ABOUT WISDOM SPRING

 

Our Story

When our founder 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.

To her, this access to water was a miracle. 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 asked 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 from 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.

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.”

Money was raised and efforts began to organize the digging of wells. But all was not good. The well diggers hired to do the job were not reading the land to see where the best and most natural spots were to dig the wells. Things started to fall apart.

Since Sobonfu had told the villagers that she was coming to dig wells, they were curious why it hadn’t happened yet. Sobonfu was frustrated and devastated by the failed efforts and was ready to give up.

Until one of the village 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 encouragement 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 about family and community 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 where Susan lived. 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.

One of the students, Kristen Wood, and a few of her 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 — enough for five wells.

From that one idea, came many things. Soon after the first walk it was clear that water was only one part of the whole picture. Supporting education also proved important and over the years we have supported many kids with tuition and lunches. We also added other fundraising ventures like Art for Africa, Soup for the Soul and a Walking for Water West coast fundraiser.

When Sobonfu died in 2017 we were unsure about continuing the work of the organization. She was a strong force and visionary and it was unclear how we might go forward without her. However, we chose to continue her work and follow up on her hopes of expanding to other countries and communities who need support with Water and Education projects.

We just completed a well in India and we are looking to working in Nepal. We are still in the process of seeing if our Kenya project will happen. We are hopeful. We thank you for your interest in our organization and we look forward to seeing you at an event soon.

Our Mission & Approach

Our mission over the years always comes back to one simple idea — change is possible. An idea, an inspiration and some action — can shift a situation that seems stuck into positive movement. We have 16 years of experience witnessing this change first hand. We have seen water burst from the ground as a new well comes in, watched by the villagers that will benefit from it. We have talked to students going off to college who made it there because for the last ten years their tuition was covered by donations from people giving to Wisdom Spring. It can happen. Help us to continue this for many years to come.

 

FOUNDER AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Sobonfu Somé was a respected lecturer, activist and author. She founded Wisdom Spring, Inc. an organization dedicated to the preservation, the sharing of indigenous wisdom and fundraising for wells, schools and health project in Africa. She brought a voice of African spirituality to the West, bringing insights and healing gifts from her west-African culture to this one. Her books include: The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient teachings in the ways of relationships, Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient teachings to celebrate children, community and Falling out of Grace: Meditations on Loss, Healing and Wisdom. She is also the author of “Women Wisdom From the Heart of Africa” a set 6 CD and has contributed to several anthologies. She died in January 2017. 

SUSAN HOUGH

One of the original founders of Wisdom Spring’s “Walking for Water” teen fundraising program that has raised over $300,000 for the construction of wells in developing countries.

Susan loves working with women and teens, offering an amazing and dynamic experience that combines traditional coaching techniques with a connection to spirit and indigenous wisdom. Susan is a co-founder of “Living Your Gifts”, a company that creates programs to support and build confidence in women and girls-of-all-ages, while encouraging them to be a part of the growing worldwide movement recognizing women and girls as the most powerful force for change on the planet.

Susan Hough has a BA in Social Work from Longwood University; and more than 25 years experience in the helping professions with a focus in mental health facilities. She has completed healing and ritual trainings with Mary Branch Grove and Mietek Wirkus, and is a graduate of the two year Healing Ritual Village Training Program with Sobonfu Somé.

 

KRISTEN WOOD

Kristen Wood has loved the culture and traditions of the Dagara Tribe since she first learned of them as a pre-teen. With the help of her mentor Susan Hough, Kristen founded Walking for Water, an annual community event which raises money to build water wells, send children to school and help indigenous cultures around the world continue to thrive.

Kristen graduated from George Mason University with a Bachelors in Sociology as well as completed two Kundalini Yoga Teacher trainings. She is currently a stay at home mom to her little boy Silas and is teaching yoga part-time.

MALIK SPRINGER

Native to the Washington DC area, Malik has participated in the Walk for Water since its inception. The Walk for Water as well as his time with Sonbonfu Somé embedded in him the desire to help support our cause. Working closely with Susan Hough, Malik has coordinated and hosted 3 Walks so far. Malik graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in 2012 with a Bachelors in Economics and currently lives with his wife in Richmond, VA.

DAMON MILLER, M.D.

Damon Miller, MD first met Sobonfu Somé and her husband Malidoma in 1992, soon after they arrived in northern California. Dr. Miller joined the first year-long training they offered in 1995 and that first Ritual Healing Village has been meeting continuously since.

Damon devoted many hours assisting Sobonfu in her work and in starting the Wisdom Spring, Inc 501.c.3 nonprofit, and accompanied her on many trips to West Africa. He has been on the board of the nonprofit since it formed. He also spent many hours in the writing of Malidoma Somé’s most recent book, The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community.

Damon has a private practice in the San Francisco Bay area. He started his medical career in 1985 in internal medicine, then went on to a practice in diagnostic and interventional radiology. He left his hospital-based practice in 1995, stepping into a private practice of Integrative Medicine. His practice incorporates healing techniques he was taught by the traditional healers in Burkina Faso during his many visits there.

CARLYLE COASH

A leader in the fields of performance, education and spiritual counseling for over 25 years. As a spiritual counselor in hospice and palliative care, he created hundreds of rituals and life transitions, assisting others to find clarity about the most essential elements in their lives. He works with trauma, grief and major life changes with people of many ages, with a specialization in pediatric palliative care. Carlyle contributed to the creation of the book Making Healthcare Whole, and has a chapter published in The Arts of Contemplative Care by Wisdom Press.

Carlyle is certified as a Mindfulness Meditation Instructor and is the first Tibetan Buddhist practitioner to be Board Certified through the Association of Professional Chaplains. He is honored to be a part of the Wisdom Spring Board and the work happening by the organization. In 2006, he traveled to Burkina Faso to see first hand the positive impact the organization was having on the communities there. More recently he travelled to Kenya, India and Nepal to help bring the work of the organization to new and needed locations. 

 

Our Story

When our founder 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.

To her, this access to water was a miracle. 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 asked 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 from 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.

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.”

Money was raised and efforts began to organize the digging of wells. But all was not good. The well diggers hired to do the job were not reading the land to see where the best and most natural spots were to dig the wells. Things started to fall apart.

Since Sobonfu had told the villagers that she was coming to dig wells, they were curious why it hadn’t happened yet. Sobonfu was frustrated and devastated by the failed efforts and was ready to give up.

Until one of the village 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 encouragement 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 about family and community 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 where Susan lived. 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.

One of the students, Kristen Wood, and a few of her 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 — enough for five wells.

From that one idea, came many things. Soon after the first walk it was clear that water was only one part of the whole picture. Supporting education also proved important and over the years we have supported many kids with tuition and lunches. We also added other fundraising ventures like Art for Africa, Soup for the Soul and a Walking for Water West coast fundraiser.

When Sobonfu died in 2017 we were unsure about continuing the work of the organization. She was a strong force and visionary and it was unclear how we might go forward without her. However, we chose to continue her work and follow up on her hopes of expanding to other countries and communities who need support with Water and Education projects.

We just completed a well in India and we are looking to working in Nepal. We are still in the process of seeing if our Kenya project will happen. We are hopeful. We thank you for your interest in our organization and we look forward to seeing you at an event soon.

Our Mission & Approach

Our mission over the years always comes back to one simple idea — change is possible. An idea, an inspiration and some action — can shift a situation that seems stuck into positive movement. We have 16 years of experience witnessing this change first hand. We have seen water burst from the ground as a new well comes in, watched by the villagers that will benefit from it. We have talked to students going off to college who made it there because for the last ten years their tuition was covered by donations from people giving to Wisdom Spring. It can happen. Help us to continue this for many years to come.

 

FOUNDER AND BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Sobonfu Somé was a respected lecturer, activist and author. She founded Wisdom Spring, Inc. an organization dedicated to the preservation, the sharing of indigenous wisdom and fundraising for wells, schools and health project in Africa. She brought a voice of African spirituality to the West, bringing insights and healing gifts from her west-African culture to this one. Her books include: The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient teachings in the ways of relationships, Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient teachings to celebrate children, community and Falling out of Grace: Meditations on Loss, Healing and Wisdom. She is also the author of “Women Wisdom From the Heart of Africa” a set 6 CD and has contributed to several anthologies. She died in January 2017. 

SUSAN HOUGH

One of the original founders of Wisdom Spring’s “Walking for Water” teen fundraising program that has raised over $300,000 for the construction of wells in developing countries.

Susan loves working with women and teens, offering an amazing and dynamic experience that combines traditional coaching techniques with a connection to spirit and indigenous wisdom. Susan is a co-founder of “Living Your Gifts”, a company that creates programs to support and build confidence in women and girls-of-all-ages, while encouraging them to be a part of the growing worldwide movement recognizing women and girls as the most powerful force for change on the planet.

Susan Hough has a BA in Social Work from Longwood University; and more than 25 years experience in the helping professions with a focus in mental health facilities. She has completed healing and ritual trainings with Mary Branch Grove and Mietek Wirkus, and is a graduate of the two year Healing Ritual Village Training Program with Sobonfu Somé.

 

KRISTEN WOOD

Kristen Wood has loved the culture and traditions of the Dagara Tribe since she first learned of them as a pre-teen. With the help of her mentor Susan Hough, Kristen founded Walking for Water, an annual community event which raises money to build water wells, send children to school and help indigenous cultures around the world continue to thrive.

Kristen graduated from George Mason University with a Bachelors in Sociology as well as completed two Kundalini Yoga Teacher trainings. She is currently a stay at home mom to her little boy Silas and is teaching yoga part-time.

MALIK SPRINGER

Native to the Washington DC area, Malik has participated in the Walk for Water since its inception. The Walk for Water as well as his time with Sonbonfu Somé embedded in him the desire to help support our cause. Working closely with Susan Hough, Malik has coordinated and hosted 3 Walks so far. Malik graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in 2012 with a Bachelors in Economics and currently lives with his wife in Richmond, VA.

DAMON MILLER, M.D.

Damon Miller, MD first met Sobonfu Somé and her husband Malidoma in 1992, soon after they arrived in northern California. Dr. Miller joined the first year-long training they offered in 1995 and that first Ritual Healing Village has been meeting continuously since.

Damon devoted many hours assisting Sobonfu in her work and in starting the Wisdom Spring, Inc 501.c.3 nonprofit, and accompanied her on many trips to West Africa. He has been on the board of the nonprofit since it formed. He also spent many hours in the writing of Malidoma Somé’s most recent book, The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community.

Damon has a private practice in the San Francisco Bay area. He started his medical career in 1985 in internal medicine, then went on to a practice in diagnostic and interventional radiology. He left his hospital-based practice in 1995, stepping into a private practice of Integrative Medicine. His practice incorporates healing techniques he was taught by the traditional healers in Burkina Faso during his many visits there.

CARLYLE COASH

A leader in the fields of performance, education and spiritual counseling for over 25 years. As a spiritual counselor in hospice and palliative care, he created hundreds of rituals and life transitions, assisting others to find clarity about the most essential elements in their lives. He works with trauma, grief and major life changes with people of many ages, with a specialization in pediatric palliative care. Carlyle contributed to the creation of the book Making Healthcare Whole, and has a chapter published in The Arts of Contemplative Care by Wisdom Press.

Carlyle is certified as a Mindfulness Meditation Instructor and is the first Tibetan Buddhist practitioner to be Board Certified through the Association of Professional Chaplains. He is honored to be a part of the Wisdom Spring Board and the work happening by the organization. In 2006, he traveled to Burkina Faso to see first hand the positive impact the organization was having on the communities there. More recently he travelled to Kenya, India and Nepal to help bring the work of the organization to new and needed locations.