Lake Erie water 'ambassadors' depart for Africa

Local women lead drinking water effort in Uganda

CLEVELAND - The adventure has begun. 

A group of Northeast Ohio based fresh water 'ambassadors' has departed Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on their way to the African nation of Uganda.  The trip is the next step in an effort to provide clean drinking water to hundreds of school children and their families who must now walk miles daily to retrieve it.

Erin Huber, Director of ' Drink Local. Drink Tap.', a Cleveland based fresh water advocacy group, and travel photographer Laura Watilo Blake, of Bay Village, left Cleveland early Tuesday afternoon. The women will fly to Chicago, then Brussels, Belgium. From there, they go to the Republic of Burundi before arriving in Nairobi, Kenya Wednesday evening.

Eventually, the two will fly on to Kampala, Uganda where they will meet up with Cleveland middle school teacher Teddy Mwonyonyi, and a documentary film crew to begin field work on digging a drinking water well to serve the 700 students of St. Charles School and their families in the Lowero district of central Uganda, about 80 miles from the equator.

Ms. Mwonyonyi is a native Ugandan and left for her childhood home on July 4. Her students at Stokes Central Academy in Cleveland have been in contact with their counterparts at St. Charles School throughout the past school year. According to Mwonyonyi and Huber, the Cleveland school kids have been the driving force behind the Ugandan well effort.

The students raised hundreds of dollars through school fundraisers to help with the well project. Drink Local. Drink Tap. also worked to raise and secure funds -- and Huber said, the current month-long trip is the next step in moving the project forward.

During the trip, the water ambassadors intend to meet and plan with the contractors who will actually drill the well -- and produce a documentary film about the project, which will be used to raise the rest of the $25,000 needed to complete the well by next summer.

Before the work in Uganda, Huber and Watilo Blake will also visit and document the drinking water situation in Kenya and Tanzania. They said it's part of the Drink Local. Drink Tap. effort to raise awareness about the more than one billion people on earth who do not have access to clean drinking water -- and to better connect Northeast Ohioans with our abundant Lake Erie water supply.

Newsnet5.com will be hosting a blog by the water ambassadors throughout the next month. Check back often for updates, photos and videos from Africa. You can log onto newsnet5.com to join the Stokes Central Academy students in posting thoughts and well wishes for our Lake Erie water representatives.

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