Two of our long-standing trustees are stepping down at the end of this year. Geoff Houston and Hilary Nithdale have both supported Village Water for over a decade, and we have been very privileged to have had them as trustees.
They have shared with us some reflections on their journey with Village Water, from being supporters to members of the Board.
I first came across Village Water as we were looking for a charity to sponsor with our Own Brand water, the Blue Stone Spring range, at Todays wholesale. I invited Clare up to our offices in Doncaster where she gave a short but very memorable presentation on why Village Water is necessary and what they did. Suffice to say she brought our 3 burly Yorkshire/ Scottish directors to tears! So, we entered into a one-year sponsorship which was then extended to 3 years. In 2015 I was privileged to travel to Zambia to see some of the projects first hand. It is a trip I will never forget, the desolation of villages who had no water, and the sheer joy of the villages when they got their pumps. Also, a visit to a school and an orphanage which were an emotional rollercoaster. After the sponsorship ended in 2017, I was delighted to be invited to join as Trustee which I have enjoyed for 5 years. I will always treasure my time as a Trustee of Village Water and I hope to continue as an ambassador.
In 2008, I wanted to get involved with a water charity and so decided to sponsor a well with Village Water and see what happened. Village Water not only thanked me, but informed me where and when the well would be dug. After completion, they then told me the difference the well had made. The village had about 125 people living there and before the well was dug, there were 150 visits to the healthcare centre and 3 deaths; after the well was sunk, in the following year there were 2 visits to the healthcare centre and no deaths.
I was so impressed with the way Village Water had kept me in the loop, I asked them if I could try to help to raise awareness of the charity and perhaps raise some funds. This was the start of a great relationship, and I visited Zambia 3 times in the following years. Seeing the difference Village Water was making on the ground in Zambia was such an eyeopener. Life expectancy used to be about 44yrs for those villagers, with diarrhoea, dysentery and eye disease, common place. Women would often travel up to an hour and a half to pick up water from scoop holes in fields, often where cattle had been defecating and not only was this time consuming and hard labour, but it would ensure the continued cycle of ill health. With a well in their village, there was no need for these long and arduous journeys and irrigation was on hand for their crops too.
Village Water would also teach about hygiene and together with the benefits from fresh water, the welfare and healthcare of villagers improved almost immediately. This also led to improved educational standards with children and young ladies becoming much more eager to go to school.
I always admired the professionalism of Village Water, where they invariably punched well above their weight. Their costs were kept low (much lower than bigger charities) and they worked well with agencies within their area of operations. They were never afraid to take tough decisions and their donors were invariably impressed with their feedback, expertise and competence. Their team in Shrewsbury was very well managed and the different skillsets of the staff ensured a well-oiled operation.
More than 1000 wells have been dug, many more restored, with schools, health centres and whole districts being transformed. During my time with VW, income has risen almost 10-fold and hundreds of thousands of lives have been transformed for the better. It has been a privilege to work with such a team of dedicated staff and trustees and I can only commend Village Water to new donors, supporters & trustees alike. I hope to remain a supporter and ambassador for Village Water in the years to come.