January 6, 2003 - Charlottesville Daily Progress: Senegal PCV Tabb Sullivan raising money to dig water well

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Senegal PCV Tabb Sullivan raising money to dig water well

Read and comment on this story from the Charlottesville Daily Progress on Senegal PCV Tabb Sullivan who is raising money to dig a water well in Keur Antou Mbaye, where he is an agricultural extension agent and community developer at:

Money needed to dig well*

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Money needed to dig well
Man raises funds for African village

By KATE ANDREWS / Daily Progress staff writer
Jan 6, 2003

The drying out of wells was an immediate and personal concern to many people during last year's drought.

Now, although rain has replenished water supplies here, a local man is bringing attention to another dwindling well - a continent away.

Tabb Sullivan, a 1993 Tandem Friends School graduate, is raising money to dig a well to replace the 50-year-old water source in Keur Antou Mbaye, the Senegalese village he serves as a Peace Corps volunteer.

To provide the approximately $9,300 needed for a new well, the 27-year-old Sullivan has a web site filled with information and pictures of the West African village, and his parents and friends have spread the word in the United States.

Since beginning fund-raising efforts in November, Sullivan had raised $3,819 as of Monday.

His mother, Gail Sullivan, a researcher at the University of Virginia Medical Center, said she's not surprised by her son's generosity and drive.

A few months after moving to Africa, her son spent his small monthly allowance from the Peace Corps on mosquito netting for the village after the 6-year-old daughter of the village chief, with whom Tabb lives, died of malaria.

"The formal fund raising he's new at, but he'd give the shirt off his back - literally," she noted.

Sullivan became a volunteer after working in the computer industry in Boston. His two-year tour ends in June.

After undergoing the extensive application process for the Peace Corps, he was assigned in 2001 to Keur Antou Mbaye, where he is an agricultural extension agent and community developer.

In his agricultural duties, Sullivan provides seeds that complement crops already grown locally, as well as information on proper farming techniques.

As for community development, Sullivan wrote in an e-mail, "I facilitate within the community discussion of where the village sees itself in the future and use that vision to help them develop and execute concrete plans of action to work towards that goal."

The well project is an example, he added. Although the village is not yet in dire straits, it suffers during the dry season of October through June.

Then, "it is barely enough for daily household needs of the village, and they want to have gardens and tree nurseries that require extra water they just don't have," Sullivan wrote.

He aims to raise the money and build the well by the time his service term is over. Sullivan is considering staying in the village, however, to continue his work with a group of local women.

The villagers' plight caught the interest of Tandem's eighth-grade class, which has pledged to donate half of the money it raises this school year to the well project.

"I was just so happy to hear he was a Peace Corps volunteer and was doing his work over in Senegal," said Tom O'Connor, head of the middle-school grades.

Sullivan, whom O'Connor knew as a middle-schooler, provides a good example to the young students by actively making the world a better place, O'Connor said.

"A lot of people are chipping in," he said.

So far, the Sullivans have approached only close friends and family, and officials at Tabb's alma mater, Hampshire College in Massachusetts, are helping as well.

Tabb's father, Jim Sullivan, donates $20 per sale of the biological CD-ROMs he produces, and he keeps donors apprised of the project's progress by e-mail updates.

The drive to help has led to some awkwardness, Jim Sullivan said.

"We're not fund-raisers, and we're very hesitant about approaching people we don't know," he said, but "those people who we have approached have been very generous."

For more information about Keur Anton Mbaye and the well project, see Tabb Sullivan's web site: www.jimjam.com/well/donors.html.
Read more about Keur Antou Mbaye Donors

Read more about about Keur Antou Mbaye Donors at:

Keur Antou Mbaye Donors

Tabb is Digging a Well and Throwing a Party*

The Current Well

The well in Keur Antou Mbaye was dug in 1952. The original depth of ~ 50 meters (170 ft) is only 5 meters beyond the top of the water table. In 50 years, cave-ins and silt have reduced the water depth by several meters.

The low water volume due to the reduced depth is not enough to meet the village's daily requirements during the dry season (November - June). During these months, the women spend about 8 hours at the well every day just to meet basic needs, i.e. cooking, drinking and washing. They must intermittently pull water then wait for the well to refill.

During the rainy season (June - October), cave-ins occur weekly. Every time there is a cave-in, the water is dirty for the next day or two, markedly reducing drinking quality.

Another side effect of cave-ins is jagged cement at the bottom of the well.This catches the rubber bags used to pull water, and rips them from the rope. Bags lost at the bottom of the well are usually irretrievable. It's a financial loss every time a bag is severed.

Benefits of a New Well

The obvious benefit of a new well is that there will be a reasonable volume of potable water for the village to use for drinking and watering their livestock. Beside the obvious, there are income generating activities that the village can participate in with a larger volume of water. The women in the village are interested in having both a dry season garden and a fruit tree nursery. An increased water supply can accommodate both of these activities.

Other than providing income, a dry season garden will also increase vegetable consumption and therefore improve the nutritional health of the villagers. In a culture where the main foods are grains, vitamins are sorely lacking in their diet.

Costs and Timetable

The water table in Keur Antou Mbaye is about 45 meters (156 ft.) deep. The standard well has a diameter of 2 meters. For a well of these dimensions, the Norwegian Catholic Mission, which digs wells in neighboring Nioro, has estimated a cost of 5.8 million CFA. At the current exchange rate that translates to around $9000. My goal is to raise these funds before January 2003 so the new well can be dug before the coming dry season. This is especially important because of the present drought conditions in our village.

See how much has been donated.


Money is being deposited in a US account under the village's name, from which it will be possible to wire the money directly to an account in Senegal also established specifically for the well.

While I am trying to raise this money in full from multiple donors, I have personally pledged to complete the project. The well is essential to the development of this village, and the village is now my second home. Therefore the village and its residents have become family, and their survival and well being are very important to me. I have lived here for over a year and most of that time is spent in the village living with the family that feeds me three times a day, including valuable milk for breakfast, without question as to what I will give in return.

Click Here to Contribute

*The Final Party

Finally, I invite you to come to the party that will certainly rage all night when the well is completed. This well is extremely important to the village, and they know exactly how expensive it is. Getting it dug will be a great accomplishment for all involved.

If the well is dug on schedule, it will be the perfect time for a visit to Senegal. The cool dry season is by far the most pleasant of the year. Honestly, when else will you get to visit a West African village not as a tourist but as an honored guest with your own personal Woloff/English translator?

Thanks for your consideration.


Read more about Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal

Read more about about Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal at:

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Senegal; Special Interests - Water; PCVs in the Field



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