Since 2006, when two Milford residents formed Uganda Farmers Inc., close to 30,000 people in remote villages in East Africa have gotten clean water for cooking, bathing and drinking.
Recently, Jane Holler and her husband, Dan Marecki — the two founders — hosted a group of people at their home to share photographs and stories about the villages and the people that benefited from the locally-raised dollars. Photos included a girl fetching water on the shores of Lake George, Uganda, before a water project was completed, and villagers turning on the spout at the commissioning of a recently-completed water project.
Holler and Marecki formed the non-profit Uganda Farmers Inc. in 2006 after being moved by a presentation a visiting priest made to parishioners at St. Gabriel’s Church in Milford. Holler said that Father George Muganyizi educated parishioners about the conditions in rural areas of Africa. The couple started by raising money for goats and other necessities, and they helped fund a micro-finance program to help African women start businesses before turning their attention to the need for water.
Holler is a lawyer and artist: She says, “Oh gosh, I wouldn’t call myself an artist,” although a number of her oil paintings hang on the wall of her Milford home. Marecki is a lawyer by trade who owns a title searching company.
While there are many causes in the world, Holler said the couple was moved to lead efforts to bring water to Uganda because water is one of life’s simple necessities.
“Clean water is just so basic,” Holler said. “Clean water is essential to life, and it doesn’t really cost much to get clean water.”
In December of 2013, the cost was $38,000 to hire an Italian drilling company to drill wells for a village in Ihunga, Uganda, a project that serves 7,000 people. The entire village got involved, digging trenches for the pipes.
One way the organization raises money is through an annual run/walk fund-raiser that starts at Foran High School. The fourth annual 5K run and walk fund-raiser will be Sept. 20.
“We want to raise awareness and money to continue to provide the rural areas with the precious gift of clean water,” Marecki said.
So far, four Ugandan villages have benefited from the local fund-raising efforts, and the organization has targeted a fifth village to help. It pays to have wells drilled, pipes laid, surveys done and solar-pumping systems installed. The residents dig trenches for the pipes that distribute water throughout the villages. It is a collaborative effort between United States and Ugandan citizens.
“Water that’s fetched from streams must be boiled before drinking,” Marecki said. “Water that’s not boiled is life-threatening.” Previously, the villagers had to walk several miles, twice a day, to get water.
A Uganda Farmers newsletter includes a comment from Father Muganyizi, noting that water is essential to human health but it is also a key to economic growth and sustainability.
The fund-raising run/walk is set for Sept. 20 at Foran High School. There will also be a half-mile kids’ fun run, and each participants gets a small prize.
Prizes will be given in the main race to the top three finishers in each age category. Sponsors, volunteers and participants are needed.
Last year’s race drew about 200 participants, and Holler hopes to see that number increase this year.
Registration will be from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. at the school the day of the race. A Kids Fun Run will start at 8:30, and the main race/walk will start at 9 a.m. The route runs through the Morningside area, along the shoreline.
Pre-registration is $25; $15 for youths age 18 and under, and $5 for the fun run. Those who pre-register will get a T-shirt with sponsors’ names listed. To pre-register, go to hitekracing.com, click on ‘entry forms’ and scroll down to ‘Running Water for Africa.’
Day-of-event registration is $28 for adults; $20 for ages 18 and under and $5 for the fun run.
The local organization also raises money through sponsorships and donations. To become a race sponsor, contact Holler at 203-376-3283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations may be made at the website, ugandafarmersinc.org, or mailed to Uganda Farmers, Inc. to 31 Cherry Street, Suite 109, Milford, CT 06460.
Holler and Marecki have visited the villages their efforts have benefited, and Holler said the visits are very rewarding.
Hundreds of people turn out to celebrate the gift of water with a ceremony that includes singing and dancing.
“They are such gracious, wonderful people,” Holler said.