Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Photo Courtesy of Robert Banks
This summer has been a trying one for much of West Africa. With rainfall well-below the seasonal average, the rainy season failed to live up to its name, leaving the ground parched and cracked, and ill-suited to nourish the young crops which locals will need to sustain them through the coming year. To further complicate matters, the lack of moisture, in conjunction with the high seasonal winds that annually descend from the Sahara, have made the air opaque with dust, covering the fledgling crops and blocking out the sun.

At least one small portion of sub-Saharan Africa has remained largely unaffected by the drought. The Central River Region in the Gambia (a narrow country wedged into the belly of Senegal on the West African coast) has benefited from the efforts of the Minnesota based non-profit, WAVE (West African Village & Environment Project.) This organization was started by Matthew Selinske, a former Peace Corps volunteer who continues to work there, with the help of his parents, Guy and Mary. Because Matthew lives in the region and his family members serve as executive board members for the non-profit, there are no administrative fees, so all proceeds go directly to helping the people of this beleaguered region.

Photo Courtesy of Robert Banks

WAVE has undertaken several significant projects since its founding in 2008. Its first major contribution to the area was the construction of a new kitchen for the Sinchu Gundo primary school, which allowed for safe and sanitary food preparation and continued participation in the World Health Organization's food program. Other initiatives include student tuition sponsorship and community gardens, which have allayed the effects of the drought and secured villagers' health during this arduous period. These well-irrigated garden oasisses were made possible by WAVE's most celebrated undertaking, the installation of hand-pump wells in four local villages, which supply the communities with safe drinking water and a source of hydration for their crops. Thanks to generous donations by Rotary International, The Steven Luethold Family Foundation, and private donors, WAVE has so far allocated nearly 10,000 dollars to this project and plans on gradually increasing the number of wells installed annually.

Photo Courtesy of Robert Banks
Guy and Mary Selinske, owners of American Glass & Mirror, have rallied the support of family, friends, and local businesses and organizations to bring attention and resources to this worthy cause. Thanks to their hard work and the generosity of many others, the people of the Central River Region will no longer be maligned by the water-born illnesses common to much of West Africa, or the egregious level of uncertainty that accompanies life in undeveloped nations. If you would like to learn more about the work of WAVE, or care to donate, please visit the website at: http://westafricawave.org/.

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