Working for water
Meet John La Roche and Monika Fry – two remarkable people who’ve drawn on their knowledge, experience and passion to make safe water, better health and access to sanitation a reality for many people in the developing world.
John La Roche first began to dream about the possibility of creating a Water for Survival programme back in 1985 whilst working as a water engineer for the Auckland Regional Council. He’d been reading about WaterAid’s great work in developing countries and began talking with his colleagues at Engineers for Social Responsibility about creating a similar organisation here in New Zealand.
John saw water poverty in Samoa, Kenya, Uganda and India, but remembers most an early trip to Ethiopia. “The poverty was just enormous,”says John. “But so were the benefits they gained from clean water and the most basic sanitation education.”
By 1988, John La Roche had established the New Zealand Water for Survival Charitable Trust and with the help of his colleagues began raising funds and building awareness around the value of access to safe water. John’s work struck a chord with a great many Kiwis and a strong and loyal supporter base followed.
In 2003, the Water for Survival Board, when the voluntary work load became too onerous, decided that amalgamating with Oxfam New Zealand would ensure the sustainability of the volunteer-led organisation. Volunteer groups continue to work with great energy and enthusiasm in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin – providing invaluable support to Oxfam’s water and sanitation programmes. John himself continues to Chair the Auckland Water for Survival fundraising committee. John was awarded the Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, recognising his and Water for Survival’s contribution to international development.
Since joining with Oxfam, the Water for Survival programme has expanded in the Pacific including Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
Oxfam New Zealand would like to extend their appreciation and admiration for John’s 20-year dedication, and their gratitude to all who work and support Water for Survival.
Monika Fry is the Chair of the Oxfam Water for Survival group in Dunedin. Having worked in education for many years, including time as a VSA volunteer in PNG, Monika used her knowledge of education, information technology, and her awareness of poverty in our world, to create an inspirational online project to help young people understand global water and sanitation issues. Wara Bilong Life is a creative and interactive classroom activity that links primary schools in New Zealand to those in the remote Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
This year, 27 schools from the Far North to Southland have taken part in the scheme where students help to design a method of washing hands that requires very little water. Experts based in New Zealand and PNG were on hand to provide comments and feedback on the designs, and the students also had the opportunity to communicate directly with communities in PNG.
The Wara Bilong Life 2006 project was nominated for the Stockholm Challenge Award – an award designed to recognise outstanding work using information and communications technology to help fight poverty and injustice in our world.