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North Hills Monthly

CEED Working to Ensure African Communities Have Clean Water

Aug 31, 2018 11:42AM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Children collecting water

Clean drinking water at any time. Water to wash clothes. Water to shower. Water for crops and even lawns. As easy as it is to have unlimited, clean, fresh water in the Greater Pittsburgh area, it is incredibly difficult for people in many African countries to have enough water to stay alive. 

For nearly two decades, CEED–Christian East African and Equatorial Development Trust—has worked to ensure that villages in Uganda can have clean, fresh water. But this mission didn’t start with water; it started with coffee.

Graham Hodgetts, CEED president and chairman, said the efforts began with a church visit from a pastor from Uganda. “He called my wife Eileen and me every month for 10 years, begging us to help. But we kept saying, ‘What do we know? What can we do?’” Hodgetts said.

Finally, a group, including Pastor John Guest from Christ Church at Grove Farm in Pittsburgh, went to Uganda and saw the conditions firsthand. From this trip, CEED, a nonprofit based in Wexford, was born. 

“The abject poverty was overwhelming. John said that we had to do something, and we made a 10-year commitment to help called Encounter Uganda,” Hodgetts said.

While his wife ran the mission program, Hodgetts researched ways to help or even create a sustainable economy in these communities. And that’s where coffee came in. Hodgetts discovered that coffee was the major export from Uganda, and the one thing it required—land—was something that the church had plenty of. In 2000, a small, five-acre coffee farm was started in the village of Wambabya. 

“We really didn’t know anything about coffee—I had never seen a coffee tree in my life—but we did a lot of research and learned through trial and error,” said Hodgetts. A local manager was hired to oversee the farm and over the years, coffee has been sold through various churches and organizations. Last year, the farm was self-sufficient. 

“The five acres was a test farm; then we expanded to 15 acres, and now we have 35,” Hodgetts said. 

Along with helping to boast the economy, CEED discovered other needs. “We realized on the health side that the water was so horrible, so polluted, that children were dying. It was just devastating,” Hodgetts said.  

He visited Titusville, PA, which is known for its oil wells, and discovered the method that Edwin Drake, the first American to successfully drill for oil, used to dig wells. “He pounded the ground with simple steel tools on the end of a cable and I thought, ‘We could do that,’” Hodgetts said. 

The first dozen wells in Uganda were boreholes drilled through “sweat and toil and persistence,” but then a local couple donated a drill to help. There are now over 300 wells, each serving an estimated 2,000 people. The communities where wells are dug have to show a commitment to maintaining the wells.

Last year, CEED dug 130 wells. “We are now drilling two a week,” Hodgetts said. 

CEED has also expanded their efforts to Kenya, where drought conditions have plagued the country for decades. “The ironic part is that they have water, but it is 300 feet below ground,” Hodgetts said. In addition to wells, CEED is also helping agricultural programming in Kenya and working to provide solar energy to a school for blind children. The first round of successful crops will help pay for the water system and improvements for the school.

“This is a very exciting project,” Hodgetts said. 

He attributes support from local churches, groups and organizations for helping CEED succeed, including a partnership with Wells of Life. Inspired Women Paying It Forward–North is one of those supporters. The group selected CEED for its charity at its January meeting and has hosted a Pond Tour fundraiser for the past two years. 

“We have long supported a girls’ school in Kenya, and we wanted to find a way to support a water project there,” founder Debra Dion Krischke said. “They do such amazing work, and they do it for much less money than other organizations. We are really proud to be helping them.” 

For more information, including how to buy coffee or to donate to CEED, visit