The charity Alive & Well was created in 2009 and dedicated to taking practical direct action and to moving as quickly as possible to alleviate suffering in Sierra Leone.
A group of friends based in the West Country, many of whom have known each other for over 20 years, came together around a simple idea: “How do we make a difference in the world and embark on an adventure at the same time?” From this germ of an idea grew a bigger one, namely to provide clean safe water where there was none. One of the fundamental rights of every man, woman and child in the world is to have access to safe drinking water. What better way to make a difference? So, Alive & Well came into existence over a few beers in the pub, as so many great ideas do.
We were concerned by the apparent waste and run-away costs of many of the large charities who appear to have such a poor track record of getting the funds that they raise to the actual people in need. So we decided that we would create a charity where most (over 95%) of the funds raised would be put to use on the ground (and we’ve achieved even better than that!) to act as a new model for other charities.
We agreed to raise funds specifically to buy drilling equipment, to ship everything to the country, and to send a team to sink the first phase of bore-holes, thereby immediately starting to transform communities and save lives. The funds would also support the training of local crews to continue drilling wells and for supporting them with a regular wage.
We set about creating a practical immediate physical solution to getting clean water to people who desperately needed it. In 2009 we said that: ‘The aim is to avoid bureaucracy and raise funds as quickly as possible so that within 12 months the first team can start sinking bore-holes’. Within 18 months we had drilled our first borehole in Sierra Leone.
Why Sierra Leone. The reason for that was simple. The Chair of Alive & Well, Paul Dowding, and Richard Napper (a Trustee of Alive & Well) are friends from school days. Richard works for the charity Wherever the Need (WTN) which is now our sister charity. WTN were working in SL providing sanitation and developing enterprise projects in Pujehun District. It became instantly clear that there was a synergy between the two organisations and, as a result, Alive & Well found the first location for its mission.
Since those early days we have raised sufficient funds to embark on our first expedition, purchase and commission our first drilling rig, set up the first local Orange crew with a Landrover and drilling rig, drill 18 wells in the Pujehun District and create the workshop necessary to manufacture the rope pumps that draw the water out of the bore-holes. Not bad for two and half years work! And this is only the beginning.
Our model for a new way of running and organising a charity is based on the notion of small independent fundraising groups that come together in the UK through Alive & Well to raise the funds to provide for their expedition, an extraordinary adventure which will establish and train a new crew which they will then continue to fund into the future. In this way we hope to create a conveyor of drilling rigs over the next decade that will bring clean, safe water to the people of Sierra Leone. We are a small charity with great aspirations. Help us achieve our dreams, help us achieve yours and above all else help us to make the dream of safe water become a fact for the people of Sierra Leone.