Sam Dinga’s sister, Ma Kah Rosenmary, a volunteer nurse in West Africa, died in 2009 from complications of drinking bad, contaminated water. Her death has since inspired him to build 40 wells – one for each year of her life.
Dinga, who is originally from Cameroon, West Africa, has been in Stevens Point for 11 years.
“At first I wanted to come here, get a degree and go home but I met my wife in college here and now we have three kids,” Dinga said. “I still have my friends and family back home – I live in both worlds. I want my home to be both places and going back to build wells gives me the opportunity to see my family.”
In honor of his sister, Dinga started Ma-Kah Water for All Foundation, building the first well in December 2009 in a Bamumbu Village. The following year, two pump wells were built at the Bosa Orphanage and Naka Village in December 2010. Each well costs about $5,000 to build and can take less than a week if no obstacles are encountered. However, it can take up to three months if the designated area is full of rock and hinders drilling for the water pump.
To raise money for the mission, Dinga and Ma-Kah Water for All Foundation will be presenting its first annual WELLers Walk Saturday, Sept. 28, from 8 a.m. to noon, starting at Pfiffner Pioneer Park, 1100 Crosby Ave., Stevens Point. Registration will take place from 8 to 9 a.m., with a presentation and instructions from 9 to 10 a.m. The WELLers Walk will start at 10 a.m., concluding at 11:30 a.m. From 11:30 a.m. to noon snacks, water and entertainment will be provided for participants.
So far, Dinga has built 10 wells, impacting more than 17,000 villagers in West Africa, near his village in Cameroon. He purchases the well from India and pays a technician to install it, but relies heavily on volunteers from the local villages for physical labor.
“We’ve had 83 requests so far, I have a board of 11 members here in Stevens Point and a board of nine members in Africa to help educate and raise funds,” he said.
In order for a village to receive a Ma-Kah well it must meet several criteria. Some of these include that the population must be at least 600 people, the village needs to have a quarter head or chief, is willing to provide volunteers from the village to help with construction, the designated area needs to have public land (not necessarily state) and how close a village is to a stream.
“So far we have been 100 percent successful,” Dinga said. “We form a committee of four people and train them to maintain the well and to help protect it from damage; each well also comes with a one year warrantee against any damage or malfunction. … It is in the engineer’s best interest to do it right.”
Each year when Dinga goes back to West Africa, he visits previously built wells to see how they are working.
“We try to drill in the heart of the dry season,” he said. “That guarantees water year round from the pump well.”
Dinga will continue building wells in his sister’s name through Ma-Kah Water for All Foundation and educating people in the Central Wisconsin area about the lack of clean drinking water in Africa and also about the amount of water Americans consume on average.
“A lot of people don’t know how people in other parts of the world get their water,” Dinga said. “I hope to get the community to experience this by carrying water to the 250 gallon container.
“The average American consumes 100 gallons of water per day. Think how long that would take if you had to go a half mile or two miles away to get it?”
Participants in the walk will get an empty gallon jug, take it to the river, fill it and then take it back to the starting point to fill a larger container. Jugs will be provided but participants can bring their own, especially for small children to participate.
His first fundraisers included recruiting people to play kickball and soccer tournaments and hosting events; however Dinga hopes this will be the foundation’s signature event, raising a substantial amount of money in his sister’s name for the continuation of well building in West Africa.
Dinga has taken students from various University of Wisconsin system schools with him to Cameroon to volunteer in the building of wells for Ma-Kah Water for All. This is the fourth year students have gone to volunteer with Dinga in West Africa and the second year students have had the option to earn three-credits for going on the volunteer trip, which is offered in December and June. Dinga will be taking 15 UWSP students to West Africa Dec. 28 to construct another well.
“Disease is pretty common in drinking water in Africa,” Dinga said. “The difficulty is people are not doing studies to prove otherwise; most running water we see has a yellowish iron substance that seeps into it from the ground.
“If someone is drinking that for 20 years that substance gets in their lungs and stomachs and causes typhoid and diarrhea. In Cameroon a lot of people suffer from bad drinking water and you don’t need to test it to know it is bad – livestock goes to the streams, people bathe there and do there laundry there – that is the water they are drinking.”
Dinga hopes people who attend the WELLers Walk will come away from the event “feeling good about being involved in something bigger than themselves.”
“When you tell a person that the average American uses 100 gallons of water a day – it is a lot of water – I don’t want them to feel guilty about it, I want them to walk in the WELLers Walk with the mindset that water is not a unlimited resource and if we don’t take care of it, it won’t be here in the future,” Dinga said.
Dinga is very grateful for the moral and financial support he has received so far from the citizens of Portage County through individuals and corporate sponsors.
“I hope to continue to work with this community to improve the lives of those in West Africa to provide clean drinking water,” Dinga said.
A wishing well will also be present at the WELLers Walk to allow everyone the opportunity to toss some change to make a wish, or two, for a good cause.
The event is $25 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under. Registration can be completed online at wellerswalk.eventbrite.com/ or the morning of from 8 to 9 a.m. More information about Dinga’s foundation can be found online at www.makahwaterforall.org or on the foundation’s Facebook page. More information about the volunteer trips, which are open to community members as well as students, can be found at www.volearntravel.com.