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Wednesday
Aug212013

Clean, fresh water

The quality of drinking-water is a powerful environmental determinant of health. Assurance of drinking-water safety is a foundation for the prevention and control of waterborne diseases (WHO).


Undoubtedly you’ve heard about what Breaking Ground and the Baleveng community have been up to this past year. And surely you’ve seen the project updates since last January when the One Day’s Wages matching campaign was successfully completed. On top of that, I bet you needn’t be reminded about the need for clean water in so many parts of the world and of what these women were saying about Baleveng’s water problems. 

 

So, while the community had begun this project independently long ago, we are very excited to have reached this point today at which we can officially say toghether that Baleveng residents have gathered to share in and celebrate their first sips of water from their five new community taps.

The situation with water around the world looks different depending on how you peer into the problem. Globally, the water crisis includes desertification and political strife over water sources. This is compounded by the commodification of a vital resource, which takes the rights to water away from individuals and places them in the contracts of big business. At the local level, the water crisis today is often more to do with sanitation and access. The Baleveng Water Project has transformed the water available within this village. Far from the original contaminated collection point, the current water distribution design has dramatically reduced the distance anyone now needs to travel to get water from approximately 5km to just a mere 500m. Other outcomes include a dedicated spigot at the primary school; an option for individual households to have a private tap; maintenance fees collected and managed by the community; and an accompanying education program to support the hygiene and sanitation practices that are necessary to keep water clean from tap to mouth.

Join us as we celebrate this exciting time in Baleveng. As something that is taken for granted in so many of our lives, take a moment today to imagine the feeling in households around this village that now know there is little to worry about while collecting, cooking, farming, drinking, bathing, and cleaning - all those things, all day long that take something so simple: water.

Clean, fresh water.   

 

Tuesday
Jul302013

Learning from the field

Supporting the work and learning from neighboring communities is an important piece of building a strong field-based organization. As Program Director, Paul is one of Breaking Ground’s greatest resources for learning about what is happening in the field, what is working well, and which efforts are making real change in Cameroon. Breaking Ground just visited the village of Baleng and they have a lot to be proud of and some great lessons to share. In this village, the Water Management Committee is made up of all women. They are most certainly the change agents in Baleng and are credited with stabilizing the village's water system more successfully than any other past efforts.  

   

   

Tuesday
Jul162013

Reflections on Cameroon: Two sides to the same organization

I believe that some things can only be learned through experience. Undoubtedly, we each have our own ways of learning, and therefore I cannot deny the immense impact that has come out of my first experience in Cameroon with Breaking Ground. Walking through a village, seeing and hearing all the many ways of welcoming and greeting people, the smells of regional cooking, and the numerous sounds that fill the air from people to birds all still linger in my mind since returning. The feel of sitting on a train watching the Cameroonian sky change from afternoon to dusk to darkness created a connection to the land that no photo ever could. And hearing the story secondhand of how a woman’s tailoring business has prospered will never equal the experience of actually sitting in her shop listening to her describe the impact it has had on her life.   

Add to this the feeling of meeting and spending three weeks with Paul, an amazingly competent and critical Program Director, and I have a lot to be appreciative of and look forward to in my work with Breaking Ground. Alex’s presence on the trip was invaluable as well, and served to convey the history of programs and relationships with various communities and projects. It is obvious that Breaking Ground has forged many effective relationships at many levels in Cameroon. There is good and meaningful work happening on the ground and there is also effective relationship-building happening in the United States. These two efforts go hand in hand and are what I am most motivated by as I begin my work in earnest with Breaking Ground, as I know that stepping into an organization is about more than just the fieldwork. Thankfully, Paul has reinforced Breaking Ground as a competent, collaborative organization working with other NGOs and he keeps the interests of individual community members and program participants wholeheartedly at the forefront of his work. Not only was I able to see some of the need that this organization works to alleviate, but I was also able to experience the impact of our programs.

I am incredibly excited about these first memories of Cameroon and hold them closely as I dive into the US side of our work. You can get a sense of some of these memories and experiences from this first trip on both Flikr and Facebook. Thank you for the warm welcome and I look forward to your continued support and interest in Breaking Ground.

-- Kierstyn 

 

Tuesday
Jun112013

An exciting time for Breaking Ground

It may sound cliché to say, but this is an exciting time for Breaking Ground and I am lucky to be stepping into the organization at this moment. For me, the opportunity to lead Breaking Ground represents a way to be a part of creating change, in both Cameroon and the U.S. As we collectively work to build and strengthen communities in Cameroon, it's equally as important to make sure that we are building a strong and collaborative organization in the States. I see Breaking Ground’s work as a bridge between an intentional, healthy nonprofit and the many motivated, skillful Cameroonian communities.  

There is always a lot of work ahead and I am thrilled to be able to start this transition with Alex in Cameroon. I can think of no better way to learn about Breaking Ground’s work and partnerships than to do so in person with her and Paul and everyone else who has been doing so much of this meaningful work. It’s important for me to take the role of listener, learner, and observer to grasp as much as I can while there so I can return to the States and continue to build on the momentum that has been generated since the organization began. None of this work can be done alone and I look forward to partnering, collaborating, and reaching out to you all for your support. In the meantime, follow along as Alex and I spend the rest of June in Cameroon together with Paul. 

--Kierstyn Hunter

Tuesday
Jun112013

Breaking Ground welcomes a new executive director

We are delighted to introduce our new executive director, Kierstyn Hunter, who comes to us with an impressive background in social work and nonprofit development. Through her previous work, education, and volunteering, she has shown a commendable commitment to sustainability and social justice -- values essential to Breaking Ground’s mission.

Kierstyn began traveling internationally at the age of 6 and is currently earning her doctorate in sustainability education from Prescott College. She most recently worked as a consultant for nonprofits in Seattle, W.A. and Portsmouth, N.H.

At the same time, she worked as a residential manager for a housing and homeless shelter in New Hampshire called New Generation Inc., where she provided case management for pregnant or newly parenting women. Previously, she served in the same organization's health outreach program as coordinator and redesigned the prenatal, parenting education, and women’s health program, while providing grant support to the development director.

Between 2007 and 2009, she helped establish a nonprofit in Seattle called iLEAP: The Center for Critical Service, which runs a fellowship program for international leaders from Africa, Latin America, and Asia. She also served as a program assistant with VISTA at Antioch University in Seattle. There, she was part of a team that secured $6 million in federal funding for a partnership between the university and a Native American tribe to address substance abuse issues with native youth. 

Kierstyn holds a bachelor’s degree in global studies from Long Island University and a master’s degree in whole systems design from Antioch University's Center for Creative Change.

In addition to being a kind, thoughtful leader, she is not afraid to challenge herself in her work and personal life. She is a long-distance runner and bicyclist, has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, SeacoastLocal, and Eco-Movement/Zero Waste, and previously served as an HIV/AIDS and peer education intern in North Carolina.

In the coming weeks. Kierstyn will be working with Alex and Paul in Cameroon and getting to know our operations and staff there. Please give a warm welcome to Kierstyn!

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