Life

Local nonprofit brings water to Chad

Robin's Song fundraises for wells in rural African country

Brian Perry and his wife, Robin Perry, prior to her death in May 2004. (Photo courtesy of Brian Perry)
Brian Perry and his wife, Robin Perry, prior to her death in May 2004. (Photo courtesy of Brian Perry)
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With the help of a Marion-based nonprofit organization, one Cedar Rapids man is paying it forward and working to improve the living conditions in his home country.

Esaie Toingar lived as a child soldier in Chad before he was rescued in 1999 by the United Nations and immigrated to Iowa as a refugee. He was educated in Sioux City and moved to Cedar Rapids for a job at Collins Aerospace.

But despite his experiences in Africa, Toingar still feels compelled to give back to the people who live there.

“I went through a lot, but I was lucky enough to be here today and Iowa blessed me with education, knowledge, kindness and all of the people who help me here. There’s nothing I can do for them. But if they helped me, it’s because they want me to have a better life,” Toingar said.

“Now that they’ve helped me make a life here, I have a moral obligation for me to think about others,” he said.

So Toingar connected with a local organization called Robin’s Song, and helped focus the nonprofit’s effort to the construction of wells in rural Chad using community-fundraised dollars.

Toingar, a technician at Collins Areospace, traveled to his home country earlier this month and will be working to drill three wells throughout January.

This year will mark 15 operational wells the organization has funded and helped build since 2015, including the three scheduled to be installed this year.

Each well costs about $3,500, and organizers say every dollar of the funds is donated from the Cedar Rapids area.

Teams from Robin’s Song have traveled to Chad since 2015, where they connect and train with local residents to build the wells during the dry season. The effort includes a three- to four-person drilling team to drill down to the water source.

Team members from the United States also recruit local volunteers to support the drill teams and to oversee maintenance of the drill for a long period of time, said Brian Perry, founder of Robin’s Song.

Robin’s Song was founded by Perry in memory of his wife Robin Perry, who died in 2004 of ovarian cancer, to continue the mission work she was passionate about during her life.

An estimated 844 million people worldwide lack access to safe water, contributing to the spread of infectious diseases such as typhoid, and to poorer health outcomes overall, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Described by health officials as a global water crisis, this lack of access most predominantly affects the health of children. WHO states that a child dies from a water-related disease every two minutes, and 160 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition linked to water and sanitation.

Perry said Robin’s Song officials’ goal is not only to reduce health risks, but to reduce other barriers brought on by a lack of access to water. For example, women and girls typically are the ones that have to travel long distances to gather water for their families, meaning they don’t have time to attend school.

“Clean water is just so critical,” Perry said.

• Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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