In 1988, a Charitable Trust called ‘Water for Survival’ (WFS) was established by New Zealand engineers. This superb charity was completely run by volunteers from across New Zealand, and raised money for water and sanitation projects around the world. They also sent volunteer engineers to implement some of their projects.
In 2003, the WFS board reached out to Oxfam NZ because of the increasing difficulty of relying solely on volunteer efforts to meet growing reporting requirements and donor responsibilities. WFS asked for the work of their charity to be taken on by Oxfam. They recognised the shared inherent values between the two organisations in providing essential human rights for those in poverty including the fundamental access to clean water.
After consideration, Oxfam agreed to take on WFS’s focus on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects and the legal entity of Water for Survival ceased to exist. We are privileged to continue their incredible work through our water and sanitation efforts in the Pacific, South East Asia, and the greater Oxfam initiatives around the world.
Oxfam initially supported a number of WFS committees and had a WFS programme committee. We also used the name “Water for Survival” for a number of government funded projects. From 2010, as a new government put different funding models in place, it became important to ensure that we kept the focus on WASH which meant no longer expressly using the WFS title as the projects began to include a broader range of outcomes including gender and livelihood components. Similarly, over that time, the volunteer membership of the WFS programme committees declined.
We greatly value our relationship with the original WFS supporters. As many engineers know, WASH is always about much more than just taps and water tanks. To be effective and sustainable for an entire community WASH also means that we work in critical areas ranging from women’s inequality and challenging violence against women; to supporting local communities to engage with local decision makers and budget holders; to ensuring local usage of water is environmentally sensitive where possible; to helping protect against climate change contaminating water supplies and to ensuring local people have the skills and training to maintain and repair the WASH systems they already have. WASH work is woven through so much of what Oxfam does.
As one WFS supporter said recently of the shared focus with Oxfam’s work “We both know that water saves lives. After breathing, it is the fundamental need for all human beings.”