When UNBC professor Dr. Chris Opio talks about having to walk miles just to get drinking water, he means it. His childhood tales of woe and hardship – unlike some fathers trying to impress their offspring with how good they have it these days – are all true.
Opio was raised in northern Uganda. He has bad memories of bad water. As a small boy growing up in Kamdini, he had to collect water from a crude well located several miles from his village.
“When I was a young boy, we always got so sick from bad water, from parasites. It goes right to the blood system so you can become very ill. Even though the water was not clean, it was all we had to drink,” said Opio. “We’d walk to the well, two miles from our home and carry it back home in plastic jugs (the kind used for gasoline.) My dream now is to see that nobody ever has to live like that. I want to see happiness on the faces of villagers and save people’s lives with clean water available in their own villages.”
Thus, the Northern Uganda Development Foundation was founded.
“We want to do this one project at a time,” said Opio.
To date, two wells servicing 8,000 people have been built in projects supervised by Opio’s brother Geoffrey Odongo, a UNBC Alumni. He is helped in his efforts by village volunteers. A ceremony to welcome the new well and turn it over to the people at Ogek Village, Kandini Parish in Uganda, took place in June 2007. A similar event took place after a well was installed in Buga, also a northern Ugandan village.
NUDF built it and they came. Now that villagers have seen the benefits of clean drinking water, Opio wants his group to become self-sufficient so they don’t have to rely on others to install the modern wells.
“Each well costs about $3,000 including everything from the technical and engineering aspects, to the drilling machine and equipment, and even the opening ceremonies,” Opio said. “We want to save money by buying our own drill machine and truck. The drill machine costs (U.S.) $17,000 and the truck to transport it is (Can.) $13,000.”
In the meantime, with two wells constructed and in use, the goal is for two more. Fundraising efforts are underway.
“Once we have the funds in place, we can be ready to install a new well,” said Opio. “We have the water technicians and people in place. The village site has already been chosen in the wetlands area, so the water level is higher which means more sustainability for the well.
“I was asked by people there: When is the money coming? We are ready.’ If funding goes well, we should be able to start two weeks from now.”
At the annual Folkfest in Fort George Park over the weekend, the humanitarian group had a kiosk with bottled water. Money raised from water sales ($1 each) will go towards construction of the new well.
“People were asking questions and picking up our pamphlets so hopefully they are getting lots of information about our project,” said Opio.
Northern Uganda Development Foundation (NUDF) is based in Prince George and in Kamdini Parish, Uganda made up of a board of directors and members. NUDF was set up to improve the standard of living of the people in Northern Uganda by promoting locally sustainable clean and safe drinking water, farming practises, health education, small business enterprise and technology.
For more information about NUDF visit www.nudf.org or write P.O. Box 21096 Spruceland R.P.O. Prince George, V2M 7A5.