Jonathan Titus-Williams, African Leadership’s Country Director in Sierra Leone, has a Common Ground Academy class in a village called Magburuka. Ninety percent of the students in this class come from Magburuka’s neighboring villages, including the nearby Moyatha community. Moyatha is a Muslim-dominated town of 1,000 people. The community faces several local challenges, revealed in their 2012 hospital records – staggering child morbidity and malnutrition rates and the effects of extremely limited access to sanitation facilities. Sixty percent of all illness in the community is caused by inadequate water or sanitation during the rainy season.

One of Jonathan’s students saw this as an opportunity. While Jonathan led the class through the Common Ground Handbook, a student from Moyatha suggested the class focus their Handbook efforts on his community. The Handbook is a practical tool that walks a local leader through an effective, step-by-step approach to creating a solution for their community that combats the challenges they face.

So the class got to work.

Under Jonathan’s leadership and the Handbook’s guidance, the class conducted a social analysis and listening survey. What they noticed confirmed the findings of the hospital records. The core culprit appeared to be the poor quality of drinking water. Three out of five people reported experiencing water related diseases in a year. Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources envisions “water and sanitation for all always,” but so far only 32% of the rural population has access to clean water. With the lack of government action, there was definitely room here for the local church to step in.

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Jonathan’s class did some more research. They mapped local resources and identified local stakeholders. Then they developed an action plan. The plan included constructing a water well, building a community water committee, and distributing mosquito nets to further protect from malaria, a waterborne illness. Their plan was approved for one-time funding by African Leadership and was put into motion earlier this year.

Now completed, what we’re most proud of here at African Leadership is what we didn’t do. We didn’t identify the location, the problem, or the solution. We didn’t investigate local opinions or existing resources. And we won’t be paying for ongoing expenses or maintenance of the water pump as local pump caretakers are being trained to maintain it and make needed repairs in the future. This solution was and is owned by the African community around it – not us.

Want to hear the story in Jonathan’s words and learn how this community – a community of Muslims – responded to the Christian church building them a well? Join us in August for Coffee and Conversations with Jonathan!