We just returned from Bangladesh to see the work you’re supporting and the impact it’s having. As we walked through the slum settlements of Dhaka and Khulna, we were surrounded by smiling faces and words of gratitude – “We are so happy! Dhonnobhad! Thank you!”

With your support, we are currently serving 100,000 people in 70 urban slums in the three largest cities in Bangladesh – Dhaka, Chittagong, and most recently, Khulna.

Our Work Expands in Bangladesh:

Last January, we began supporting our local Bangladesh partner, DSK, in an expansion of their work to the urban slums of Khulna – Bangladesh’s 3rd largest city. There are hundreds of thousands of people living in Khulna slums without access to clean water and toilets. Our local partner has selected 15 slums as the highest priority areas, and Water1st is the only organization funding solutions in these neighborhoods.

After our visit to Khulna last week, we are especially grateful to you, our donors, for providing the much-needed funding to work in this underserved area.

A Slide Show of Our Projects in Khulna

This is an area called Sonali Nagor. Here, several ‘open’ toilets (meaning not connected to a sewer system) flow right through the community.

One of the first steps in our projects is for communities to prioritize their needs. This starts with a mapping exercise where people draw their community – houses, shops, roads, mosques, and of course, water sources and any toilets or places for defecation.

This is a broken water pump in Sonali Nagor. Climate change is affecting this area dramatically and water sources are becoming saline and undrinkable. Many people are moving to Khulna from rural areas because they are no longer able to support their families by farming. (Click here to read a recent article in Foreign Policy about climate change and urban migration in Bangladesh.)

This is the only working water pump in Sonali Nagor. It is heavily used in order to supply water to an estimated 450 households. With no other options, women wait in line a long time to fill their containers.

After creating a social map and going through other exercises, communities vote on their highest priority issues and then create a plan for solving them. In the Gollamari slum, it is not a surprise to see water supply (listed first) and voted as the biggest need. Interestingly, when this community calculated its major expenditures, medicine to treat diarrhea (from lack of safe water and toilets) and food were the top expenses — higher than rent!

Our local partner organizes different groups of people in neighborhoods to talk about hygiene education. This is a children’s group. There are also women’s groups and adolescent girls’ groups (to talk specifically about menstrual hygiene). They also reach out to men at tea stalls, where they often gather to drink tea and socialize.

This is one of the new deep wells that has been installed with Water1st support in Gollamari. Most people in this area are only familiar with hand pumps, and so they select this option. In 2015, our local partner will continue to promote piped water systems, which will reduce water collection times even more and give people the ability to pipe water into several locations in the household (like the toilet) to make good hygiene practices, such as hand-washing, very convenient.

We know in a few years, the Khulna program will be experiencing the benefits we are seeing in Dhaka and Chittagong where our local partner has been working for more than 5 years. In those slums, the average collection time for one bucket of water has been reduced from 1 hour to less than 10 minutes (because water is conveniently located in each home) and household medical treatment costs have been reduced 85 percent.

Each time we visit our projects, we see more and more transformations taking place within the communities we serve. People are healthier, they’re saving money, their children are able to go to school. Through the water project process, people learn how to organize themselves, and are using those skills to address other needs in their community.

It is inspiring to witness this kind of empowerment, action, and change. Thank you for making a tangible difference in the lives of the world’s poorest.

From all of us at Water1st, we wish you and your family a happy and meaningful holiday season.

*End-of-Year Match: Thanks to a generous donor, gifts of $100 or more received by December 31 will be MATCHED dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000. Donate online here >>