WaterAid ambassadors and well-known supporters are sharing their inspiring moments of togetherness and kindness from the year and encouraging the public to do the same to stand in solidarity with communities like Frat, in Ethiopia, where collaboration is part of their ethos as they help each other face daily challenges, such as a lack of clean water.
BBC1’s Casualty actress Amanda Mealing, comedian Bec Hill, singer KT Tunstall, and Paralympic champion swimmer Ellie Simmonds are joining WaterAid’s campaign in support of its Future on Tap appeal, which aims to help transform lives with clean water in Ethiopia and around the world. Until 4 February 2021, the UK government will match public donations up to £2 million, to make double the difference in climate-vulnerable communities.
For the people of Frat in Western Ethiopia, togetherness is a way of life. They call it ‘wenfell’, meaning ‘collaboration’. Through women’s groups, student clubs and just by being good neighbours, people try to help solve any problems someone may face. They share knowledge and resources, collect money for families in need, give people water when they are unable to go to the river to get it, and help on each other’s farms.
WaterAid’s celebrity supporters are inviting the UK public to join them in sharing their own stories of hope, humanity and acts of everyday community spirit that emerged during the pandemic, as part of WaterAid’s #WenfellMoment campaign, in unity with people in Frat.
Comedian, actor, writer and presenter Bec Hill, created her very own wenfell moment to raise funds WaterAid’s hygiene appeal this summer. She explained: “I asked my fans to ‘sponsor’ a square on a plain t-shirt. They could request a name, logo or picture to go into their square, which I then drew on by hand, in marker pen. People paid £10 per square – lots of people bought multiples – and in total, the T shirt raised £5,000 to help WaterAid bring clean water and handwashing facilities to people across the globe. Loads more people shared the campaign on social media and told their friends about it. I couldn’t believe that we filled all 500 squares, I was totally blown away by people’s generosity.
“The final t-shirt shows how powerful collaboration can be; it’s a colourful collage of so many different things, each one representing someone who cared enough to donate. I love the idea of a word for this kind of collaboration, and harnesses the spirit of coming together to help out , I might start saying ‘wenfell’!”
Bec wore her £5000 T-shirt on Jonathan Ross’ Comedy Club on ITV, to raise even more awareness around the project.
Families in Frat spend hours each day collecting water from a river, which is so dirty it causes sickness. Some water sources are depleting over time, while the hotter summers and unexpected storms are destroying crops, their only source of income.
WaterAid will bring clean water to many communities like Frat, helping protect lives and livelihoods. With clean water, families can meet their basic needs, stay safe and healthy, have time to go to school or work, and can grow food even when the weather is unpredictable.
Tsehaynesh Yashaw, 56, was selected as a leader of one of the women’s groups. She worries about collecting water as she gets older, as she has fallen and hurt herself a couple of times on the journey, and her neighbours have helped by giving her some of their water. She says: “People chose me for a leading role in the women’s group. I am just an ordinary woman, but I want to mobilise people to make change. We discuss ways to improve our farming methods and livelihoods and find solutions to problems. As a community, we have enormous problems – we have no water. Collecting water is back-breaking work and sometimes we have accidents – I broke my leg twice and my tooth. During that time, I had to ask for water from the neighbours.”
Aynwaga Gebeheyu, 24, set up a café in Frat after being forced to leave her home due to ethnic conflict. It was hard for her and her family to adjust to using the river water here. “My son was a healthy fat baby and now he keeps losing weight. I tried my best to get him medical treatments but then he drinks the water and falls sick again, it’s just a vicious circle.
“The best thing about this community is we live in harmony here. We drink coffee together, we eat injera together and we celebrate holidays together, regardless of our religion. We are all one people.”
Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid, said: “This year many of us have found strength and solidarity in the communities around us and this is a way of life in the community of Frat. Their daily challenges include finding clean water but the community is built on an ethos of pulling together to help each other through times of need, which is inspiring. This winter by supporting the Future on Tap appeal the WaterAid community will stand with the people of Frat and help bring clean water, toilets and hygiene that transforms lives.”
Find out more about Frat and WaterAid’s Future on Tap appeal at www.wateraid.org.