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Water as life elixir – in the West African country Liberia, which was plagued by civil war and Ebola
Felix F. Walz (RC Oberer Zürichsee) began a new career at the end of his professional career as a police officer of the Zurich Cantonal Police when he followed a United Nations Organization (UNO) appointment in 2013 and settled in one of the poorest countries in West Africa for three years as UN Security Adviser to the Liberian Government. Along with his early retirement in mid-2016, he set up the “Bowier Trust Foundation Switzerland” (BTFS), together with Rotarian Beat Jud, RCOZ to continue his humanitarian work in war-torn Liberia for the benefit of the poor. His commitment attracted attention and support within Rotary Clubs of District 2000 Switzerland. Knowing that an effective and lasting impact of a humanitarian engagement can only come through a “help for self-help” program, hence the focus has been on the following areas since the beginning: health, safety and education. As a pilot project, BTFS opted for a private school and church with a catchment area of six blocks (small communities): The Immanuel Christian Academy and Immanuel Church (ICA). The sanitary conditions at the school and church were simply catastrophic. No clean water, no functioning toilets, no drainage in the rainy season, and diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and HIV are prevalent throughout.
After two years of preparation, mobilization and staff recruiting; along with the establishment of a network with education-, health- and security authorities and – as a central element – the mobilization/sensitization of the local population with their traditional, indigenous peculiarities, led on 17 June 2018 to the ceremonial handover of a new and functioning infrastructure after a construction period of two months in May and June 2018.
BTFS President and Rotarian Felix F. Walz: “Our ICA school, with over 300 children, now has access to clean water from a well that also carries water during the dry season; a new water tower; sewage and rainwater pipes; a new septic tank as well as a new toilet infrastructure. Proper maintenance is key to make the new WASH facilities sustained, hence a comprehensive maintenance plan was the result of training sessions with the school and church on the one hand and with the local population and their opinion leaders (community leaders, parent-teacher Association etc.) on the other. In the future, the surrounding communities and family clans will pay a small monthly base fee to finance the maintenance, care and operation of the new facilities themselves.”
All construction work was carried out by the local company PARKER, GROUP OF LIBERIANS UNITED FOR SOCIAL SERVICE (PGLUSS), INC., Oldest Congo Town, Monrovia, Liberia and accompanied and supported by our construction expert, Michael Stefan Stutz. Michael Stutz was provided by our Rotarian friend, Gian-Reto Lazzarini (RC Linthebene), BUTTI BAUUNTERNEHMUNG AG, for this assignment lasting over the period of two months. Through a great deal, initiated by a Swiss Rotary club member the West African-based cement industry HEIDELBERG-CEMENCO donated 1,200 bags of cement to support the on-site construction project.
This important first phase of our pilot project has attracted attention and a very positive response not only locally but also medially in Liberia. In a letter of appreciation, issued by the Liberian Congressman, Dr. Samuel Enders (Rotarian in New York, USA) he expresses his thanks to the supporting Rotary clubs of the Swiss District 2000 for their donations. In his capacity as District Representative of the Liberian Government, he has also announced his intention to enter into a partnership with BTFS.
Thanks to support from Swiss Rotary Clubs of District 2000, as well as some private donors, the imminent important preparation phase, subsequently followed by implementation, the project could be (pre-) funded. Monrovia Rotary Club is in partnership with its Swiss Partner Club Oberer Zurichsee, based on a memorandum of understanding. In order to keep the new infrastructure functional and sustained in the long term, it is important that our on-site team – the BTFS Liberia Management Team – continues to be supported so that the monitoring and training activities can kept on high levels to ensure sustainability of the project.