The NEW Year got off to a good start at the Kirriemuir Probus Club with retired water engineer Alex Rae talking to a packed house about the charity Water Aid.
In 1981, Water Aid was started by a number of Water Boards in Southern England and it came north of the Border in 1982 when the Tay River Purification Board joined the growing number of companies and individuals who work tirelessly on behalf of this worth-while charity.
Alex recalled that their first money-raising venture raised just £600, but that was sufficient to bring clean drinking water to a village in India.
Since that early start, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge and Alex and his colleagues in the Tayside region have organised many enjoyable fund-raising events. These include climbing all the Munros in Scotland at the same time (with different teams of course), ‘Blue Work Day’ in which everyone in the Water Industry was encouraged to come to work in blue – including blue faces & hair – to raise money and awareness for Water Aid, and a raft challenge against a team from Thames water down the River Tay.
Prince Charles became the charity’s president in 1991, bringing more welcome publicity. Today the charity has an annual income of £55.8 million For every £1 spent, a whopping 78p goes on Water Aid delivery services and just 22p on fund-raising and governance. For every £1 spent on fund-raising, £4.94 is returned in income.
Since those early days when just a handful of water boards were involved, the charity now has member organisations in Australia, Sweden and the USA in addition to the UK and has projects completed or in progress in no less than 27 countries, from Nicaragua in the West to Papua New Guinea in the East.
In all cases, the aim is the same: to help local people who currently live in squalid conditions, bring clean water and sanitation to their villages and to educate them on the importance of personal hygiene and the use of clean water in place of dirty river water – which in many cases is two hours, or more, walk away from the village.
Alex said that in many villages, the ladies of the village have taken on the responsibility of maintaining the hand pumps used to bring up the water from the wells the villagers have dug with help from Water Aid.
This was because the ladies had previously been responsible for fetching the dirty water from the river and hence they now felt it was their responsibility to ensure that water was available from the village pump.
Alex concluded his talk by recalling the time when a lady from one village in Africa had come to London as the ambassador for the village, to personally thank the Tayside team for providing the village with clean water and hygienic toilets, it had made such a difference to the village people’s lives.
The villagers had all clubbed together to get her to London and gave her a further £7.50 to get up to Tayside – and back again! Fortunately those good people in Tayside Water Aid paid for her journey from London to Tayside so that she could complete her mission.