An unimaginable dream — a seed is planted without even knowing it
When Sobonfu Somé first came to the United States, neither Wisdom Spring, nor digging wells were an idea in her mind.
But she was mesmerized by the water that flowed out when she turned on a faucet — no matter the time of day, water always came out. Always. In the cities of Africa, there are faucets but never a guarantee that any water would come out. There are plenty of days when people turn it on and get nothing but air.
It her, this was a miracle and she sent a letter home describing these ever-flowing faucets. And folks in her village just thought “Oh, that is just Sobonfu telling us another one of her stories…”
Sobonfu was living in Michigan, and she started taking English classes at the local college. As the class was coming to an end and because it was an international group, the teacher ask them, “If you were to go back to your country, what is the one thing from America that you’d take back?” Sobonfu’s classmates answered that they would take this and that — but when it came to Sobonfu, it was “Water.” The teacher almost fell over, “Water? Of all the things in America, you’d take water?”
“Yes, because in my country there is none. We have to walk 5-10 miles to get water.”
The teacher told her to go home and think about it, and come back to give her a serious answer. So Sobonfu went home and came back, but of course the answer remained, “Water”. The teacher couldn’t believe it, “You are really serious about this?”
“I am sure, I used to carry water.”
The teacher just died laughing, “Come on…your stories are pretty wild, but come on…”
“Seriously, when you go to my country, especially in December, the first thing to meet you is dust. And some days you can’t tell the difference between sunrise and sunset except that you know the directions. But if someone showed you a picture, you couldn’t tell because everything is red because of the wind storms..dust everywhere.” Sobonfu explained.
But the teacher still did not understand, “I really hope there is something beyond water that you can take back.”
At the time, Sobonfu had no idea that an actual seed had just been planted. It would soon grow and take root, but a couple of stops and starts would be necessary before it would bear fruit.
Can we really dig wells?
When Sobonfu moved to California, someone came to her and asked, “How can we give back to you?” Sobonfu replied, “You really want to know? I want to dig wells, my people need water.”
So money was raised and efforts began to organize the digging of wells. But all was not good and the well diggers were not reading the land to see where the best and most natural spots were to dig the wells. So things started to fall apart.
But Sobonfu had told the villagers that she was coming to dig wells and naturally they wanted to know why it it hadn’t happened yet. Sobonfu was frustrated and devastated by the failed efforts and was ready to give up.
Until one of the kids looked at her and told her, “I don’t believe that about you. I think if you really wanted to, you would find a way.”
The poking of a child…It was the beginning.
Sobonfu gained the extra courage to continue. She couldn’t give up, it was just too important.
The magic of synchronicity…
Sobonfu returned to the United States and started researching how to set up a non-profit. Not soon after, she got a call from a very passionate woman named Susan Hough. Susan had read Sobonfu’s books and they had touched her heart & soul to the deepest parts. She needed to meet Sobonfu and to learn from her. The children needed to learn from her…It was important.
In 2003, at Susan’s urging, Sobonfu came to speak to the teenagers at Heritage High School in Leesburg VA. She spoke about children and their gifts. And, some of the kids really wanted to know about the daily activity of Burkina Faso teenagers.
“When I was your age, most of the activities were about carrying water, and it made for a long day sometimes.”
But Kristen Karinshak Wood and and a few friends wanted to know more. By the time Sobonfu finished describing how they would sit by a water hole to wait for the water table to rise, the kids were really disturbed, “You mean you would sit by the water hole and wait that long?”
When Kristen went home that night she was still thinking hard about it. It was later that night when she called Susan on the phone, “If they can walk for water, we can walk for water.”
Susan replied, “You want to do what?” And Kristen clarified, “Why can’t we do a fundraiser?”
By 2004, the teenagers from Heritage High School were organized and ready, and they held the very first walk “Walking for Water” fundraiser. The walk raised $65,000 and it was enough for five wells.
So, the first well of many was dug. And with that, Wisdom Spring became an agent of change in the villages of West Africa.