by Wallace Bohanan
In a joint project of Sister Cities groups in Asheville, NC, Wilmington, Del., and Osogbo, Nigeria, twenty-nine wells have been dug in Osogbo to provide clean water for seven different communities, including three schools.
The Borehole Project was undertaken by Asheville’s Osogbo Committee in collaboration with Wilmington Sister Cities. The project was supported by a grant of $115,000 provided by Sister Cities International and designed to initiate a grassroots, sustainable project to improve the health of the residents of Osogbo. The grant was part of the African Urban Poverty Alleviation Program (AUPAP) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Clean, accessible water is a much sought-after resource in many countries throughout the world. Valeria Watson-Doost, chairperson and founder of the Sister Cities Osogbo Committee, assisted in writing the grant and was selected as the U.S. project manager. She received management training in Casablanca, Morocco, and visited Osogbo three times in the two years it took to complete the project.
There she worked closely with the Sister Cities Committee in Osogbo in designing, implementing, and completing the Borehole Project. The committee’s discussions with residents showed that clean, drinkable water was the highest priority in the Osogbo community. The shallow wells, called boreholes, that were dug were also fitted out with hand pumps to alleviate mechanical breakdowns and enhance sustainability.
Sister Cities International was created at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 White House Conference on Citizen Diplomacy. Eisenhower envisioned an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. President Eisenhower reasoned that by becoming friends, people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences, instead of deriding them, fostering suspicion and sowing new seeds for war.