Nothing Dry About This Academic
By James Addis
Painful personal experience motivates World Vision’s water chief.
(c) 2006/Jon Warren/World Vision
The man who oversees World Vision’s component of the West Africa Water Initiative, Braimah Apambire, was born to an illiterate mother and semi-literate father in the poorest region of northern Ghana.
But those humble beginnings failed to prevent him from pursuing a stellar academic career, earning a doctorate in hydrogeology from the University of Nevada. He puts his achievement down to God’s grace, personal determination, and supportive parents.
Braimah delighted in a life of research and teaching, but when the opportunity came to work for World Vision to bring relief to water-starved communities around the globe, he describes it as a “calling from God.”
It’s hardly surprising that the work should be close to his heart. As a child, he sometimes had to walk up to four miles to fetch water during the dry season.
He vividly remembers the sense of relief and ecstasy when in 1979 the Canadian government funded a well in his home village of Zuarungu—about 100 miles north of where World Vision currently operates.
“Having had this experience myself, I felt it would be very important for me to contribute my technical skills to support this kind of work,” Braimah says.
He says it’s a rewarding job. A favorite memory is bringing water to the village of Nabule, Ghana, where women were forced to compete with angry bees to draw water from a pathetically inadequate mud hole. World Vision brought in one of its borehole drilling teams. After drilling 100 feet, there was still no water, and the geological assessment on the chances of finding it was virtually nil. The team started praying and kept drilling. At 115 feet they hit the jackpot. Now Nabule has the highest-yielding well in the area and has become a thriving community.
Braimah says that coming from a water-hungry African community is a huge advantage in performing his job. Many water projects in the developing world have failed in the past because engineers did not understand or engage the community in which they worked.
“They would put these water systems in place, but within a year or two something would go wrong — maybe something that could be fixed for less than five dollars. But because there was no understanding in the community, the whole system would be left unused.”
The West Africa Water Initiative addresses the social dimension by integrating water projects with existing, long-term World Vision development programs funded by child sponsors. Development staff teach communities how to maintain wells and manage their water resources to ensure a continuous supply of clean water for years.
“We think of ourselves as social workers first and engineers or scientists second,” Braimah says.
— James Addis is the senior editor of World Vision magazine.
— Jon Warren is the photo director for World Vision and photo editor for World Vision magazine.
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