In honor of World Water Day on March 22, many groups — including the laudable Charity: water, WaterAid, Blood:water mission and Water.org (co-founded by actor Matt Damon) — are sure to receive much-needed attention and praise.
But I’d like to tell you about a one-woman wonder who’s the heart and soul of a organization that’s making a difference, one well at a time.
There’s no question that Joyce Tannian is a powerhouse.
You hear it in her voice as she sings “All Good Gifts” from the 1970 musical “Godspell” in the promotional video for her nonprofit, Water Is Life – Kenya.
A one time freelance choir and opera singer who worked as an executive assistant at HBO in the last decade, Tannian left the U.S. — and the corporate world — to dedicate her life to bringing clean water to one of the most barren and remote parts of Africa.
Joyce Tannian with Meshenani children and villagers. Photo courtesy of Joyce Tannian.
While on a charity trip to visit schoolchildren in Kenya in 2005, Tannian was struck by how every aspect of life in the Meshenani Village region (inhabited by the hearty and colorful Maasai tribe) is dominated by the need for and ability to find water. Children are pulled from school so they can spend their days walking to and from water sources — which often dry up and must be shared with the villagers’ only life bread — their livestock.
The trip so affected Tannian that she decided to move to Kenya and build a well for the Meshenani.
Within a year and a half — thanks in part to support from several Delaware civic organizations from her hometown of Newark — Tannian had overseen the building of a water tank and pump in 2007. But that success now seems tiny when compared to her other enormous undertakings.
Sometimes, shallow wells and small water sources just aren’t enough. That’s where “boreholes” like the ones Tannian and her field team in Kenya dug for the Meshenani (see photos below) and Imisigyio villages come in.
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