New Castle News

August 17, 2013

Lawrence County Fair: Clean drinking water for Uganda goal of project

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The purchase of a necklace or shoulder bag at the fair is helping give an African village clean drinking water.

Richard Welch, regional director of the Ugandan Water Project, said the jewelry, purses and wood carvings he was selling this week at the organization’s booth at the Lawrence County Fair are made by Ugandan women. Proceeds help support their families and fund the water project.

Among the items available are sling bags, hair sticks, necklaces made of paper and coconut shell beads, bracelets, rings, earrings, carved masks and woven grass baskets. The organization also sells T-shirts advertising the project.

Launched in 2008 by Welch’s childhood friend, James Harrington of Rochester, N.Y., the organization already has funded more than 100 water projects, each serving about 400 people.

The concept is simple. The group gets an organization to pay $3,500 to sponsor purchase of a 2,500-gallon tank to collect rainwater from the roof of a church or orphanage or other large building in Uganda. They install it, using local materials and labor, and provide a clean drinking water supply for an estimated 30 years.

He said that while Ugandans who live in the national capital of Kampala have public water systems, rural Ugandans traditionally obtain water in several ways that invite contamination and disease.

Many use a natural spring that flows into a mudhole. Others obtain water through “boreholes,” which are drilled wells of varying effectiveness because of mechanical problems and groundwater pollution. Some Ugandans also get their water from rivers and lakes but have to boil it to make it safe for drinking. Using contaminated water causes disease and has other consequences such as medical costs and missed school days, according to the group’s website.

The organization, which so far has concentrated its fundraising efforts on western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, is eager to spread its message and find sponsors.

It has found churches, including Victory Christian Center in New Wilmington, schools, civic clubs and other organizations willing to sponsor a tank. Welch makes himself available as a speaker for schools or any other interested organizations.

Welch also makes trips twice a year to Uganda. He is a graduate of Grove City College and has an office at AOX Church in Grove City. He and his wife, Anna, have done mission work in Mozambique, Uganda, Cambodia and Thailand.

Those wanting more information or to schedule a speaker can email richard@UgandanWaterProject.com or call (724) 372-5734. The organization’s website is UgandanWaterProject.com.