A Dream Comes True

Little did Ken Adams know what would follow when he sat down to watch television one day. What he saw would move him to reach out to people in one of Kenya’s driest and most impoverished provinces. As a result, thousands now have clean water and better health through a program facilitated by Anglican Development Services of Nyanza (ADS), a partner of Episcopal Relief & Development.

Last year, Ken (who is 98 years young) viewed a National Geographic special on the difficulties that many African women and girls face daily in finding water for their families. As he learned about the long distances they have to walk and the dangers encountered – along with the health problems caused by drinking unsafe water from sources such as ponds – his heart went out to them. In the days that followed, those pictures came back to Ken time and again, and he realized that he wanted to do something about the situation.

Ken’s first thought was to write to the Gates Foundation about his desire to help. The foundation wrote back an encouraging letter explaining that the type of project he had in mind doesn’t quite fit with its programs, but there were other international organizations that he might consider.

With a friend from his home parish, Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Inglewood, California, Ken dreamed up a plan. He would make a donation of $50,000, with a stipulation: In order to double its impact, the gift would match additional contributions raised for the project. Also, Ken wanted to be absolutely positive that the money would be used to help women in Africa gain better access to water.

Ken and his friend met several times with Richard Hoff, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Major Gifts Officer in the western U.S. Together, they were able to connect Ken’s goals with a partner organization’s water initiative that could serve several thousand families in southwestern Kenya.

In the end, seven donors made new contributions of $5,000 and up, totaling $50,000, and Ken matched the gifts with his $50,000. This $100,000 funded the 2011 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program in Nyanza province, carried out by Anglican Development Services of Nyanza, Episcopal Relief & Development’s local partner.

At the heart of this effort, ADS worked with communities to install 80 rainwater catchment tanks at schools, churches and health centers. The tanks capture and store rainwater through gutters on the roofs of the buildings, providing water for people during the dry season. Residents learned to manage the tanks, including how to add chlorine solution to make the water safe for drinking. With access to clean water, families and communities are improving their hygiene and health.

And Ken’s dream has been realized: Mothers and daughters in these areas have been freed from long hours of dangerous and exhausting work in collecting water each day.

As he gets ready to mark his 99th year on December 24, Ken has reason to celebrate. “I can’t think of a better birthday and Christmas gift for Ken than to see the fruits of his vision,” Richard said. “Because of the generous support from Ken and our other wonderful donors, women and girls in Nyanza now have safe water with far less effort. The women have time for more productive activities and the girls are in school. Their families are staying healthier. On behalf of the people we serve, Episcopal Relief & Development is deeply grateful!”


Photos: Left column, Ken Adams, courtesy of Walter Johnson. Top and bottom: More women, girls and families in Nyanza Province, Kenya, now have easier access to clean water, thanks to the generosity of Ken and other donors. The gifts funded 80 rainwater catchment systems similar to the ones pictured. Top and bottom left/center photos, courtesy of Harvey Wang for Episcopal Relief & Development; bottom right, courtesy of ADS.