My Arms Wide Open

My Arms Wide Open's purpose is to rebuild communities through supporting mothers, children and youth to break the chain of their parents' past prejudice, to create community and preserve their culture. Guiding principles for My Arms Wide Open mirror those of founder Warren Te Brugge. "These are the principles by which I live my life and make decisions to deliver value in the eyes of the communities I serve."
Feb 5, 2015

Could we survive on 10 litres of water a day?

The Children of Bergnek
The Children of Bergnek

Assessing the real needs in Bergnek

In November, we made a trip to Bergnek with 5 engineers from Engineers Without Borders to fully assess the Bergnek Community Water Project. The group arrived a week before me to survey the current distribution and well infrastructure in Bergnek. By the time I arrived, we were all ready to start what turned out to be a 5-day marathon of meetings.

We met with the City of Polokwane Water Board, the Mayor's office, the city Engineering department, the Bergnek council and headman as well as finally the Regional Chief.

A Marathon of Meetings

Once we had established the requirements and current situation we need buy-in from all parties to support the project and most importantly the ongoing needs for maintenance of the equipment going forward. Getting the agreement signed by all parties was a challenge and involved daily meetings from morning until night for five days to get the approval of the cities legal department on the terms of the contract and finally to get all parties to sign and ensure we had them sign in the correct order to meet local tribal traditions as well as policy as far as the City of Polokwane was concerned.

Success!

The good news is we literally got it all done within the last few hours before we had to return to the airport to catch flghts back to the United States.

Next Steps

The next steps in the project is to collect all available survey information and create the design specification for the Bergnek Community to be able to provide an on demand, safe water supply of approximately 50 litres of water per day per person. 

The implementation of the approved design is estimated to take place in August of 2015.

How we determined the volume of water needed to support the Bergnek Community Sustainabily

A number of our regular supporters and donors have asked us why this project is so important and so in addition to the update on our last visit at the end of 2014 we will also share the information with you as to why the My Arms Wide Open, One Brick at a Time project is so important to the community of Bergnek and communities who face similar circumstances.

Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are crucial for poverty reduction, crucial for sustainable development and crucial for achieving any and every one of the Millennium Development Goals

                                                                                                                         Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General 

Could you do it?

Could you or I survive on less than 10 litres of water a day for all of our daily needs? The people of Bergnek have no choice; they have to survive on less than 10 litres a day.

Ensuring access to water and sanitation, as human rights constitute an important step towards making it a reality for everyone. It means that:

  • Access to safe water and basic sanitation is a legal entitlement, rather than a commodity or service provided on a charitable basis;
  • Achieving basic and improved levels of access should be accelerated;
  • The “least served” are better targeted and therefore inequalities decreased;
  • Communities and vulnerable groups will be empowered to take part in decision-making processes;
  • The means and mechanisms available in the United Nations human rights system will be used to monitor the progress of nations in realizing the right to water and sanitation to hold governments accountable.

How is having sufficient water available for daily use defined by the UN and WHO?

The water supply and sanitation facility for each person must be continuous and sufficient for personal and domestic uses. These uses ordinarily include drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation and personal and household hygiene. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 50 and 100 litres of water per person per day are needed to ensure that most basic needs are met and few health concerns arise.

Most of the people categorized as lacking access to clean water use about 5 litres a day-one tenth of the average daily amount used in rich countries to flush toilets. UNDP

Most people need at least 2 litres of safe water per capita per day for food preparation. WHO

The basic requirement of drinking water for a lactating woman engaged in even moderate physical activity is 7.5 litres a day. UNDP

Some of the information we’ve presented here has been taken from the UN’s, The Human Right to Water and Sanitation, Media Brief

Your Contributions and Donations DO make the Difference

You can support the My Arms Wide Open, One Brick at a Time project and make a meaningful difference in the lives of the girls, women and children that we serve, by making a donation now or setting up a monthly recurring donation as well as sharing this report with your family and friends.

Please Donate Now! 

We are grateful for your support. The women, girls and children of the My Arms Wide Open communities extend a warm smile and echo our gratitude and thanks.

The future of the Bergnek Community
The future of the Bergnek Community
The Bergnek Team
The Bergnek Team
Jan 29, 2015

Do you think I chose this life?

Spring planting in Bergnek
Spring planting in Bergnek

For many it is NOT a choice, they are born into their circumstances

As we work with partners and in communities, we often get asked why people in the communities we serve can't just get a job or do something useful with their time. For many of us we realte to problems and issues others and the media raise in the context of our own life experience and circumstance. The problems that are raised about developing countries and their urban and rural communities, seem so simple depending on your own experieinces and yet in reality they are actually quite complex. These problems and circumstances, such as poverty, didn't suddenly happen, they have existed for decades and in some cases for generations or centuries, and so people are born into these circumstances and finding a way out is impossible for most.

Walk a mile in my shoes...

When we ask people in these communities what's the first thing we can do to help, they typically answer, that they'd like to be accepted for who they are and where they are. When we ask what else we can do, their responses are generally, don't try to help me by doing it for me, teach me how to help myself.

Equipped with this knowledge and understanding, we run all of our My World In a Garden projects in a manner where we bring resources and skilled professionals in to communities focusing on the transfer of skills so that the people in these communities can then assist others and help themselves out of their circumstance. They don't choose to be in the situations and circumstances they find themselves in, they are quite literally born into it.  

When asked why we do it we consider our options. We have the option to choose to help and transfer skills or ignore it completely and address only immediate needs. We willingly and consciously choose to help, for the long term. My Arms Wide Open and the My World In a Garden cause are 100% volunteer based and although each of us makes our own choice, we all make the same choice.

When governments do not have the much-needed resources to help their own people as much as they'd like to or in fact need to, then outside help is needed. This is not simply a case of lack of water, it includes generations of sub-standard education, substance and physical abuse, dire poverty, food insecurity, lack of simple resources, like menstrual pads, to help keep girls in school (see our www.GirlStuffPeriod.com project) and health challenges that result from the lack of basic needs and basic human rights. In general these issues are lumped on the backs of women as the men move away to try and earn income and then land up not returning in many cases.

We see this same scenario in many countries around the world, including developed nations where governments do have the resources to make change. However, if the general population isn't willing to engage and pressure their governments to engage, those issues go unresolved as well. We can understand that it is hard to relate to, unless you actually experience it, and we truly would not wish that on any person, which is why we choose as volunteers to go and live in these communities that invite us in to help, so that we can better understand the issues they truly have and work with them to create solutions for themselves.

Transferring Skills

By understanding the contect and culture of the people where they are, and as we go into different communities we must account for the differences and adapt to what and how we support the people in those communities and what they grow in the food walls. When we teach this, not simply do it, the community s able to then share the technology with other communities and set those communities up for success.

Duplicating the Process

So why are we telling you this? It is critical for us to have the resources available to continually update our curriculums and programs so that we can achieve our ultimate goal where the program takes on a life of its own and the vegetable food walls start to pop up in communities everywhere. To do this we need to keep building and spreading the word for now and that's where we need your help.

Your contributions make all the difference

There are many ways that you can support our effort to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the girls, women and children that we serve.

Please donate!

  • How about making a new donation today?
  • Or perhaps you’d like to set up a monthly or quarterly recurring donation…it’s simple, convenient and easy to do!

With Gratitude

Whatever you decide, please do it today!  The girls, women and children we serve extend a warm smile and heartfelt ‘thank you’ for your support. We are all grateful for your support.

Constructing My World In a Garden
Constructing My World In a Garden
The Children of Bergnek
The Children of Bergnek
Jan 29, 2015

We'd like you to meet Anna

Meet Anna
Meet Anna

The women of Bergnek work hard every day to produce the menstrual kits needed by the girls and women in Bergnek and other communities around South Africa. Sometimes they are so close to their daily routine that they get lost in it and so it is always an invigorating experience to meet some of the girls who benefit from their work and hear first hand about the difference they make and the contributions they make to their community.

Meet Anna...

One of the beneficiaries of the GirlStuff program is a young lady named Anna (Picture below). Anna has been using the GirlStuff Kit successfully for two years now and her parents have also purchased a school blazer for her made by GirlStuff, now that she is in Grade 10. Anna has stayed in school and has an excellent attendance record, according to one of her teachers, Katie Thomson. Anna has also been encouraging her younger sister to use the GirlStuff Kit and mentors her sister about the importance of staying in school.

Anna's career aspiration is to become a nurse. After meeting with Anna's parents to talk about GirlStuff, they have agreed that Anna can become the 'face of GirlStuff' and what we'd like to do in return is to set up an education fund for Anna so that she will be able to attend Nursing School, in South Africa. She is a hard worker and pays attention to her studies ensuring that she gets the highest marks she can so that she will have the opportunity to become a nurse, with the help of the My Arms Wide Open and GirlStuff supporters.

How can you help?

Let's help to secure a bright future for Anna! Your donations and support can and will change the lives of girls like Anna and her sister.

Please Take Action!

Whatever you decide, please do it today! The girls, women and children we serve extend a warm smile and heartfelt ‘thank you’ for your support. We are all grateful for your support. 

The Women of GirlStuff
The Women of GirlStuff
The Future of Bergnek
The Future of Bergnek

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