Think East Africa: Bringing Clean Water to Communities

Posted by Jennifer Rogers, Copy Editor, on Apr 25, 2019

Think East Africa: Bringing Clean Water to Communities

The Worldwide Water Crisis

According to The Water Project, 1 out of every 5 deaths for children under 5 worldwide is due to a water-related illness. And 783 million people do not have access to clean water worldwide. In America, this might sound like a shocking statistic, but for communities throughout the world, this is their reality.

Providing clean water for impoverished countries can transform their communities. Local access to clean water changes family dynamics as family members no longer have to spend hours every day traveling to get unsanitary water. They can spend their time providing for their families, allowing households to have two incomes. Literacy increases in the community as children are able to attend school because they are not as sick as often.

Clean water is necessary for communities to thrive. Chase Oaker Robert Vanman understands the value of clean water. He has been involved in water ministries for over two decades and believes his calling is to bring clean water to impoverished communities in Africa.

The Water Crisis in Burundi

In July of 2014, Robert Vanman traveled to Burundi, a country in East Africa. He was blown away by the reality in Burundi and the potential impact clean water could have on the country.

While visiting a community in Burundi, Robert was stunned when he learned the closest water source was unsanitary and four kilometers away. Between 50 and 120 children were dying each year as a result of a water-related illness. He even met a woman who lost all seven of her children to water-related illnesses.
Burundi was in desperate need of clean water but was unable to receive help from other water charities because there was not an in-country water organization with the necessary resources, equipment, and connections to build sustainable water projects.

Understanding the value of clean water and the responsibility we have to use our resources to help others, Robert Vanman is committed to building water wells in Burundi until the whole population has access to clean water.

The Mission of Think East Africa

Today, Robert serves as the chairman of a nonprofit organization called Think East Africa. As the primary, in-country partner for clean water projects, Think East Africa is “developing a national water strategy with the goal of providing sustainable access to clean water for every Burundian community by the end of 2028.

Executive Directors John and Caelene Peake moved to Burundi to focus their efforts on overseeing the water projects and expanding their team of Burundian staff. The organization has purchased a property in Burundi to build its headquarters, creating jobs and hope for the people of Burundi.

Think East Africa operates on four core values: operational excellence, recognized impact, commitment to integrity, and cultural competency. The nonprofit empowers communities with needs-based sustainable projects, equips community members with sanitation training and a long-term maintenance plan, and works with government authorities to establish and maintain water standards.
Currently, they manage over 200 water wells throughout the country. They have formed new partnerships with churches and other nonprofits to receive additional funding to finance more water projects and provide long-term solutions to bring clean water to all of Burundi.

The Impact of Clean Water on Burundi

One year after building a water well in Burundi, Robert Vanman witnessed firsthand the impact of clean water on a community. The year prior to building the water well, 80 children died from water-related illnesses, and 100 cases of cholera were reported. In the year where the community had access to clean water, there weren’t any reported cases of cholera and no children died due to a water-related illness.

“A $15,000 well transforms communities of 4,000 people for a generation,” Robert Vanman said while describing the impact of one well on a community.
Today, the population in this area has grown to over 7,000 people, and there are five wells at this location to meet the growing needs of the community.

The Impact on the Vanman Family

Loving others impacts the people who are loved and the people who love. Robert and his family have been deeply touched and encouraged by the prayers and love they have received from the people in East Africa. They have also been inspired by the faith of the Burundians.

This past summer, Robert and his family traveled to Africa where they formed friendships and prayed for their brothers and sisters around the world. The Vanman family experience great joy from seeing communities transformed—a joy that comes when love does the unexpected.

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