Going with the flow
Sarah Evans' work transforms the lives of isolated African communities by providing ready access to clean water. This year, it also earned her recognition as one of Toyota's Mothers of Invention.
For Evans, what began as a favor for a friend has become something of a crusade. Asked to help raise money to replace dying cattle and goats in a village in Kenya, she decided a better solution would be to provide a source of clean water that would ensure the health of people and livestock alike.
So that's just what she did. She flew to Kenya (after four years of fund-raising) and drilled a water well.
"That moment, on the ground in Kenya, when we first saw water coming out of the borehole," she says with a wide smile, "was a life-changing moment for me."
It's life changing, too, for the communities that work with her nonprofit, Well Aware.
The facts speak all too clearly:
- Without a ready supply of clean water, women routinely walk miles every day to fetch water, and carry containers weighing as much as 40 lbs. when full.
- Water-related diseases are prevalent and account for one in five deaths under the age of 5.
- Globally, more people have a mobile phone than have access to proper sanitation.
"I felt the incredible impact and transformation that would happen now in that community because they had a source of clean water," Sarah says, referring to the first well in Kenya.
That was in 2010. Since then, Well Aware has doubled its capacity every year, completing 38 projects and providing clean water to more than 160,000 people.
Today, the scope of the nonprofit doesn't stop at drilling. It extends to the rehabilitation of non-working wells, and the installation of rainwater collection systems and gravity pipelines.
There's also a sustainability model in place to ensure water systems continue to work for decades to come.
"I've made quite a few sacrifices to build Well Aware," Sarah points out with no trace of regret. "I gave up owning a home, I sold a car, I relied on family for help, and I learned to appreciate all things secondhand."
"But, I am doing something that changed my life and continues to change the lives of many others on the other side of the world."
ABOUT TOYOTA MOTHERS OF INVENTION
Toyota's Mothers of Invention program identifies women who are affecting change in the world. This year, each of the following was awarded a grant of $50,000: Sarah Evans, for her groundbreaking work in clean-water infrastructure; Hahna Alexander, who creates power-generating footwear; and Komal Dadlani, for developing technology that turns your smartphone into a science instrument.
Find out more about Well Aware and its projects.