The story began in September 2013, at 'Misty Mangere Mountain', where four hobbits decided to change the face of the world. Gathered together by their common passion, caring for water, they saw Oxfam's fundraising event The Ripple Effect 2014 as the perfect way to focus their energy and fight for a good cause: to ensure that fresh water is available to small communities in the Pacific and joined forces to become the H20bbits.
Not only did they take on the challenge, they also won it by raising the most money to contribute to getting a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASH) project off the ground. The prize for this winning team, the H20bbits, who were representing Watercare, was a trip accompanying Oxfam to Vanuatu to see first-hand the incredible difference clean water can make to those living in poverty.
When asked why they took part, the team said, "We wanted to be part of something that could make changes for a more sustainable way of living. Oxfam is a great way to do it and meet that goal, and shares the same vision we have."
Clemence Carlinet, a Process Engineer at Watercare describes her trip to Vanuatu as unforgettable. "I'll come back to NZ much more humble and richer of knowledge" she said.
During the trip, Clemence Carlinet, Daniel Leighton, Maria Eliza and Sanjay Kumarasingham visited three Rural Training Centres (RTCs), run by the Vanuatu Rural Development Training Centres Association (VRDTCA) and supported by Oxfam. It was at these centres they got to see the stark difference clean water makes, the huge health improvements that sanitation and hygiene education brings to communities and they got to speak to local people to see how their lives were being turned around by VRDTCA and Oxfam.
"We saw so many things in a few days! Villages and locals, farms, water and wastewater installations. It was amazing to see what can be done with constraints (budget, location, climate conditions). These people were all amazing, passionate people who are always thankful."
It was at a RTC on Tanna Island where they met Michael. Michael, aged 15 had been kicked out of formal education two years earlier as his parents could not afford the school fees. Having heard about Napil RTC, Michael’s parents enrolled him in our Young Farmers Programme. Michael is deaf and unable to talk but learns well by watching others. He's been involved with the programme for two years now and has a field full of 600 kava plants which, when they are fully grown, will sell for 200 Vatu each. Michael's training not only gives him the knowledge of how to grow these plants, but he’s also taught what crops to plant and when, how to grow different varieties, and how to ensure his seeds flourish in the future.
But none of this would have been possible were it not for the WASH project which Oxfam led. Thanks to Oxfam supporters, Napil now has a simple rainwater harvesting system hooked up to a 5,000 litre tank and toilets. The water is used for everything – from drinking and washing, to preparing food and watering crops during the dry season, thus highlighting that clean water really does underpin sustainable development.
Later in the trip the team got to briefly put their expertise into practice when speaking to Kathy Solomon, the Founder and Director of VRDTCA. Whilst talking to Kathy and her team, the H20bbits began thinking about different designs for toilets which would use less water and could see the stark difference between the issues Kiwis face, as opposed to the daily struggles of the people living in Vanuatu.
Having seen the incredible difference that water makes to people's lives, the team returned to NZ full of enthusiasm to continue supporting the work that Oxfam does in the Pacific, and are looking forward to taking part in the next challenge – the Oxfam Water Challenge 2015/16.
So, Watercare are asking you: Are you the best in the business? Would you like to win a life-changing trip to the Pacific too? If so, it’s time to flaunt your skills and take part in the Oxfam Water Challenge!
The Oxfam Water Challenge will see 25 teams of 4 people fundraising and pitting their wits against each other to design, plan and construct a solution to a water-based challenge – it will be a fun day where your team will be able to put their expertise to use and compete to be the best in the business. Not only will it be a great team-building challenge, but you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your company’s talent, network and more importantly raise money to make sure we can deliver clean water, sanitation and hygiene education to a rural village in Melanesia.
So – if you’re up for a challenge and want to go on an incredible trip like this, sign up to the Oxfam Water Challenge today! Sign up online or give Hannah a call on 09 355 6854. Let's come together and make a splash for rural communities in the Pacific!