Local clean water project collects $100,000 in donations

A project initially funded from spare change dropped into a wooden well by Sunday schoolers would later mushroom into a $100,000 endeavor funded by Rotary International, the Marshalltown Rotary Club, six central Iowa churches and Hy-Vee, Inc.

The wooden well symbolized a critical need for clean water in Old Fangak, South Sudan, Africa since for years, residents have drawn disease-laden water from the neighboring Zaref River or adjacent swamps resulting in death and disabilities.

Sheryl Eisenbeis, treasurer of WellSprings Missions of Marshalltown, put down a giant exclamation point on the project while presenting a check of $10,950 to Jeff Vance, president of the Marshalltown Rotary Club Tuesday.

The WellSpring check will be equaled in the same amount by Marshalltown Rotary. The combined funds will then be melded with a $78,000 grant from Rotary International.

The $100,000 project will pay for transportation of well drilling equipment to South Sudan, drilling of wells and training of South Sudanese.

“We are excited that the money will be used to dig clean water wells and be used in other ways to help the people of South Sudan, who have so little,” Eisenbeis said.

The change from Sunday schoolers at Trinity Lutheran Church in Marshalltown initially provided the project’s foundation 2009. The change eventually gave way to cash, large checks and even larger grants.

South Sudanese immigrants from Old Fangak, South Sudan, Africa attending Trinity started the process when they requested clean water for their friends and neighbors half a world away.

Other churches which contributed funds to the project were St. Cecilia Catholic in Ames, New Hope Christian, Our Savior Lutheran and St. Mary Catholic, all of Marshalltown, and Trinity Lutheran of State Center.

Additionally, the Southeast Synodical Lutheran Women contributed funds.

Later, Marshalltown staff of Hy-Vee Inc. donated $5,000 toward the initiative.

Volunteers with the Alaska South Sudan Medical Project of Anchorage installed the first well in Old Fangak several years ago.

In February 2012, a team of central Iowans representing three communities and several denominations joined with Alaskans and South Sudanese in repairing one collapsed well and installing another for the village of 5,000 people.

“This project has been nothing short of phenomenal,” said Vance. “It has grown by leaps and bounds since it was first brought to our attention. The project not only will help the South Sudanese in the short term, but will set a foundation of sustainability which will benefit others for many years to come.”