unfolded, collaborations with local institutions amplified, and our educational outreach took a more strategic direction. Edging closer to our ambitious goal of “Water for 1,000 Schools”, we remain resolute in our mission. Achieving this would signify touching a million lives, a dream we chase, one well at a time.